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Hot Pixel

(Atari; US: 2 Oct 2007)

Let’s get two things clear: first, Nintendo is loaded. Second, they’re so damn rich because they make great games that sell so damn well. Nintendo could, however, be a whole lot richer if they were to sue rival companies who shamelessly rip off their gaming properties for their own benefits. Spectrobes was an example of a shameless Pokemon clone, and now we have Hot Pixel, an appalling clone of Nintendo’s own WarioWare collection of minigames, but with none of the aforementioned title’s grace, charm, quirkiness, or off-the-wall sense of fun.


What’s really cringeworthy about Hot Pixel is its presentation. It comes off largely as an attempt by the developers at zSlide to ‘get down with the kids’, marrying urban, skateboard and other popular cultures together into one big embarrassing mess. I’m sure it will appeal to some emo-punk out there. For the rest of us, well, it’s just uncomfortable. The thought of these people, so out of touch with today’s youth and trying desperately to keep up, is as almost as unsettling as seeing your drunk grandfather bust his best moves on the dance floor at your wedding. 


The concept of the core gameplay is meant to center on quick, fun, frantic minigames that last no longer than a few seconds, requiring you to complete simple tasks such as shaking leaves off of trees or tripping up a skateboarder. The problem is, none of the games are quick, fun or frantic. Instead, all they do is further highlight the brilliance of Hot Pixel‘s inspiration, and funnily enough, they make you hanker for that inspiration even more.


Figuring out how to complete each minigame (of which initially there are 130) is the main part of the levels. Depending on the challenge you’re faced with, you’ll use either the PSP nub or D-pad, L & R, or the face buttons to complete each given task.


The problem here, though, is that in using all of the PSP’s buttons, it confuses matters. I’m not saying I struggled to keep up—far from it, actually—but part of the appeal of these kinds of games lies in the simple control method. It’s about simplicity to the point where you’re no longer thinking about what you’re pushing, sliding, and so on. It’s just you and the game, while the actual input method fades to the back of your mind. You see the screen, it relays what needs to be done and you do it. You never actually give a second thought to what you’re physically doing, just the actions that need to be done.


This is a scene begging for a Mooninite.

This is a scene begging for a Mooninite.


It’s the same reason why WarioWare didn’t work on the Gamecube, but excelled on the DS/Wii. By overcompensating for the limited inputs of the PSP, developer zSlide just turned the game into one big QTE sequence and have failed to break the boundaries that Wario managed so seamlessly.


One advantage Hot Pixel does have, though, is downloadable content. 70 new games in total can be downloaded and then organized into playlists, so you can cut and chop and basically play each level at your own discretion. It’s great if you’re looking to practice certain levels in preparation for the boss battles, improve at levels you suck on, or have the PSP randomly generate episodes of levels for you to keep things spontaneous.


Perhaps this inspired one of the planets of Super Mario Galaxy?

Perhaps this inspired one of the planets of Super Mario Galaxy?


Though visually limited, Hot Pixel for some reason requires about ten or so seconds to restart or try new levels, a bizarre pattern considering the minimal production values, but worse because it further breaks up the supposed fast, frantic antics that are an essential ingredient of the genre. To further compound issues, the games are usually just the same old same old, but with different packaging. Even though some variants exist as the game progresses, the menu stays largely the same throughout.


Special mention must also be paid to the super nerdy guy at the beginning and ending of each chapter. There’s no reason as to why he’s there or what exactly it is he’s meant to be doing, it’s just that he’s there, being a nerd, trying to act all hip and cool, to appeal to the PlayStation kids. Surely a busty blonde would have been a better choice for the demographic in question?


Hot Pixel is destined for obscurity, for the sad, uninitiated who somehow get fooled by the presentation. If you think you’ll become that extra 15.4% cooler than the other kids by playing Hot Pixel, then quite frankly you deserve everything that’s coming to you. Those who are far less self-conscious about the games they play will find that Hot Pixel is a tedious, repetitive, shallow, and quite frankly boring concept, which has no innovative ideas to claim as its own, nor novel ways to use the PSP. Simply put, nothing to see here, people. Move along.

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Tagged as: atari | faux-cool | minigames | psp | zshare
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