Hot PXL Hands-On

We put our street smarts to the test in Atari's upcoming minigame collection.


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Currently scheduled for release in February, Hot PXL is a collection of street-culture-inspired minigames that was originally being developed exclusively for the PlayStation Portable but has recently been confirmed for the PC as well. We first got our hands on a work-in-progress version of the PSP game shortly before the Electronic Entertainment Expo in May, and at Atari's recent Spotlight event in Las Vegas we had an opportunity to see how much progress has been made since then.

Hot PXL will ship with 150 different minigames, and a further 50 will be available to download for free from day one. Atari is planning to release additional minigames postrelease, and the possibility of having companies sponsor branded games was mentioned at least once during our meeting. The minigames that ship with the game are divided into 10 categories, each focusing on a different facet of street culture. They (and what little we could gather about their meanings) are as follows:

Underground: Be proactive about staying in the know.
Awareness: Keep your eyes open, and appreciate street art.
Cyberdude: Tech-savvy nerds are cool, it's official.
Street Sweat: Street sports and themes include skateboarding and basketball.
Mental Tuning: Tripping, dreaming, and hallucinating.
Kidult: Things you don't want to give up when you become an adult--junk food and cartoons, for example.
Admirer: The collecting of expensive items, such as sneakers and designer toys.
Statement: You are what you wear.
Struggle: Sometimes you have to cross the line of the law to pursue hobbies and interests.
24/7 Music: Listening to and experimenting with music.

All of the Hot PXL minigames have two things in common at this point. They have a great sense of style that combines modern technology with retro visuals and gameplay mechanics, and none of them (with the exception of the boss battles modeled after classic Atari games) last longer than eight seconds. Most of the games are played using simplistic controls, although it often isn't apparent what those controls are the first time you encounter any given game. With that said, many of the games play out in similar ways, even though they look very different. The game where you use a sponge to wash soap suds off a hand, for example, works in exactly the same way as those that task you with touching up a photo or with using a marker to customize a sneaker. Button-mashing games, button sequence games, and Breakout-style bat-and-ball games all pop up regularly, as do games that employ "swingometer" bars like those found in old golf games.

One of the strangest things about Hot PXL is that the character you play as is the same guy that we've now interviewed twice about the game. Djon, the game's skateboard-loving producer, not only appears in the game as a pixelated playable character from time to time, but also appears in the deliberately goofy full-motion video sequences that serve as intros to each of the 10 themed chapters. Another strange feature of Hot PXL are the "buddy screens" that we saw for the first time at the Spotlight event. These interactive screen savers (for want of a better expression) let you interact with your PSP in really unusual ways by turning it into, for example, a skateboard, a spray can, or a drink. As you playfully pretend that your PSP is one of these objects--perhaps by standing an action figure on top of it, shaking it, or sticking a straw into it (not recommended)--pressing the face buttons will activate appropriate sound effects and, where applicable, images on the screen. When using the PSP as a drink, for example, the screen appears to be a glass containing a cocktail, and when you press a button, you can drop ice cubes into it.

Hot PXL is a promising collection of minigames with a great sense of style, and the only thing that concerns us about the game right now is that so few of the 150 games can be played for longer than eight seconds at a time. We've seen some really great-looking remakes of classic Atari games in Hot PXL already, and given the opportunity, we could certainly see ourselves playing them for extended periods. We look forward to bringing you more information on Hot PXL as soon as it becomes available.

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