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PSP  header logo

Hot Pixel


For: PSP

More tepid, really

Product: Hot Pixel | Publisher: Atari Inc. | Format: PSP | Genre: Party/ mini- games | Players: 1-2 | Networking: wireless (adhoc) | Version: Europe
 
Hot Pixel PSP, thumbnail 1
Whoever said rules are meant to be broken was clearly an arrogant, selfish creature. Had they said some rules can occasionally be broken, however, we'd be far more lenient in their character assessment, not least because we're aware such an approach is sometimes necessary.

For instance, at Pocket Gamer we have this notion that games on a system should be reviewed against other games on that system only. The reasons for this are numerous, but the first two that come to mind are fairness and clarity.

Regardless, the point is you won't find us comparing a PSP game to a DS title, for instance. Except that's exactly what we're about to do, of course.

You see, there's simply no way around the fact that mini-game mad offering Hot Pixel can be discussed without mentioning 2003's mini-game mad WarioWare, Inc on the Game Boy Advance. That's because, in effect, it's the same game.

Take the way the mini-games are packed as groups of ten (themselves arranged as ten episodes), with a speed increase after the fifth (to make things trickier) and a boss encounter at the end (which, bizarrely, in Hot Pixel's case has a tendency to be considerably easier than the rounds that preceded it). Or the way you start each episode with three lives, losing one for each mini-game you fail to successfully complete.

But more than the structure, it's the nature of the mini-games themselves that most obviously 'draw inspiration' from Nintendo's classic title.

Based around the identical premise of a simple textual clue followed by an equally straightforward sub-five-second experience, Hot Pixel's Episode mode picks from its 200-plus selection of mini-games to offer immediate, quick-fix style fun – and some are indistinguishable in concept from those found in WarioWare. Others, meanwhile, are actually also identical in execution – bunny hopping over obstacles on a skateboard comes to mind.

Nevertheless, the developer has come up with some of its own, so you may have to perform a complex handshake, Photoshop the red-eye effect out of a picture, rescue someone from a burning building using a radio controlled helicopter, wash dirt off your hands, unzip a bare chest-covering jacket, or chase junk food around the screen while avoiding the low-calorie equivalent… the list goes on.

Regardless of the actual game itself, the actions rarely involve more than a few button presses or movement of the analogue nub (or D-pad) – in fact, many of the games tend to make use of just the X button. Which is entirely in keeping with the nature of the game. Not to mention WarioWare's approach, too.

And like Nintendo's game, references to past games abound – in this case, veteran players will certainly recognise the likes of Arkanoid, Battlezone and Asteroids variants – while the simplistic character of the tasks is matched by a graphical treatment that never threatens the PSP's technical abilities, but which remains apt and stylistically solid.

The presentation, too, displays hints of a familiar irreverence in its approach, despite the horribly forced street culture overtones (and the less we say about the embarrassing live action cut-scenes that bookend each episode, the better).

So far, so WarioWare, then. What Hot Pixel decidedly lacks, however, is the wit and ingenuity so evident in the GBA original – a few of the game offerings are certainly on a par, but generally, it's a considerable way behind its inspiration.

It also suffers in terms of variety. The 200-odd games may sound plentiful (and you get the chance to download additional examples from the official website, as well as unlock extra versions within the game itself), but in reality many are effectively the same affair, albeit wrapped in a different graphical coat. Furthermore, they don't always play in entirely convincing fashion, with the collision detection in some events leaving much to be desired, while one or three can come across as more than a little random.

It won't take long to finish, either. Assuming you possess average eye-hand coordination skills, it's entirely feasible to sail through the Episodes mode in one sitting. Clearly there is replay value in that you won't have experienced all of the games available first time through given that these are randomly selected. New game modes will also have been opened on your way, providing opportunities for instant play, training, single episode attempts and a two-player ad hoc experience.

Ultimately, however, it's the quality of the content, rather than the quantity, that is of greatest importance. And at this point we can stop the direct WarioWare comparison and go back to our usual strategy – because while Hot Pixel clearly doesn't excel as well as a package, it nevertheless represents a unique offering on PSP, and the kind of game Sony's format could certainly do with more of.

And it's not a bad game. It's just that having realised most of the ground work has been done (regardless of whether original or not – it is as far the PSP is concerned), you can't help wishing the developer had spent a little more time focusing on the fundamental elements that would guarantee a stellar performance from this very specific type of game.

Because while Hot Pixel is undeniably diverting, the overall game experience comes across as curtailed. And that's the one rule you don't ever break.
 
Hot Pixel
Reviewer photo
Joao Diniz Sanches | 22 June 2007
Fun and the type of game the PSP desperately needs, but it is disappointingly restrained in both substance and creativity
 
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