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Hot Lava

Game review by
Chad Sapieha, Common Sense Media
Hot Lava Game Poster Image
Imaginative parkour adventure with mild violence.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this game.

Positive Messages

The pre-game movie depicts the internal conflict between choosing what's right and what's expected of you, with the former eventually winning out. The story and action both promote imagination and physical activity.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The player's character is an imaginative kid who pretends that he (or she) is an action figure who must avoid the ground because it's covered in hot lava. As an action figure, the kid becomes capable of impressive parkour and gymnastic feats.

Ease of Play

Difficulty ramps up slowly, with courses starting out fairly easy before becoming significantly more challenging. Punishment for failure isn't too harsh -- players are simply pushed players back to a previous checkpoint. Note that using a controller (if available) will likely prove somewhat easier than using touch screen controls for many players.

Violence

The goal of the game is to avoid lava covered floors. If you touch the lava, your character will die. No blood or gore is shown; the screen simply fades to black as your hero sinks into the molten rock, as viewed from a first-person perspective. An opening movie presented as a kids cartoon and a series of unlockable comics both include some super hero-style punching and kicking action, as well as a cyborg dolphin shot out of a bazooka.

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What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Hot Lava is a running and jumping action game available for download for Windows PCs and through Apple Arcade. The game's set in the imaginary world of a child who imagines he (or she) is an action figure and that the floors around him are covered in molten rock. He runs and leaps from object to object, using impressive parkour and gymnastics skills to keep off the lava. The context and action are a clear celebration of childhood imagination and youthful excitement, though there's a slight sense of danger since touching the lava results in failure (presumably death) as the player's action figure sinks into the molten rock. Players will also encounter some mild violence in the lengthy opening movie, which is presented as a retro action kids cartoon and involves kicking, punching, and a cyborg dolphin being shot out of a bazooka. Note, too, that the experience is significantly less frustrating when using a traditional gamepad as opposed to a phone or tablet's touch screen.

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What's it about?

HOT LAVA begins with a lengthy movie that serves as homage to and parody of retro action cartoons, with a team of heroes trying to keep one of its members from falling under the spell of a dastardly villain. As the camera pulls out, players see that they're actually in the role of a kid watching the show and playing with action figures. He (or she) suddenly imagines himself as one of their action figures and begins pretending the floor of the living room is covered in lava. This is where the game starts. You have to hop around objects to stay off the floor while moving around the house. If you fall in, you burst into flames and sink (presumably melting), then start over from the nearest checkpoint. This concept is the core of the game, with perilous courses created within familiar everyday environments, such as a school gymnasium and a playground. The objective is always simply to make it to the end of the course, but you can grab optional collectibles along the way -- unlocking bonuses such as comic book stories and sticker collections -- and new elements are gradually added as the game progresses. In addition to deftly jumping between furniture and fixtures, you can swing from ropes, grab hold of pipes, and even stick to and run briefly along walls. Within a couple of hours, you'll likely begin feeling like a parkour expert as you navigate perilous environments with skill and grace.

Is it any good?

This isn't the sort of game destined to be a mainstream hit. It shouldn't be too hard for most players to get into Hot Lava's aesthetic, which is full of humorous visual details that serve as a love letter to retro cartoons, comics, and childhood playtime. But other parts of the game will likely prove a bit off-putting for many people, starting with the controls. First-person parkour games that require players to make accurate, well-timed leaps always come with the risk frustration, and that remains true here. Controlling the direction of and timing of leaps is essential when aiming for platforms, pipes, ropes, bars, and other objects, and it's regrettably easy to misjudge where your avatar's feet are, meaning missed jumps are pretty common. Thankfully, punishment for failure isn't too harsh -- you instantly respawn at nearby checkpoints -- but that doesn't necessarily make it easier to stomach repeated mistakes.

Compounding these problems are the controls. If you're playing with a traditional gamepad, it's no more difficult than other such first-person running and jumping games. But playing with touchscreen controls affects accuracy, which can prove extremely challenging. This won't be a problem for people playing on Mac, PC, or Apple TV, but players who want to use a phone could be turned off from the entire experience simply because they never feel relaxed moving and jumping (it's worth adding you can use a Bluetooth gamepad to play on your phone, though this may be impractical depending on the setting). Hot Lava is imaginative, funny, and bases its action on skilled movement rather than combat, but the deciding factor for most will be whether they can find a way to get comfortable with the controls.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about screen time. Most of the courses in Hot Lava are short, but they can take time to master, so if you have limited time to play, do you feel like spending it mastering a level, or playing as many levels as you can?

  • What sorts of things do you like to imagine? Do you ever use your imagination to help you solve real-world problems?

Game details

  • Platforms: Apple Arcade, Windows
  • Price: $14.99
  • Pricing structure: Paid (Free with Apple Arcade subscription, which is $4.99/month.)
  • Available online? Available online
  • Developer: Klei Entertainment
  • Release date: September 20, 2019
  • Genre: Action/Adventure
  • Topics: Adventures
  • ESRB rating: NR for No Descriptions
  • Last updated: October 03, 2019

Themes & Topics

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