Hot Pixel

To say that Hot Pixel was inspired by WarioWare would be an understatement. This PSP game by French developer zSlide follows Wario’s formula to a T. It’s a crazy-fast compilation of micro-games with a surreal sense of comedy, revolving around a wacky protagonist. Now WarioWare is certainly a concept worth aping, but I fear that Hot Pixel‘s attempt at it fails to capture the same charm.

Where WarioWare is cartoon-y and vibrant, Hot Pixel goes for strange mixture of street punk aesthetics and reverence for retro gaming. Some micro-games have you give the middle finger or decorate a skateboard, only for the next to be a geeky “hack the computer” challenge or Breakout clone.

Its “episodes” also start and end on surreal live-action clips, often featuring a nerdy guy doing something gross. These are all very weird and random. Like one episode revolves around the dude getting some shoes, while another is just him finding some graffiti. If there is a story going on there, then it has successfully eluded me. Not that it matters, because these clips then lead into gameplay that is entirely disconnected from whatever the protagonist was doing.

The micro-games themselves are fine. There’s about a dozen of them per episode, of which the game has 10 in total. It’s fun having some crazy task dumped on you, figuring out your controls, then executing that task, all within the span of a few seconds. Some of these micro-games took me a few tries to figure out, but each episode permits you to fail a few before it triggers a Game Over.

While Hot Pixel boasts about having around 200 games total, do keep in mind that most are very basic and the game loves to recycle its ideas. For example, an oft-recurring game has you control a simple block that has to absorb every other block on the screen, barring black ones. This minigame returns across several episodes with a different image and more black blocks. Not so much a “new” games as an escalation of an existing one. Inspiration certainly feels like it dries out towards the end, as these recycled games begin to increasingly dominate in later episodes.

At one point in time you could download more games from the Hot Pixel website. That website is long gone now, but you can still access the data through the wayback machine. That’s pretty cool, though downloading and installing this stuff takes more time than you’ll spent with the actual games themselves. It’s not exactly worth the headache.

Hot Pixel is alright for about… half an hour to 45 minutes. It wants to be game that you fire up whenever you need to kill a few minutes, and it’s okay for that purpose. Not the best time-killer nor the worst. However, with its website offline and mobile phones always at the ready, there are few reasons to still play. Instead it has become a curiosity for PSP collectors like myself.

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