Has Atari just taken Wario's minigame crown?
There's a penchant these days for pick-up-and-play mini-gaming. The significance of the casual gamer 'demographic' has helped fuel this trend, with the spark arguably provided by the WarioWare series. If truth be told though, pick-up-and-play gaming stems from a time long before Wario came up with his nefarious schemes to plunder all and sundry. The early days of the arcade, where games had to hook you in the first few seconds if they were ever going to reel you in and convince you to drop more coins in the slot, had to be pick-up-and-play by their very nature. Could these be classed as the very first casual games?
"The early days of the arcade had to be pick-up-and-play by their very nature."
Curiously referred to throughout (except for the box and main screen) as Hot Pxl, the game is aimed at the slightly older MTV generation, containing a Ren & Stimpy level of irreverence. Comprising of 10 episodes in total, completing each one will unlock the next and reward you with a humourous and generally nonsensical 10 second interlude. Each episode contains 12 mini-games including the boss although generally you will not play every mini-game. Some episodes will even recycle mini-games from previous episodes, thus leaving some locked and requiring you to replay the episode several times in order to access everything.
"Playing as Djon, an escaped journalist from the video podcast dimension, you must help him escape from his psychedelic mind."
Although failing an episode will return you to the episode select screen, for some unfathomable reason completing an episode will throw you back out to the main menu. This is largely irrelevant though as the presentation throughout is generally of a high standard. A major shortcoming though is with the length of the main game. Most players will be able to complete the story mode within an hour or two on the default normal difficulty level - heaven knows how short the easy mode would be. Completing all the episodes on one difficulty setting does unlock further difficulty levels but it is questionable whether there is enough variety to stimulate repeat play.
"The best games are invariably the ones that make judicious use of one of the PSP's unique features."
There is potential though as it is possible to download a further 70 mini-games from www.hotpxl.com and transfer them to your memory stick which can then be accessed in game. How long and how much further developers zSlide and publisher Atari push this though is most likely dependent on the popularity of the title itself.
Whilst complaints will centre around its repetitive, short-lived nature and WarioWare derivation - there's even a tenuous mini-game in the credits which can only be accessed once you've completed all the episodes - it is not all bad news. It is fun to play and does contain countless mini-games, even if many of them are a rip-off of themselves, not to mention the potential for more games via internet download. But is it enough? How long will it keep you coming back for more? If this was an arcade machine, how many 10ps would you drop in the slot? The answer, unfortunately, is probably less than the cost of the game.