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PSP Review - 'Hot Pixel'

by Tim McCullough on Nov. 18, 2007 @ 3:48 a.m. PST

Bringing fast and furious bite-size gaming, Atari's PSP-exclusive Hot PXL is comprised of 200 deviously crafted micro-games based on a quirky and original story premise, drawing inspiration from street culture and the digital lifestyle.

Genre: Puzzle
Publisher: Atari
Developer: Zslide
Release Date: October 2, 2007

Hot Pixel tries to follow in the footsteps of the wildly successful micro-game craze created by Nintendo's WarioWare series, though it targets an older teen audience. In Hot Pixel, you attempt to complete a series of micro-games which, more often than not, follows the styling of some of the old 8-bit arcade classics. You will find some micro-implementations of some of the more popular classics from Atari and others, such as Battlezone and Breakout. A liberal reward system helps keep players interested in the often fast-paced gameplay, which can be a bit repetitive and ridiculously simplistic at times. Hot Pixel has a very short learning curve, especially with the in-game tutorials and included training modes, but keep in mind that the title may not be suitable for younger gamers, since it contains some crude content and suggestive themes.

Hot Pixel is one of the few games where low-detailed graphics actually enhance the title's overall feel and appearance. The graphics are simplistic when compared to the stunners that have been released for the powerful PSP, but gameplay trumps aesthetics in this type of game. When you add the simple sound and music to the comparatively simple graphics, you experience the retro feel that the developers were surely trying to create, although the material has a modern spin. The only element of Hot Pixel that is not reminiscent of the old-school arcade craze is the live video cut scenes of a flamboyant teenager named DJON, who visually guides you through each of the 10 episodes that are purported to represent elements of his pixelated life. The control scheme varies from game to game; most micro-games will allow the use of either the direction buttons or the analog joystick to control on-screen movement.

The primary campaign mode in Hot Pixel has players completing 10 groups or "episodes" of games, with each containing a varying number of micro-games. Although there are over 200 micro-games in all, I found that objectives are often repeated, with only slight graphic changes between similarly styled games. The need to initially proceed in a trial and error fashion is generally required throughout the entire game, regardless of the mode in which you're playing.

The ultimate goal while playing Episode mode will be to beat every game in each episode. You can still advance to the next episode as long as you've completed the required number of games prior to losing all three of your lives. Overall, you'll find that it's relatively easy to breeze through the 10 episodes in just a couple of hours. When you begin a micro-game, you're given a short clue as to what you are expected to do. Normally this will suffice, but at times, you might need to play a game more than once to truly understand what you're supposed to do. As you successfully advance through the Episode mode of Hot Pixel, you will unlock extra games that are either enhanced versions of games you've already completed, or un-timed versions, which offer multiple challenge levels. Some of the games will be interesting puzzles, while others are just simplistic exercises in pressing the proper button or moving the analog stick in the proper direction.

In addition to the Episode mode, the game includes an instant-play mode that allows you to play a randomly selected micro-game that has been unlocked. You'll continue to play random games until you lose three times.

I don't recommend playing Hot Pixel if you're multitasking. You won't be too successful since you only have upwards of 20 to 30 seconds to complete any given game. The title features a bonus menu in which you can examine your game statistics, review the video segments that were unlocked during the Episode mode, select and listen to the in-game music or even check out the credits. Hot Pixel includes a nice rating feature that will allow you to identify your favorites so that you can easily create your own playlists. You can also download other players' playlists to see what they like. If you feel the need to practice one of the micro-games, it's possible to do so through the training menu. Hot Pixel keeps track of how many times you play a particular game and awards silver and gold stars depending on the frequency.

The playlist option offers new ways to play Hot Pixel and the ability to customize your game list to remove some of the less desirable games from the rotation. There are two types of playlists available; the first type is created in-game with the playlist editor, and the second, called "WWW Playlists," is either downloaded from the Internet or are created by players and stored on the PSP's memory stick. Playlist mode allows you to play three different games: Challenge, where you try to beat a certain quantity of games; Survive, where you must stay in the game for certain length of time; and Freeplay, where you play as long as you like without worrying if you win or lose. One nice option you can enable when using playlists is the ability to have the game automatically make difficulty level adjustments based on your playing performance.

Hot Pixel includes a two-player ad-hoc mode which allows you to either host or join a Wi-Fi game with a friend in the same location. During two-player games, you'll compete for the best score, and if your score gauge (a burger icon) reaches the top, then you can send a "disturber," which modifies the screen display of the game, to negatively affect the other player's gameplay. You can download an additional 70 games for Hot Pixel from the developer's web site. Keep in mind that you'll need to manually install these additional games to your PSP save directory using a USB cable, since there is no in-game mechanism to download them.

Hot Pixel offers a unique entertainment experience that is best suited for gaming on the go when you have a varying amount of time available. The title is best suited for teenagers and adults, due to some mature content, and the abundance of mini-games is definitely a plus but doesn't hide the fact that most of the games are simplistic, often repetitive and become a bit tedious after a while. Regardless of these issues, Hot Pixel has an excellent reward system with plenty of unlocks to keep things interesting. If you're a fan of the old 8-bit arcade gameplay or enjoy a faster-paced game, you might want to give Hot Pixel a try.

Score: 7.0/10

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