Boinggg! Kerdunkkk! Blaaam! Errrk! It's either an editorial lunch at SU Towers, or a game of Hotshot, the zappiest, zaniest piece of something else beginning with a Z that it's been my pleasure to play for some aeons.
If you got last month's MegaTape (and if you didn't, you might as well stick your head in a bucket) you'll have seen a demo of level one of this brain-boggling arcade challenge. Well, there's lots more on the finished game, so prepare to be boggled. It's a bit like Breakout, it's a bit like pinball, and it's a bit like a shooting gallery. The twist is that it's a one-or two-player simultaneous game, taking place in a futuristic gaming arena.
In pursuit of the usual things (money, fame, appearances on Wogan), you must take on a series of alien adversaries in the Hotshot bowl. The play area is divided into two identical sides. Each features a chute at the side; a wall of coloured bricks at the top; a hydraulic wall above the bricks; flippers on either side of the pit; and a central chute and rammer. The aim is to knock out all the bricks above your pit before the sixty-second timer runs out. Easy, yes? Easy, no! The playing ball is made of some deadly radioactive magnetic mineral, and you can only handle it safely using a special gravitational hoover. Your little mannekin scampers left and right in the pit under joystick or keyboard control, and when you press fire you activate your hoover, and can swing it through 360 degrees. If you aim right, you can catch the ball as it flies from the chute; if not, the ball will give you a fair old whack on the body and you'll disintegrate in a pretty manner.
Once you've caught the ball, you can release the fire button to launch it at the wall of bricks. This bit is just like Breakout, but the ball is controlled by realistic gravity effects, and can also be influenced by the space hoover of your opponent. The skill is in shooting the ball up the side-chute, then guiding it along the top rows, bouncing off the hydraulic walls and knocking out brick after brick.
To make things harder you can only hang on to the ball for three seconds, and you can't move while you're holding it, so to knock out the final bricks you sometimes have to catch the ball, bounce it off a flipper, move, and catch it in the right position for your next shot. Dead jammy, especially when you can shoot the ball between pits in an attempt to catch your opponent off guard.
If you knock out all the bricks within the time limit, you get to a bonus screen, where pinballlike obstacles try to prevent you getting the ball into a black hole, again before a timer runs out.
The subsequent levels are even more challenging; in the Water Court the liquid level rises, threatening you to a soggy doom if you don't move fast enough; and in the Black Hole, the approaching gravity well tries to suck you to your death.
Just as entertaining are your alien opponents; Tojoi, Maxx, Killer, Trifid and others, which take the form of scuttling insectiods, strange robots, bouncing blobs and armoured warriors.
What do I have to say to make you buy Hotshot? it's fab fun, and like most good ideas it's brilliantly simple and endlessly absorbing. Bounce down to the games shop and jump up and down on the counter until they give you a copy.
Reviewer: Chris Jenkins
Brilliantly clever and endlessly entertaining future sport simulation.