Crispy Gamer

Games for Lunch: Hot PXL

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Developer: zSlide

Publisher: Atari

Release Date: Oct. 2, 2007

System: PSP

ESRB Rating: T

Official Web site

0:00 I'm an unapologetic fan of WarioWare-style mini-game collections, so this Atari offering of 200 of the things had me intrigued. Not intrigued enough to check it out in the last two years it's been out, but still intrigued enough to put it in my GameFly queue.

0:01 A smiling pixel man in a red shirt and a red-and-yellow ball cap greets me. There's a pyramid of odd pixel people in the background, including one that seems to be a hamburger. Logos erupt in pixilated thunder, then a menu screen shows the guy in the hat with a girl in one corner and a purple monster in another. The Episodes option lets me "Unlock the 10 episodes of PXL lifestyle," whatever that means.

0:02 I choose Normal difficulty in front of a desert that contains an orange sky, a green cactus and a black monster that reminds me of a Troggle. A desert, a cactus and ... a big black thing. Episode 1 is "Underground." A fast-paced video tells me "How to play how Hot PXL!"1. Get what to do. (Via on-screen text.) 2. Find how to do it. Use the analog stick or directional buttons. Press buttons. Or try anything else! (Um, what else is there?) 3. Finally perform! Ready?" I guess so? I don't remember WarioWare needing a video like this.

0:03 Inexplicably, the game leads off with a short video of an old white guy in hip-hop garb coming out of a bunker and blowing dust off a record. Umm...

0:04 The first game just tells me to "Shoot." At first I think the tiny blue box is a target reticle. Nope, it's a ship that shifts left and right. X shoots two shots that take out two black squares up at the top of the screen. A between-game stat box tells me I'm "still on track to perfect." Er, thanks!

Hot PXL

0:05 I do a ridiculous "Salute" handshake by pressing the X and square buttons as they appear on the screen. "Wussup!" says an annoying announcer's voice. Oh dear lord.

0:06 My first mistake comes in trying to navigate the little red-hatted guy across a descending red earnings graph. Apparently those jumping pixel businessmen were supposed to be avoided. Who knew?!

0:08 The "Boss" is an extremely pixilated game of Breakout, played against the side of a building, using the window lights. It's shown from an odd, low perspective, and the jittery ball movement makes it extremely hard to play. I lose three lives and the round, leading that old hip-hop white guy to come out his bunker and sort through some trash with a weird look on his face. Overall, this doesn't feel nearly as tight as WarioWare. Too much time between each game, and the game is trying WAY too hard for that "urban" vibe. Anyway, I earned 80 PXLs and unlocked Training Mode so ... yay.

0:11 On my second playthrough, eight of the 10 games are already repeats from the first time. I thought there were 200 of the buggers. Why all the repetition already?

0:13 I beat the Breakout boss easily this time, when I get a gun power-up that lets me shoot out the bricks. Old Hip-Hop White Guy (OHHWG from now on) breaks through a curtain in the background, gives an extremely fake thumbs-up, and raises his eyebrows. What the hell?

0:14 "XTRA game Hyperz Breakout Unlocked." Because misspellings are X-TREME!

0:16 Level 2 is "Awareness," introduced with a video that zooms in on a hidden sticker on a graffiti-crowded wall. The first two games teach me that "blue loves pink" and "blue fears black," by letting me move a blue dot toward/away from dots of those colors. Also, I just pierced someone's tongue with a well-timed push of the X button.

0:19 This boss fight is mildly interesting ... I have to guide the blue dot so that it collects magnetically attracted pink dots, but without hitting black dots, which are also attracted to it. When I win, OHHWG comes back with his backwards cap, using binoculars to watch a girl undress through her window. She screams as he looks on lasciviously. In the background, someone cries "Hey girrrrrrl. What's your number?" What the hell is WRONG with this game?!?

0:20 My newest XTRA game is called "SQUEIRZ." Is that supposed to be Squares? I'm pretty good at Leet Speak, but there comes a point where it becomes self-parody...

0:21 The third set of games seems computer-focused. Airbrushing blemishes, Using a robot head to eat candy, adjusting an old-school Atari screen to fit the TV. Then, a yes-or-no question: "3 + 5 = 18 - 5 - 5." What is this, Brain Age? The boss is a super-easy six-match version of Simon that I dispatch incredibly quickly. Afterwards, OHHWG shows up on a monitor with a bunch of extra arms and a pasted-on smile. Wha?

Hot PXL

0:25 Yo, yo word up homie, next up is STREET SWEAT! Most of these mini-games deal with urban sports like skateboarding and basketball, but there's one where I have to make a neon-pink golfer hit fireworks past the Eiffel Tower. "Bravo, sir. It's a perfect shot!" says a rather fey-sounding guy off-screen. This ... is baffling, to say the least. When I defeat the level, OHHWG breaks a skateboard in half in an incredibly awkward manner.

0:28 A set of skateboard-related games now. Most of them are pretty easy to figure out, even if the controls are uniformly horrible and way too slow. The "Unwind" game, where I turn a crank to retract my face back onto my skull (!), is notable for its gruesome yet impressively detailed animation. The boss is one of the worst driving games I've ever played. I have to dodge traffic, but not actually turn the car, which automatically re-centers on the road, it seems. My reward this time is a video of OHHWG doing a lame kickflip over a trash can. That's right, OHHWG, you are LAME!

0:32 The set of "mental tuning" games asks me to do such mentally taxing things as guiding an elephant trunk to eat a conveyer-belt line of pink dots and shaking a tree with the L and R buttons. The boss fight has me moving a big, obnoxious targeting reticle with horrible controls to hit monsters that pop out behind buildings. "You alien thing!" says a weird voice when I finish. The next video interlude has OHHWG drinking a potion and becoming a pixilated version of himself. Man, I can relate...

0:37 The next level is called "Kidult." This is such a perfect description for OHHWG I think I'll change his name. Anyway, he leads things off by taking a big bite from a loaded hamburger, then drooling with an open mouth like he's just had his first sexual experience. The games are all food-related: Matching burned burgers, shooting ketchup at fries, etc. I actually enjoyed one game where a fat guy was chased by a diet cola machine, and another where I had to control stomach acid to catch trucks and skyscrapers and other large things in a giant's belly. The "Burn U Brain" boss is a simple tile sliding picture puzzle of ... a hamburger! Because hamburgers are STREET, DAWG!

0:42 The "Admirer" games are almost uniformly horrific. Catching cockroaches falling from cereal boxes? Controlling a fly eating old chewing gum? "GET PANTIES"?!?!? Did the game seriously just ask me to "GET PANTIES"?!?!?!

0:43 Quote of the moment: "Skateboarding is a crime, but this isn't a skateboard." For the record, this was written ON A SKATEBOARD!

0:44 OK, the "Synthesize Sucrose" game, where I have to line up molecules, is grin-worthy. But a lot of these games are just repeats (or slightly tweaked versions) of games from other levels. LAME!

0:45 For some reason, I'm using an Asteroids-style ship to destroy globes of stomach acid. Was this whole game a ploy to renew the Asteroids copyright, perhaps?

0:46 The Kidult's "I heart NY" shirt just flipped around to read "NY heart I." He's incredibly shocked by this turn of events, because it's just SO FREAKING EXXXXXTREEEEEEEME! Meanwhile, more repetitive mini-games.

Hot PXL

0:48 Now the Kidult has money and a grill full of gold teeth. He's not embarrassed about showing them off, either.

0:49 These surreal Kidult videos are much more interesting than the game. In this one, he appears from behind a street sign and hides behind a cement pylon.

0:53 The nonstop music just stopped for a "Flap" mini-game, where I control a bird desperately avoiding a hunter's gun. It's kind of sweet and poignant, until the bird farts and flies away at the end. Then, in the next game, the music is back and I'm using a large green elephant foot to smash a small bird. Oh well.

0:55 OK, Kidult just used a bolt cutter to cut through a chain between two cement pylons. As the camera zooms out, it's obvious he could have just walked around the pylons. SIGH!

0:56 At the beginning of the "24/7 music" level, Kidult seems to be scratching on the world's tiniest turntables. They're literally the size of iPods.

0:58 The "Unzip me baby" comes closest to capturing that WarioWare sensibility. I use up and down to unzip (and un-stick) the back zipper of a dress. When I'm done, a skeleton under the dress is revealed. Too bad the rest of the games aren't so pitch-perfect.

0:59 When I fail out on a tough mini-game, Kidult shows up behind a set of turntables in a pink striped shirt. The crowd throws trash at him. This almost makes failing worth it.

Would I play for more than an hour? No.


Why? Even the magic of the Kidult is not enough to redeem some truly awful mini-game design. The faux urban aesthetic, which seems designed by old white business executives, doesn't help.


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