E3 06: Hot Pxl Hands-On

We check out Atari's upcoming collection of street-culture-inspired minigames for the PSP.

At a recent pre-E3 press event in San Francisco, Atari showed off the previously unannounced Hot Pxl for the first time. The game, which is being developed exclusively for the PlayStation Portable, is essentially a collection of 200 minigames based on different aspects of modern street culture and everyday life. Specifically, the game is based on the video-Podcast-creating exploits of a self-proclaimed "street smart cool cat" from Europe named Djon. The charismatic Djon, who was presenting Hot Pxl at the event, is working alongside a development team from zSlide and will be inviting his video Podcast viewers into the game's world in upcoming episodes--creating an Ouroboros-like synergy between the video Podcast and the game in the process.

Gameplay options in Hot Pxl will include a story mode, which tasks you with playing through 10 themed chapters; a theater mode, which lets you pick and choose which minigames you want to play individually; and a playlist mode, which lets you create iPod-style "smart" playlists of the levels that you're best at or need to practice, for example. You'll be able to exchange your playlists with other players using the PSP's wireless connectivity. Atari's plans also include making additional minigames available for download after the game's release.

Many of the minigames that we checked out during our time with Hot Pxl played out similarly to those in Nintendo's WarioWare series, and like those games, a big part of the challenge is figuring out what you're supposed to do the first time you play. Mashing every button on the PSP to excite a crowd at a concert, for example, wasn't a gameplay mechanic that felt very intuitive the first time we encountered that particular minigame. Other minigames that were thrown at us included using cars on a three-lane highway as a slot machine, hitting a button to stick a plug into an electrical socket at the right time, mashing a crosswalk button to illuminate a "walk" sign, and using an especially shaky hand to enter a door security code after what was presumably a big night out. The two boss levels that we played--which can be played for much longer than five seconds at a time--were based on classic arcade games, and included a Breakout-style game played on the side of a skyscraper and a colorful organic-looking Asteroids clone.

The thing that impressed us most about Hot Pxl on this occasion was undoubtedly its sense of style, since it effortlessly combines quite realistic-looking street locations and such with pixel-based graphics that have a very deliberate retro look to them. Although we weren't able to check it out at the event, another neat-sounding feature of Hot Pxl is that the game will ship with iTunes-style software for your PSP that can be used to format and arrange any music and video files that you have on your memory stick. We look forward to bringing you more information on Hot Pxl as soon as it becomes available.

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