At first glance, Hot Lava seems little more than YouTube reaction fodder, a tricky platformer with plenty of things to make entertainers mug and scream for their audience. But playing reveals a movement-based game as fun as Mirror’s Edge or Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater. It’s silly. but the thrill of completing a level really does match the satisfaction of making it from the living room to your bed without touching the floor.
Hot Lava is in an early beta stage at the moment for Windows PC only, but it already has a lot going for it. Where most kids playing “The Floor Is Lava” kept to their homes, Hot Lava has levels that span the grounds of a large school. The goal is to avoid the floor, which has transformed into a bubbling magma stream. Leaping through gymnasiums and science labs is fun and captures a sense of running into the halls when the bell rings. You need to climb pipes, swing from objects, and jump from point to point.
If there’s one thing that gets in the way, it’s the liberal amount of control players have over their jumps. While this normally allows for precision platforming, the ability is almost too extreme. You can turn in the air to jump around corners, but this same tool makes it so that if you’re turning to look at your next destination after a jump, you might overshoot or miss where you were initially going. This can interrupt your flow progressing through an otherwise simple room. In a game that’s intuitive and easy to understand, this movement quirk sticks out. It’s not a huge problem—once you realize what’s happening, it’s easy to adjust—but it does take some getting used to.
After some practice, Hot Lava opens up and you’ll be traveling through levels with ease. The ability to go back through levels and race a ghost matching your best performance gives incentive to perfect your runs until you’ve dominated each stage. Hot Lava can be clumsy, but it is learnable. Once you crack the code of its movement, there’s a lot of fun to be had.