The realm of competitive local multiplayer has a capable new challenger on the horizon.
The Switch has seemingly become a haven for local multiplayer games given the ease with which you can snap off a Joy-Con and pass it to a friend or three. Hot Shot Burn, a top-down, single-screen arena shooter, may be the next must-own party game, with its exciting gameplay and tense action. During PAX West 2019, I had the chance to go hands-on in a series of 4-player matches, and I was definitely left feeling the burn, and craving even more.
After choosing from among a handful of characters, each with different weapons and skills, you play a series of matches to be the first to get to 50 points and then be the sole survivor in a match after reaching that number. You can earn points by getting kills, being the last person standing, and collecting little nachos scattered around the battlefield. Every match in a series takes place in a different arena, and each one feels unique. One had a gravity well in the center of it, which made traversal through the middle a sizeable risk; another had tall orange grass spread around the level that you could hide in. Others have hazards that can take you out if you’re not careful or even be used to take out the competition. It’s clear that every arena requires strategies that may not work in the others.
The gameplay of Hot Shot Burn is fast-paced and feels good. You aim and move your character with the left stick, which simplifies things. Space wrestler Chuck totes a shotgun that fires a spread of bullets in front of him at short range, and his special ability allows him to perform a fiery dash at high speed. One character I played as had a very unique primary weapon. He would fire a disc-like projectile out in front and could teleport to the disc by pressing the shoot button; if he landed on top of another player, it would kill them. I anticipate players finding one or two characters whose playstyle matches their own, and this teleporting fellow is likely going to be one of mine.
Matches are very brief, generally lasting less than 60 each, so even if you get killed or kill yourself early on, you’ll be back in the action pretty quickly. Each series I played went down to the wire, with multiple players reaching the 50-point threshold and needing to be the last player standing to seal their victory. That element isn’t one I’ve come across before, and it really incentivizes players to work against the individual who is on the cusp of winning it all. A quick instant replay concludes each match, but it can be skipped if desired. At the end of a series, you get to see a breakdown of the ways in which the victor acquired all their points.
In terms of presentation, Hot Shot Burn uses a colorful cartoon art style that contributes well to the different characters, guns, and abilities. Each character stands out clearly against the stage background, and little touches like a bustling audience jumping up and down at the bottom of the screen and a wide variety of sound effects add to the experience. I couldn’t hear the music on the busy PAX West floor, but the game’s Steam page suggests that it will be upbeat Synthwave, which should fit with the gameplay and aesthetic.
As it turns out, local multiplayer is only the tip of the iceberg. There will also be online play and updates that allow for greater customization of the core gameplay. My experience at PAX West has firmly put this one on my radar as one of the party games I’ll want to break out when friends stop by. Hot Shot Burn looks poised to take over living rooms when it hits Switch in early 2020.