PSP Review

Hot Pixel

The Nathan Barley of mini-game collections?

Hot Pixel has a dream you know, it dreams of being cool. Its studied the art of cool really really hard; its probably even got a check list on a clipboard somewhere to make sure it doesn't forget anything. Yet, much like a middle aged politician trying to get 'down with the kids', Hot Pixel completely misses the mark coming to rest firmly on the less desired side of the thin line that divides effortlessly cool from embarrassingly naff. No amount of street slang and skater smarts can quite hide the overwhelming feeling that this is urban chic as designed by someone who's only read about it in a book.

Of course none of that automatically makes it a bad game and indeed its not, but it's not a great start when the very spirit that holds a game together is more than a little cringe-worthy. It's a shame to have to start things of with such negativity because once you're past all that there's actually a fun mini-game compilation to be found buried within the UMD. Taking its queues from Nintendo's classic Wario Ware, Atari's Hot Pixel is a vast collection of mini-games set across ten unlockable episodes. Each episode contains ten or so games, each one often taking less than ten seconds to play, and finishes with a slightly longer more involved boss encounter.

Because the majority of games last only a few seconds the real challenge often lies in working out what to do in the punishing time limit far more than struggling to actually do it. While this pressure is exciting at first it does mean each game gets much much easier the second time round leaving high score setting as the only lasting challenge, although their brevity at least means that even the less interesting ones never hang around long enough to get boring. The range of games is impressive as you'd hope with such a large number on display and you'll soon be performing secret handshakes, shaking trees, chopping things up, calibrating colour levels, zapping zits, using a remote to turn off TV's and shooting moving blocks out of the sky to name but a few. Of course, while those colourful descriptions may sound exciting its worth remembering the short sharp nature of the action means they lack any real kind of depth and are often nothing more than a graphical flourish over gaming staples such as Simon-Says, speed button bashing, reaction time tests and memory puzzles. Hot Pixel

While the pre-defined ten episodes form the core of Hot Pixel it's worth noting that there's also the handy ability to create your own playlists of games as either a practice aid or to group your favourites. You can also play all of the more engrossing boss challenges and Xtra Games outside of their episodes once you've unlocked them which is a blessing as their more developed gameplay make them far more appealing for repeat play than a lot of the smaller games. There's also the promise of more games being regularly made available in the form of downloadable content which should keep you busy, if you exhaust the ones you're given to start with which has to be good. Easier to criticise however is the fact that for all the games on offer none of them really stand the test of time and having unlocked them all and perhaps set a decent high score on your favourites there's not much in any of them to bring you back time and time again, perhaps something to be expected by the very nature of the mini-game genre but it's a shame that the good ideas on display in some of the games aren't given further room to breath.

Anyone who's played the aforementioned Wario Ware will be thinking this all sounds remarkably familiar, and they'd be right. In fact you could hardly blame the guys at Nintendo if they started asking for royalties such is the level of influence they appear to have had over Hot Pixel's design. The developers at zSlide have tried their hardest to make it all seem original and fresh but it doesn't take long to work out they've really not done a whole lot more than attempt to slip an ill-fitting urban skin over gameplay mechanics borrowed wholesale from the Nintendo classic. The fact that such a similar game was so successful for Nintendo despite, or even because of, its overtly cartoon styling yet this offering feels so underwhelming and forced when pushed through an ill-conceived 'cool-filter' onto the PSP probably says as much about how Sony have failed to understand the tone of the handheld market as well as they did the more traditional console market, as it does about the merits of Hot Pixel itself. If you're after a mini-game collection with a solid and proven structure then this is a well made, if a tad unexciting, offering and its the best game of its type on the PSP by some way. However, bear in mind that the zany streetwise presentation gets horribly irritating and ultimately it lacks the charm and likeability of certain other games on certain other consoles.

65%
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