Hot Lava is a deadly platformer where the childhood game of ‘The Floor is Lava’ becomes reality.
Klei Entertainment always surprise me with the consistent high quality they manage to deliver in their games, not least because it is rare for any of their games to occupy the same genre as previous titles. Hot Lava, which is their next title to launch, delivers the same surprise.
Hot Lava has players take on the role of a school child, one obsessed with a TV show called G.A.T. — Global Action Team. G.A.T. is your standard 90s fare: a pulpy, mismatching group of heroes who muddle their way through against the odds, saving the world just in time. A short, three-minute episode introduces each of the heroes and the current villain, who, after consuming the chemicals from within a vial, transforms into a deadly lava monster. And that’s it for backstory.
Taking on the guise of a member of G.A.T (as you gain medals and ‘kits’ you can choose between different figures from the toy box, as well as customise them), you then jump and climb your way around your house, school and local park — as well as a large shop — to hit checkpoints, avoid the magma floor and beat time trials. Most of the various locations have half a dozen levels within them and each of those have a handful of challenges. There’s more to come as well, as the game is currently in beta form.
Despite it being in beta, Hot Lava already looks and handles amazingly well. It’s an extremely tight 3D platformer — also, notably, the first 3D game from Klei — with a couple of interesting ideas at play. For a start, in most 3D platformers, parkour or not, you can normally only interact with items over a certain size, or in certain ways. In Hot Lava you can balance on practically anything as long as it’s a few inches off the lava floor. This means you can jump onto planks of wood which are resting on things, tiptoe along poles and scale the top of basketball hoops.
Secondly, momentum is a major factor. If you move forward in uninterrupted bursts you can reach maximum momentum, however if you add a little falling, bouncing and wall-running into the mix, you can increase beyond that speed. As such, parts of the game require you to (essentially) combo together very tight jumps. This is particularly tough to build into a habit due to failure to land a jump almost always resulting in death.
Finally — and this, much like how Hot Lava handles momentum, is another one which has some teething time — is how the game handles perspective in relation to movement. Basically, you go where you look. So, if you are running forward and deliver a mind-blowing bounce combo, rocketing through the air, then you turn and look left — that’s where you go. This makes a lot of sense in a game where you are neither performing any acts of violence, aiming a gun nor strafing. And it makes a lot of sense in a game where looking at a rail will cause you to automatically grab it. However, it does take some getting used to.
None of this is negative. While it may take a while to get used to camera-influenced direction, surrendering doubt to clear wider jumps and landing on tiny platforms, it all comes together really well. The gymnasium-themed levels that start off the game in its current state are fantastic training, and later levels succeed where ‘The Floor Is Lava’ did — turning everything into an option. As a matter of fact, barring the tighter corridors, it’s great to take a step back and have a look at some of the more densely packed rooms, to observe the excellent level design.
Hot Lava is currently in closed beta, with no specified release date. You can put your name down for access to the beta through the developer’s website. If you’re interested in following development on the game, you can follow Klei on Twitter, @klei.