Video games: ‘Hot Shot Burn’ a twin stick shooter with a competitive edge

Mostly known for its hidden-object games, Artifex Mundi is in the middle of a pivot. The developer is switching its focus away from that casual genre, where players spot objects in large images, and aiming for something that would appeal to core gamers.

That ended up being "Hot Shot Burn," a competitive twin stick shooter with fighting game elements. At first glance, it looks like intergalactic version of "Smash TV" with its top-down perspective and four competitors trying to blast each other on a single screen. The game show theme further cements that comparison.

The major difference lies in the emphasis on the characters. When it's released in Early Access, "Hot Shot Burn" will feature six fighters who each have a distinct gun and special move. Umad is a piscine creature who can bounce his bullets off walls and expand like a blowfish to deflect fire. Mia has a rapid-fire gun and the ability to dash. Wizardo has a gun with an average fire rate and distance but his ability to shoot out a teleport disc and travel to it gives him a unique way to move around the map and kill foes.

Each character has its own strengths and weaknesses that are amplified by the environment. The maps with exploding barrels, conveyor belts and tall grass require their own strategies. Some have narrow walls that make Umad's bouncing bullets great. Others are wide open and the limited range of the fishman's firearm becomes a detriment.

Players have to create their own strategies for each stage and opponent. In many ways, this is reminiscent of fighting games. In that genre, knowledge of an opponent's abilities is as important as execution. They also have to keep in mind that reload and firing times are vary for every character. It's a game where players shouldn't spam out bullets, but instead, fire their guns judiciously punishing those who careless blast away, leaving them open for an attack. These traits are partly why Artifex Mundi is bringing "Hot Shot Burn" to Evo in Las Vegas for demos.

The pace of each match is quick. The fights are full of carnage and chaos and they're often over in less than a minute. If a round does take a long time, the play space narrows and anyone who touches the boundaries dies automatically.

In addition, players can also grab random power-ups that can help turn the tide of battle. The developers wanted to create a "Mario Kart" feel for the experience. It's one where anyone – novices and experts – can jump in and be competitive.

To win in "Hot Shot Burn," players have to accumulate enough points to reach a threshold. Once they reach it, they just have to survive one round and they emerge victorious. That also means other players can gang up on the front-runner to prevent him from winning.

In the meantime, the others can accumulate points by winning matches, getting kills and collecting nachos that spawn on the stage. All four players can hit the "Survive To Win" line and that can lead to intense and exciting final rounds, where anyone can win.

Because it's in Early Access, "Hot Shot Burn" has room to grow. Artifex Mundi expects to add new characters and maps. They also plan on introducing additional modes other than the current free-for-all rule set.