As I get older and memories begin to consolidate, my brain has started chopping out large swaths of details and mushing everything together in an easily-misreadable fashion. Often, I find myself with flashes of deja vu on, like, a daily basis. “Have I done this before? Have I read this before? Is this a new episode of ‘The Boys,’ or did I accidentally restart the one I watched last night?”
Here, in my fourth decade of playing games, I don’t know if my brain has just smooshed all of my previous mediocre gaming experiences into one large, misshapen ball of memories labeled “Meh Games,” or what. During my time with The Hong Kong Massacre, I could practically feel every moment mashing into that ball. The game drips meh. It oozes beige-colored forgetability. It is not worth the time it takes to load. It is suffused with the opposite of pleasure.
And not “pain,” either. Pain’s not the opposite of pleasure. Not necessarily. I mean…it’s not…um…our Nintendo Switch review of The Hong Kong Massacre.
THKM is a stylized overhead shoot-em-up that, like so many stylized overhead shoot-em-ups before it, attempts to integrate gunplay, weapon switching, sicknasty gunkata slides, and wild particle effects into one big transcendent pile of frisson.
I don’t know if it was the hinky framerate (a solid 20-25 FPS undocked), the uninspired level design, the blah enemies, or the fact that I know as much about Hong Kong action movies as I do about….Indian action movies? Some confluence of influences and events caused this game to have zero effect, zero lasting power, and zero flavor.
That’s not to say the game isn’t serviceable at being a top-down shooter: it totally is. The guns sound like guns, deaths are bloody and dramatic, the slo-mo is tasty, and the music bumps enough. You have the option to upgrade your weapons, and performing well in each scenario eventually leads to unlocking new, more exotic weaponry.
The levels are that agreed-upon size for top-down shooters where you are pretty much guaranteed to die at first, but you know that you can devote the layouts to memory. Eventually, through bloody, bullet-riddled trial and error, you will know all with a Groundhog Day-level of godliness. You will slide and slow-mo your way through dozens of warm bodies holding different weapons. You will then get to see all the stats of your killing spree laid out before you. We’ve done this before.
Oh, but some of the warm bodies are wearing suits. Actually, most of them are wearing suits. This is a classy game, after all.
Anyway, if I sound a little pissy, it’s because I am tired of these games. I am tired of games, in general, giving zero effort to their concept, instead of focusing on making the exact same goddamn thing a hundred times and slapping on a different coat of paint. I am tired of the same perspective, the same concept, the same weapons, and sounds and slides and slo-mo.
It’s not just the deja vu: it’s the stagnation that haunts me. I miss games with wild idiotic concepts that didn’t really work, like Glover. The otherworldly art design of Earthworm Jim. The abject loneliness of Inside. I miss games that made an immense effort to be something different, not just to add their bullshit copy-paste to the pile of nothing that makes no sound.
It’s getting a middling score, but I implore you: do not play this game. Do not encourage this lack of creativity with your money. At some point, we need to get off of this treadmill of worthless unartistic experiences and demand more. THKM is the perfect example of a treadmill game, a deja vu-inducing experience that means nothing. It’s a pretty love letter to a niche film genre, and that’s all it is. Maybe it’s not meant for us, but in that case, don’t make us play it. It feels like nothing, gives nothing, and doesn’t advance the form in any meaningful way. It rehashes concepts that have been rehashed since 2013.
For fuck’s sake, somebody, do something new.
Note: Our copy was reviewed on Nintendo Switch with a code provided by PR.