Reload your gun and take out every enemy in a room Matrix style! The Hong Kong Massacre is a topdown twin-stick shooter with the added ability of slowing down time. Take out enemy gangs from one to the next as the story unfolds like a recap during a police interrogation. While The Hong Kong Massacre might lack in originality, it makes up for it in cool slow-motion shooting during mid-air backflips.

Gameplay

The Hong Kong Massacre is quite a standard topdown twin-stick shooter at its core. You barge in, you take out every enemy in the level and you try your best not to get hit. However, considering its more realistic setting compared to many other twin-stick shooters on the market, getting shot once leads to instant death, so taking cover and planning your upcoming moves are vital to success.

The only "unrealistic" aspect to The Hong Kong Massacre is the ability to temporarily slow down time and performing acrobatic flips, which isn't exactly new to the genre. You can relate this mechanic to the Max Payne series as it allows you to approach with strategy, dodge bullets and move into prime positions. There aren't many other experiences that feel as good as slowing down time, taking a dive to avoid a bullet whilst mowing down enemies in the distance. It's both satisying and rewarding but for speedrunners, there's always the option to not use the time-altering mechanic and attempt to go in guns blazing.

Missions have their own special challenges, giving you additional stars which you can use as currency to upgrade your weapons. These challenges can involve clearing the level within a certain timeframe, not missing a single shot or going through the whole level without slowing down time. Whilst this creates an optional level of challenge, the timer doesn't slow down when you slow down time, shooting objects can help gain better vantage points (and is arguably part of the puzzle) and time altering is the game's primary mechanic. With this in mind, you'll only get one star for completing a level and therefore, the challenges felt like the game was diminishing its own experience or rather, shooting itself in the foot (pun intended).

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Depth perception can be difficult to judge from its topdown perspective. There are moments where you may think you're taking cover but a bullet coming straight toward you disagrees. This can be when you're behind the bonnet of a car but your top-half is still showing (you'd think you'd take cover) or behind some barrels. It changes everything you think you knew about topdown twin-stick shooters and if the developers wanted to go with the risk of your top half being hit when still behind objects, then a topdown perspective may not have been the best choice.

Level Design

Levels are a bit of a mess; some are straightforward and easy to digest whilst others feel like mazes with deadends, leaving the player with the mundane task of locating the last enemy. Whenever I came across a level that was strictly linear, I would be relieved as the apartments/buildings with multiple rooms and branching paths are frustrating without a map. That being said, the more obtuse the level is, the more options you have for cover - so it's not all bad.

Story / Personality

The plot begins with a recap as you're reliving the events from four days prior when you were tracking down the Two Headed Dragon. Each chapter delves into the next day preceeding the present where you are recaping the events with a police officer whilst under interrogation.

The dialogue is hardly engaging as it feels written without any hint of emotion. In addition to frequent grammatical errors, it feels robotic, leading to many moments where I just wanted to skip it all and get back into the action.

Graphics / Art Direction

Ideally, The Hong Kong Massacre is best played in docked mode as it doesn't translate well to handheld. As the writing is quite small with a difficult to read black and red colour theme and bullets being so small, making them hard to see at the best of times, you'll want for a bigger screen. Nintendo Switch Lite owners, proceed with caution.

The cutscenes are gorgeous but ultimately lacklustre as recurring shots keep from the game stretching its CG muscles. The fidelity is also a little lost on Switch, especially in handheld mode locked to its 720p resolution; it looks fine but you know they're going to look better on more advanced hardware.

Music / Sound Design

The soundtrack is the most disappointing aspect of The Hong Kong Massacre as it simply feels like generic synth tracks that don't do anything to add to the atmosphere. It's befitting of the game's tempo but it doesn't gel well with the modern eastern themes. I'm not asking for anything cliche, in fact, quite the opposite, just something more lively and less like it was a sample track on a new phone.

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Final Score: 62%

The Hong Kong Massacre is a fun twin-stick shooter that shoots itself in the foot more often than not. The slowmotion action is wonderfully rewarding and is a mechanic that brings this twin-stick shooter to life and yet, it's what's built around it that unfortunately restricts it from living up to its full potential. There's certainly something to enjoy here but only if you can look past its shortcomings.

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