It’s fast, it’s aggressive, and there’s an engaging story underneath all the violence. Our review of the top-down blaster, OTXO:
It’s a wonder that the Hotline Miami formula hasn’t been adopted more often. Dennaton Games’ 2012 hit offered plenty of frenetic action on a par with some Hollywood blockbusters. What OTXO (it’s pronounced Oh-cho) does is adapt the high-speed, top-down shooter formula and mix it up like a complex, immensely satisfying cocktail. This isn’t a facsimile of Hotline, but it wears the inspiration like a badge of honour. Thankfully, OTXO does enough to differentiate itself in a way that goes beyond the black and white visual stylings.
The opening cinematic sees our reluctant hero don a mask discarded in a subway. As with any strange mask left lying around, it quickly fixes itself to the protagonist and refuses to budge. This interaction seemingly knocks us out and when we awake we’re face down on a desolate beach. Trudging up to the nearest building, we find we’re now stuck in a loop of violence and destruction – unless we can break the curse.
OTXO offers the usual roguelike mechanics – which might be an excuse to continually rinse and repeat the core gameplay loop, but it’s at least an endearing excuse. There’s more to this scenario than meets the eye, too, with a rich story popping up between the bouts of hyper-violence.
Entering the Infinite Foyer for the first time, you’re taken through a tutorial by a mysterious groundskeeper. One button fires your weapon, another kicks open doors, while two other buttons control dodge-rolling, which is a bit like Enter the Gungeon and negates damage in glorious, Max Payne–style slow-motion.
The goal’s simple: get to the end of each section and kill everything that moves. This being a modern roguelike, stage layouts change each time, with different weapons, rooms and enemy placement. You’re going to find yourself pinballing from room to room picking up guns, running through ammo, and throwing weapons aside while reaching for the next death dealer.
Enemies are fast, they’re quick to snap onto your position, and they’re accurate. This is where the slow motion ability comes into play. With the tap of a button, time slows to a crawl, allowing you to see and dodge enemy bullets. It’s perfect for clearing a crowded room, especially as killing everyone while looking awesome will activate a multiplier, rewarding you with currency.
Money does a couple of things. It can be used to unlock collectibles and weapons, but it can also be used to buy booze. You see, the Infinite Foyer has a bar where you can order drinks which apply a buff to your current run. The first drink’s free, but subsequent visits during come at a cost. These buffs can, however, seriously improve your performance.
One drink will increase your fire rate; another increases money dropped by enemies; still another drink minimises shotgun spread. The list feels endless, and it can be expanded further by chatting to a lady who imports new drinks for a cost. These drinks truly make every run feel completely different and add a new layer of enjoyment.
OTXO’s pivotal aspect is, of course, its gunplay. Every weapon feels completely different and sets itself apart from others to the point that you’ll quickly find your own favourite. Rifles are slower to fire and feature much smaller magazines, but they have great range and accuracy. The light machine gun clears rooms in a flash. An SMG requires you to get closer to enemies, but takes them down with speed.
There are other weapons in the mix, though they sometimes (literally) miss the mark. A kunai feels lacklustre in a room where several enemies have automatic weapons, and the grenade aiming leaves a lot to be desired as they bounce in hard-to-predict directions. While the gameplay loop can sometimes become repetitive, the variations in weapons, along with hidden plot devices and handy buffs, will ensure your next run breaks that pattern.
On the surface, OTXO looks like a stylish but shallow arcade shooter, which isn’t a bad thing. But as you dig deeper, its roundedness emerges, with enigmatic characters, an engaging backstory and a high level of replayability. OTXO may have looked to Hotline Miami for inspiration, but it’s forging its own path through an Infinite Foyer littered with corpses, spent weapons and smashed cocktail glasses.
The bosses. After smashing your way through human enemies, it’s delightfully odd to reach the end of the area and face a huge mechanical snake, or a suit of armour come to life. The bosses add a layer of bonkers which is utterly welcome.