Version tested: PSP
Hot Pixel is a collection of super-short mini-games that borrows almost all of its design from Wario Ware Inc. In case you were in any doubt as to how far Hot Pixel borrows from Nintendo's Wario Ware, the game spells it out at the very start: "get what to do... find how to do it... finally perform!" That's how, according to the opening video, you play Hot Pixel, and, you may recall, it's how you play Wario Ware too. You wait for your next mini game; you try to work out what to you're supposed to do, and how to do it, and in the next five or six seconds you do it.
But really, how could you possibly be in any doubt about how far Hot Pixel apes Wario Ware? In terms of the overall structure of the game, it's almost precisely the same: there are ten episodes to unlock, and each one consists of ten mini-games that last about five or six seconds each, and halfway through each episode the games start speeding up and getting more difficult, and at the end of each episode you'll find a slightly longer boss encounter. And once you've unlocked each mini game, you can practice it and play it through to achieve high scores to your heart's content. And if you like you can play some of them against your friends in multiplayer mode.
And it's not just the structure that's almost precisely the same. As you play through each of the five- or six-second mini games you'll notice that many of them are almost verbatim replicas of the games that, if you've got any sense, you'll have already played in Wario Ware. Like the one where you have to jump your skateboard over things. Or the one where you have to shake a tree. Or the one where you have to chop something by hitting the button just when the power gauge is at the end. Or the one where you scrub a hand. Or... the list could go on - and probably will do at the offices of Nintendo's lawyers, because Hot Pixel is absolutely shameless in ripping off Nintendo's masterpiece.
Sure, there are several new mini-games that you won't have seen, even if you have spent as much time as you should have done with Wario Ware. In fact, according to the developer's website, there are more than 200 "deviously crafted mini games" (which is handy, because it saves us counting). And some of them are actually very smart, like the one where you have to calibrate the colour levels of a picture; or the one where you have to zap zits or two-headed cows from a picture using a sort of photoshop clone; or the one where you have to spy on a girl, Rear Window-style.
And, sure, the presentation is completely different to Wario Ware. But it's also much worse: in terms of presentation the game is very much in the territory occupied by your embarrassing dad dancing to the Arctic Sea Monkeys. It's in the same realm as the average Olympics logo. It's basically every adult who can't get their head around Myspac, or Yotub, or Facebrick, or whatever. Because, in terms of presentation, the game is exemplified by the gurning guy in a cap who turns up in videos that are shown before and after every episode to remind you that this is a game put together by adults who are trying, but failing, to capture the urban, skateboarding, user-generated content thing. According to the developer's website again, this chap is a "half-skater, half-nerd named Djon". He's actually just a visual carbuncle and constant reminder of the way in which Hot Pixel falls short of the game it so relentlessly copies.
Because, in spite of the internet connectivity; and the downloadable games, and the whole web 2.0/user-generated content philosophy that inspires the design of the game, it just doesn't ever reach the heights of intelligence that Wario Ware so easily coasted. Sure, there are allusions to Atari's back catalogue (in the shape of games based on Asteroids, or Battlezone, or Breakout), but none of the knowing wit, and none of the ludic jokes. And some of the games just haven't been tested enough: some of them are so random that it's possible to die before you've had a chance to do anything, for example. And, at the risk of reviewing the hardware instead of the software, the PSP's analog stick and buttons don't seem quite so well-suited to these sorts of mini-games as the more-precise controls of Nintendo's various GBAs.
And that, in a nutshell, is Hot Pixel: it's almost precisely Wario Ware, but without quite so much wit or charm. Which isn't to say that it's witless or charmless. It isn't, even if that gurning guy in a cap turns up far too frequently to remind you that the game is trying too hard to be all street, like those embarrassing trainer ads they made on The Apprentice. No, there are still moments of intelligence, like the photoshop game, or the use of Atari's back catalogue, and there are moments when it comes close to Wario Ware's self-awareness (a game that's so self-aware it's almost sentient).
But because it's so very identical to Wario Ware, you can't help but hold Nintendo's masterpiece up by way of comparison. And if you do that, Hot Pixel undoubtedly suffers because it's not as good. It's just a game that nobody's put enough thought into. Take the name, for example! This is a game that, with all it's skate-glamour and downloadable Web 2.0 content, that is surely trying to create some sort of internet meme. And yet the name is the most Google unfriendly name known to man. Go on: Google for hot pixel. See? And that's it. It's a game that's just not clever enough by half. Modelled, shamelessly on a game that's too clever by miles. So it's not necessarily bad. It's just not good enough.
6 / 10