Fire Under The Collar
For many of us, video games will be the only place where you can do certain things. Spraying graffiti. Fighting fires with a pedaled helicopter. Going on a diet. Chasing colored squares. Tracing a dragon tattoo on a girl and hearing her moan. Hot Pixel allows us to do this and more, for life is a game - a silly, silly game.
[image1]As something that will likely be dismissed as a rip-off of WarioWare, Hot Pixel actually manages to be a decent game. Ten episodic levels pit you against a series of mini-games in that familiar frantic “What am I doing and how do I do it?” style, but here, they’re stylized as a mash-up of an urban skater lifestyle, retro games, and an adult flavor of randomness. Whether you’re slapping a coat of customized paint on a skateboard, shooting robots in a Tempest clone, or reeling in the barely attached eyeballs of a cartoonishly injured construction worker, each task requires the same quick-thinking and reflexes.
At the end of each stage you’ll fight a boss, which is really just another special game - Break Out, Simon, and even one where you have to strum out a tune on a guitar. When you beat a level, you’ll unlock that level’s playlist to revisit any time, in addition to music, more games (including a cute little shmup), and other extras. The difficulty level also goes all the way from “Easy” to “Deadly”, so even if it’s a bit of a cakewalk the first time through, you can challenge yourself later.
[image2]With the variety of mini-games, it might have been a mind-bender trying to grasp the controls, but surprisingly, they all work well. Basic movement can be driven by either the D-pad or the analog nub, and each control scheme comes in handy for specific types of tasks. Quick-time mini-games, such as completing a secret handshake or transforming a robot, which incorporate the face and shoulder buttons, are well-designed.
Another way to unlock content is building your collection of medals in practice mode. There, you can play any game you’ve played before until your fingers fall off. If you happen to get sick of the mini-games, you can visit the Hot Pixel website and download an additional seventy games. However, most of them are the same as the pre-existing mini-games, with just a different coat of paint. Less than thrilling, no?
The soundtrack, however, is hip and zany, whether it’s street-wise grooves or retro bleeps, or just some zany effects. The win theme alone charmed me for its ability to invoke a mental image of high-kicking cheerleaders.
[image3]Capping all of the energy in each level are short live-action segments that somehow manage to feel totally pointless yet belong at the same time. Who is this dorky guy running around going insane? Since, what movie plays depends on whether you win or lose and what level you’re on, you’re always waiting to see what the guy will do next. You won’t really care about what happens, but it’s bizarre enough that you’ll be intrigued.
Loving WarioWare doesn’t prevent you from enjoying this game. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. Games where you can complete so many disparate tasks in such a short time are few and far between. Multiplayer mode is a welcome addition, and despite how unfriendly the PSP can be sometimes, it’s a great quickie on a bus ride. Hot Pixel is not something you’ll play forever and ever, but it’s a nifty fad.