Hot Pixel is an attempt from Atari and French developer zSlide to make their own WarioWare game. While we'll stop just short of calling Hot Pixel a rip-off of Nintendo's fast-paced, funny minigame extravaganza, it's very obvious that the developers must have sat down and thought, "How can we make this concept our own?" In the end, though, none of that really matters, because this is a PSP game, and there's nothing quite like this (or WarioWare) on the PSP. So, sure, it's utterly shameless in spots, but this collection of crazy-looking, superstylized minigames still manages to get by on its own merits.
The main game is broken up into 10 episodes, each of which is wrapped up by a razor-thin premise that's explained only in the manual. In the game itself, you just see brief video clips showing some slightly-too-old French guy mugging for the camera at the beginning and end of each episode. Occasionally he's riding a skateboard because he's totally street and fully "down." But really, the game's attempts to reflect some kind of "street culture" vibe just comes off as hokey and totally forced. The content of the minigames gravitate toward two different main ideas: things that remind you of old video games, and things that are somehow related to urban living, like graffiti, skateboarding, and tongue piercing, which is still tied with lower-back tattoos for the ultimate sign of faux rebellion.
The minigames themselves are structured to be fast and very simple, with one major task that you only have a few seconds to complete. You're given a very basic instruction at the start of each minigame that tells you what you're trying to accomplish, but the controls are left for you to discover. Of course, they're usually very simple, relying on the analog stick, D pad, or an occasional X button press. One game, for example, has you moving a marker over the top of a skateboard, revealing the words "skateboarding is a crime, but this isn't a skateboard" as you do so. You need to cover enough of the skateboard to succeed before time expires. Then the game ends, the next one is quickly loaded up, and you move on. While the game gets faster as you get better, it never seems to reach a real breakneck speed and rarely feels like it's completely out of control and crazy, which is unfortunate.
The game is brought down a bit by some very repetitive concepts. So while the game advertises "200+" minigames, it doesn't feel like that many at all. A lot of the minigames revolve around you moving a block around, attempting to eat pink blocks, attempting to avoid black blocks, or both. Each episode seems to throw in at least a couple of these, and they aren't much fun or very interesting to look at, either. Sure, it ties into the pixel-oriented nature of the game, but that doesn't make it any more satisfying. There are also a handful of minigames that draw on Atari's rich arcade past, so you'll see quick games based on Asteroids, Lunar Lander, Major Havoc, Battlezone, and so on. There's enough variety here to keep you going for a few hours, but if you're already a veteran of other, similar games, you'll probably cruise through the normal mode's 10 episodes in under an hour. Higher difficulty settings unlock when you complete normal, and these speed things up and also add disruptive screen effects, like reversing the color, shaking the screen, or putting fat skulls onscreen to make things tough to see.
The game goes for retro with 2D spritelike graphics ranging from Atari 2600 to 8-bit Nintendo in quality for the deliberately pixelated games. The more realistic ones use photo cutouts and a mix of other styles, which changes things up fairly well from game to game. The whole soundtrack has a deliberately retrogaming vibe to it--it's a bit more technologically advanced than something an actual Atari 2600 could conjure up, but it's got that kind of sound.
Hot Pixel has its moments, but it's shamelessly derivative of Nintendo's WarioWare games, and loses out a bit because of its lack of originality. At the same time, it's also a fairly good clone of the WarioWare concepts, so if you're a PSP owner wondering what all the fuss was about, you'll probably have an OK time with Atari's version.