Developer: Emmet Butler & Diego Garcia
Publisher: [adult swim]
Version Reviewed: 1.0
Device Reviewed On: iPad
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We all have rough days. Those ones with almost no sleep the night before, where the alarm doesn’t go off in the morning; days that leave us rushing to get out the door, only to discover that - look! - it’s pouring hot dogs outside. Wait a minute…what?
From publisher Adult Swim and independent developers Emmet Butler and Diego Garcia, Heads Up! Hot Dogs is an absurd little gem that brings a whole new meaning to street meat. Inexplicably, everyone’s favorite tubular food is falling from the heavens the world over. Across seven different iconic locales, players must scramble to snatch the dogs out of the air and off the ground, dragging them to the only logical place possible…the heads of passers-by, of course! Every wiener walked off stage adds points to a rolling high score, but be warned: we’re dealing with some volatile ingredients here. Three seconds underfoot and it’s goodbye hot dog. Lose five, and the round’s over.
Pairing with the game’s off-the-wall premise like a fine dijon mustard with a freshly cooked smokey is more charm than you can shake a bun at. And this goes well beyond the game’s (admittedly wonderful) faux-retro pixelwork and jaunty chiptune soundtrack. Rather than rely on a trendy aesthetic, Garcia and Butler imbue every pedestrian with a sense of personality, whether it’s the perenially flustered businessman, or bemused pointdexter. Quickly, gameplay reveals an idiosynchratic cast of characters whose quirks produce genuine physical comedy, and craft a silly universe.
Oh, and about that gameplay: it’s delightful. The simplicity of the core mechanic meets an almost immediate sense of chaos, as hot dogs fall ever more rapidly from above. As a result, mastery constantly feels just within reach, and one more try always seems like the answer. Oftentimes, though, games so pared down are made or broken by a sense of variety, and Heads Up! Hot Dogs rises to the challenge. More than just visual flare, each level’s feel-good homage to places like Chicago or Japan carries with it unique mechanics. Windy streets, searing bathhouse waters, and much more -- all forcing players to craft new strategies for survival.
Ultimately, Heads Up! Hot Dogs wanes under the weight of longer play sessions, but then, it knows that. Like the franks falling from the sky, this one’s good for a few delicious bites now and then to satisfy a craving...for fun.