A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this game.
The pre-game movie depicts the internal conflict between choosing what's right and choosing what's expected of you, with the former eventually winning out. The story and action both promote imagination and physical activity.
Positive Role Models
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 back to a previous checkpoint. Note that using a controller (if available) will likely prove somewhat easier than using touchscreen controls for many players.
Violence & Scariness
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 superhero-style punching and kicking action, as well as a cyborg dolphin shot out of a bazooka.
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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 is set in the imaginary world of a child who imagines he (or she) is an action figure and that the surrounding floors are covered in molten rock. The character 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 you're using a traditional gamepad as opposed to a phone or tablet's touchscreen.
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 of 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 that you can use a Bluetooth gamepad to play on your phone, though this may be impractical depending on the setting). Hot Lava is imaginative and 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.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.