Party games are the perfect way to spark competition among friends. There are several examples, with games like Mario Party, Bomberman, TowerFall Ascension, and more. One of the biggest things to get right in a party game is accessibility. You want to make a game that anyone can pick up and play. The hard part is making the simple concept deep enough to maintain a sense of fun and competition. After playing Flaming Flamingo’s Hot Shot Burn, I can confidently say that they found that winning formula.
Hot Shot Burn is a four player party game with a Running Man game show kind of feel. It’s violent, but visually funny, with shows like Rick and Morty and Final Space as key inspirations. Players will choose from several unique and distinct characters, drop into one of multiple arenas, and battle it out to the death. Players will earn points by earning various bonuses, playing multiple rounds until they reach 50 points. Once they earn 50 points, they just need to survive the next round to win. This key feature makes for a fun “anyone’s game” moment, as it changes up the competition in a fun way, but we’ll get back to that.
The gameplay itself is fairly simple. The characters move around with the left analog stick and use the same stick to aim their weapon. One button fires your gun, while another one activates your unique character skill. Each character has a unique play-style and has an added layer of depth given the right strategies. On top of this, each arena offers a distinct gimmick that adds another level of strategy. Through repeated sessions, players can learn new options, but even newcomers can discover things by dumb luck.
In the current build, there are a total of six characters, all with different balances and options. More characters will be added with each season, but even now, players will likely find a character they like. Players will start with more basic characters and over time, they’ll unlock more advance characters. For example, Mia is as standard as they come. She has a standard gun capable of six shots before reloading. Her dash ability allows her to move quickly, useful for getting away from a hectic fight.
Chuck, as described by the developers, is like “if Hulk Hogan and Chuck Norris had a baby”. He wields a short-range shotgun with two rounds, but they fire three bullets each in a spread shot. His ability ignites him on fire to move faster, and it also turns him into a dangerous fireball. Interestingly enough, if Chuck dies during his ability, his momentum still carries him and can also still get postmortem kills. Dr. Peakl, a living cactus, has four shots in his weapon with a mutli-directional shot as his ability. The rounds move in eight directions at an incredibly slow rate, so they’re more like another obstacle.
The appropriately named Umad, a pufferfish like alien, has a shot that bounces off walls. On top of that he can inflate himself temporarily and bounce opponent shots off of himself. Unfortunately, this means he can’t move. Wizardo, an 80’s punk vibe character, has a teleport ability that also works as an attack. He’s easily one of the most technical characters, as his teleport pad can move around. Like Chuck, his ability can also get postmortem kills, as his teleport pad can still be activated after death.
My personal favorite character out of the starting roster has to be Luna. A bit more advanced like Wizardo, Luna has the ability to snipe. While her weapon can fire two normal shots, if the player holds down the attack button, they can aim a long-distance shot. What makes it even better is this attack can move through walls. Her special ability also allows her to turn invisible for a short time. As her ability wears off, her silhouette slowly starts to appear. It’s a bit different since nobody, not even you, can see her (obviously when playing on the same screen).
Each of these six characters feel unique, and surprisingly balanced. If anyone seemed a little overpowered, it would be Umad, but even he has his own shortcomings. It’s also worth noting that no player can be the same character. The fact that there isn’t a manual reload button also makes for a bit of strategy. Players can always see how many shots an opponent has left, shown very clearly under every character. If you’re in a dangerous firefight, sometimes it takes watching your opponent’s ammo to know a safe moment to move in. Even then, you always have to expect the unexpected.
So far, there are over a dozen stages, but like characters, more will be added over time. Stages have gimmicks like underwater movement, bouncy walls, and conveyor belts. Powerups like Deathtouch or Fast Reload can be picked up to turn things in your favor, though be careful. Opponents can shoot powerups to make them blow up when you try to collect it. Many stages even have teleporters, both for players, and objects. One fun strategy is shooting through a teleporter gate and hitting an opponent on the other side. Another great strategy is sending an ability like Wizardo’s teleporter through. With so many things to be wary of in a round, it’s easy to lose track of sneaky actions like that.
As mentioned earlier, there are points earned for various bonuses. Getting a kill for example will get three points, but killing the previous rounds winner will get the Kingslayer bonus, earning five points. Perhaps you do someting clever for a kill, earning a style point. The postmortem kills earn the Necro bonus, also earning a single point. Surviving the round itself will earn five points, which believe it or not, can still be challenging. Finally, players may notice nachos floating around each stage. Collecting one of these will also earn a single point.
With the goal being set at 50 points, players will compete until someone reaches that point and survives the next round. Say three people are behind and one person has 50 points. This makes that person a target. This continues on and can even get to a point where everyone has 50 points, and the next one to survive wins. It gets pretty down to the wire and can create some really tense moments, but damn, does victory feel good! Having played six matches with the developers myself, I tested out each of the characters. During my first match, playing as Mia, I ended up winning in the end, but mostly by dumb luck. I also did well with Luna and Chuck, getting some pretty good rounds in.
Victory in Hot Shot Burn has that sort of Mario Party bonus stars vibe. It can be anybody’s game, but victory is all about survival of the fittest. Sometimes, that’s due to strategy, while sometimes it’s just based on pure luck. This isn’t even counting the mutators, which weren’t in my demo build. These modifiers will randomly alter a round and add things like bonus objectives or new obstacles. One mutator for example, is “IT’S NACHO TIME”, which adds giant nacho to the map, worth five points. While the game is fun without mutators, surely the added variety will keep things fresh for a long time.
The multiplayer is pretty flexible, allowing for multiple ways to enjoy it. Players can play up to four players online, or they can play locally on one screen. They can even split it up, with some players playing locally and others online. The team even talks about implementing cross-platform play, wanting to have as big a player base as possible. Online play or not, the definite winner here is the local multiplayer. This is the kind of game you can play at parties for hours and lose track of time.
The team is also very proud of the soundtrack, using a Synthwave vibe that sets the tone for the matches. They wanted to support a lot of local artists and got a pretty good variety of songs added to the game. Sound in general uses a lot of cartoon-like effects, which works well with the violent visuals. The presentation overall is pretty fun, with characters getting brutally turned into giblets on the ground. Characters can also emote using the D-pad, which adds a bit of humor to the game too. Interestingly enough, you can also emote during replays after each round, adding an extra layer of bragging. There’s also an announcer that commentates the entire game, adding to the game show presentation. The team even teases that we may see the announcer in a bigger role soon.
When it came to the progression in the game, Flaming Flamingo wanted to make sure it was consumer friendly. While there are character skins, they are unlocked through playing as that character. There are no micro-transactions or loot boxes, and playing the game will earn content rather quickly. The team is even making the game pretty accessible for PC early access on August 16th. Hot Shot Burn will be $19.99 when it leaves early access, but those who adopt it early will get a 25% discount for $14.99. If you’re not committed to buying, you can try the PC beta by joining their Discord server now.
Overall, Hot Shot Burn is a surprising title that plays great and has a surprising amount of depth. Even after playing for just over an hour, I was thinking of how many hours I could spend playing this with my friends. This is a hidden gem that needs to be placed on full display at a museum, because it feels like a title that many would enjoy. If you happen to be heading to EVO 2019 in Las Vegas this weekend, you can even get your hands on the game there. If you’re attending with some friends, I implore you go to their booth and try the game out. You won’t regret it. As mentioned before, PC early access begins on August 16th. The full game is on track to release in 2020 for PC, PS4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch.