Hot Potato! is a bizarre little puzzle-shooting game that defies easy description. The plot concerns a group of Martians who've crashed on earth in their stolen minibus. Their cargo, a horde of multicolored anthropomorphic spuds, is on the lam. Their goal is to collect all the errant sentient potatoes infesting the streets, avoid getting their minibus splattered, and return to their spaceship. They collect their starchy charges by hurling other potatoes at them (naturally), which makes it play sort of like a vertical shooting game.
Hit potatoes of the same color and you remove them from the screen; hit them with other colors and it adds to the obstacles and confusion. The obvious goal is to stay alive by keeping the streets clear and getting to the end of the course. The puzzle goal, however, is to collect spuds. There are plenty of missions, and each one presents different goals, such as collecting potatoes of a specific color. You can also collect pills that let you unleash humorous powers on the starchy obstacles, such as pills that make them fat or sleepy.
The graphics are bland, but the spud animations are fun and amusing. And the action is frantic and keeps getting more devious. It plays like a shooter, mainly because most of what you're doing is shooting things, but the game grows as strategic as a puzzler like Tetris, with the color coding providing the puzzle aspects. The sound effects are good, but the music is great, invigorating, and well suited to your bizarre tasks.
Sadly, the game doesn't support the multiplayer link cable. Even if the core gameplay isn't for multiple players, some two- or four-player variant should have been included given the game's retail price. On the other hand, games that are this fun, frantic, and unique rarely come along, and the Game Boy Advance is a perfect venue for it. --Andrew S. Bub <
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