OTXO Captures a Fear of Death in its Gunfights

OTXO is full of stressful top-down shootouts. That’s no surprise given the game’s clear inspiration from Hotline Miami. Expect to kick doors so hard you splatter the folks behind them. Blast your way through rooms filled with people who’ll kill you in moments. Cover the whole place in blood (which looks pretty sharp in this monochrome world). However, in this game, if you die, you go all the way back to the start. When your whole playthrough is on the line, it adds an element to terror to every gunfight.

You find yourself in front of a strange mansion when the game begins. You don’t know who you are, and you don’t even seem to have a face. It’s a great opening to the kind of game where you’d sneak around that mansion avoiding monstrous beings. Our protagonist isn’t like that, though. They’re more of the type to grab a gun and start unloading on the people they find as they search for their missing loved one. Whether its human, some weird spirit, or surreal presence, you’ll be blasting it.

Everything in OTXO is going to be shooting back at you, though. While it may have a horror slant, this is a bloody shooter through and through. Thankfully, enemies drop weapons with full magazines when they die. This encourages you to rush from person to person, endlessly swapping guns and killing the next batch of foes. It feels very slick in action, and it’s highly enjoyable to continually shift and adapt based on the weapon in your hand. Even so, you CAN keep a gun you like and pick up ammo for it if you want.


Now, with that many bullets flying through the air, you’re going to get shot at some point. Thankfully, this game does let you take a few hits before you drop dead. That’s vitally important as, like I said, once you die in this game, you head back to the start. It’s a roguelike take on the game that inspired it, so when you get yourself killed, you’ll be back at the front door of the mansion, empty-handed. You don’t build up currencies or unlock things with each playthrough, either. You always enter the mansion unarmed and at the same strength level.

That’s not to say that you don’t have any goodies to get in OTXO. As you kill foes, they drop coins you can snag. If you can keep up a kill combo, you’ll gain a multiplier that increases the number of coins you pick up. These can be spent on drinks at a bar. These drinks give you special powers that can heal you through touching blood, give you more ammo, and other handy abilities. These only last for your current run, though. You can spend extra coins on making it possible for special new drinks to appear on future runs, but that’s it. So, expect a high challenge each time.

This game does give you one more useful tool: Focus. Focus allows you to slow time for a brief period, giving you more wiggle room to sneak through groups of enemies or dodge bullets. You can activate this at the press of a button. This drains a Focus meter, though, which will recharge with time. That said, it can take a little bit before the charge fills up completely. This either pushes you to be more cautious or to take added risks in combat to keep your combo going so you can get more coins to buy better buffs. It’s up to you to decide how much risk you want to take.

While you can slow time and get stronger as you play, there’s still a chest-tightening fear throughout OTXO. I swear I died every few seconds while playing Hotline Miami. Now, in this game you can take far more hits, but you’re still pretty easy to kill. It still carries that same feeling imminent death like Hotline Miami. If someone catches you with a shotgun in a bad place, you’ll be back to the start in seconds. It’s extremely easy to die from a single mistake, which makes every moment of life feel like you have to cling to it. It always feels like you’re one step from death, which results in a tension that will have you gripping the mouse tight.

When death is permanent, it’s so much more frightening to deal with danger. This fear only grows stronger the further you get into the game, too. As those late-game bosses (which definitely lean into surreal horror) start attacking you and filling the screen with shots, it’s hard to avoid a feeling of panic. Every single dodged shot feels too close. Every hit makes you wince as you wonder if that’s the one that will kill you. Death comes with a massive price in this title, which makes challenging encounters feel frightening. It’s scary to think of what you’ll lose if you die.

Not only this, but like I said, OTXO doesn’t give you any benefits to carry over. It’s not like you can console yourself with some new bonus you unlock. You might have access to more possible tools in the game, but you’re not stronger or better at the beginning of your run. I suppose you do have more possible buffs available, but you need to buy those. This means getting lots of coins. Which, in turn, means you need to take more risks to keep your combos going. So you move into dangerous situations. You don’t wait for your Focus to recharge. All the while, you can feel death creeping a bit closer.

But is it a bigger risk to NOT get those better buffs? If you play cautiously and ignore your combo meter, you won’t be able to buy as many useful tools. This can put you in greater danger down the road. So, whether you play carefully or aggressively, there’s all of this tension, pressure, and unease. You’re never sure which decision will get you killed, or when. All you know is there are bullets flying all over the place, your Focus meter is almost empty, and you’ll be back at the start upon death. It all leads to this powerful fear of death within the game, and it will start working at you no matter how you choose to play it.

OTXO may appear to be a heavy action game, but through its roguelike action and the way its Focus and combo mechanics interact, it’s more of a horror experience. It does a great job of capturing a fear of death in its systems while continuing to goad into taking more risks.