Stick your hand up if are guilty of trying to stretch yourself from your sofa to a nearby chair that is annoying just out of reach, while someone is standing there watching you with confusion. When asked what you are doing you simply reply, “the floor is lava, I don’t want to burn my leg off!” For those of you who didn’t raise their hands, the Floor of Lava is age-old game of an imaginary lava lake that suddenly appears, turning a child’s living room into a dangerous obstacle course. At the same time parent’s watch with fear of which will break first: the child after falling off the furniture, or the furniture after the child goes through it?
The major downside to this epic parkour adventure is that as you grow older you start to realise the adults may have had reason to be concerned about your safety beyond the non-existent lava. You just have to watch a couple of #TheFloorIsLavaChallenge2017 videos to understand…
Thankfully, there is a new solution to our craving for re-living those good old days! Hot Lava is the brand new game available on Steam and Apple Arcade that takes the classic real-world game and turns it into a virtual parkour race game, which actually forces you to retry if you fail a jump instead of blagging that you didn’t touch the floor.
As with all previous reviews we are keeping to our standard gaming review criteria out of 10, 1 being unrealistic and 10 being realistic for:
- Overall plausibility
Results: Brilliant lava visuals, which is great when that is what the game centres around. Any other volcanism is very limited.
Let’s jump in (pun fully intended)!
Hot Lava throws you right into it with a tutorial set in a house that appears to have had the misfortune of having a volcano grown right in the middle of it (Fig. 1). The only way out is to jump!
The first and most striking thing to notice is the lava (which is good for a game that centres itself around it). There is a massive range in the ‘hot’ colours of yellow through to red in the molten, churning substance. What makes it stand out even more is the dark, solidified lava that can be found on the surface of the molten pools. Not only does this add more diversity to the visuals, but also a great deal of realism, especially as the solidified lava is found in greater concentrations along the edges of rooms and in stagnant areas (Fig. 2).
Heading up the stairs the lava has completely solidified, with no molten lava flowing under the crust (Fig. 3). This allows you to take a well-earned break from the jumping and instead run across the rocky surface (it also makes it much harder to fall up the stairs for any character with two left feet).
The lava texture used down the stairs is very well designed, reflecting the nature of ropey-like pãhoehoe lava, which is a common texture found in basaltic lava flows. However, it is clear that they designed this as a generic texture pattern to use when looking for clues on the lava’s flow direction. Upon reaching the midstairs landing, the lava actually indicates it managed to flow up the stairs (red arrows in Fig 4)! The lava coming from the top of the stairs to the midway section does however appear to have correctly flowed down the stairs.
After clearing the tutorial, you arrive in a school which has a safe practice zone in the gymnasium, with vaulting blocks and bars to jump and swing across with no risk of death on the wooden floor. Dotted around the room (and throughout the school as you progress) however, are several portals to numerous hellscapes, including a rocky version of the gym you were just in, a questionably located outdoor play area, what most would say is a accurate visualisation of a classroom and many more locations (Fig. 5).
One major question I had while running and jumping through, the maps is where on earth does all this lava come from? Fissure style eruptions would make the most sense, which are essentially cracks in the surface of the earth that lava can erupt out of (Fig. 6a). They can produce vast quantities of low viscosity lava that can spread out and cover large areas. Prime real-world examples include the 2018 Hawaii fissures that covered 35.5 km2 and the 1783-84 Lakagígar fissures in Iceland, covering 565 km2. The downside to this theory is the lack of lava fountains. At the fissures (the cracks), lava can be ejected out like a bar-sprinkler, only it is lava that is sprayed out everywhere instead of water (Fig. 6b). In some occasions the lava can reach spectacular heights of 2,000 m in the air (this record is held by Mt. Etna in 1999)! This makes locating the fissure much easier and is something I have yet to see in Hot Lava.
Instead, the source of the lava appears to be small-scaled volcanic vents (Fig. 7). From these mini volcanoes the fresh lava is cascading out. While they are nicely designed in a visual sense, they are few in number and it is hard to believe that all the lava that has flooded an entire school playground has been covered and maintained in a molten state by such small outlets.
The other very questionable aspect of this game is the furniture and decorations that allow you to cross from one part of the map to another. They just sit there, either in or on the lava. Some do have scorch/burn marks (Fig. 8), but for the most part they remain unscathed (Fig. 9), including cat litter bags, plastic toys and wooden logs. All of these items would easily be melted or burnt to ashes by the lava, no questions asked.
But I suppose without these magically non-flammable/ combustible objects in the game things would be much harder because there would be fewer things to jump to. That and it would look a lot less interesting as just a barren, scorched hell-scape. So, the items like the little dino toy do add a bit of an entertainment factor to the game to improve it.
The final thing to look at with this game is what happens when you don’t land the jump? In the real-world version of the game you just make a little additional hop and claim you made it really. Hot Lava is less forgiving. Instead you re-enact the infamous Terminator 2 death, raising your thumb up as you sink into the molten lava as the screen whites out. Now while I could explain how this won’t happen in real life, I am instead going to leave you with this Because Science video explaining what death by lava would really be like…
And with that covered there is just the summary scoring left.
- Aesthetics: 9/10
The lava aesthetics are one of the best I have seen while playing video games. While most tend to just stick with molten lava flowing consistently, Hot Lava has a much more realistic take, with cooled black surfaces and a swirl of different hot spots.
- Accessibility: 3/10
Because Hot Lava is an obstacle course type game, where the aim is to get from A to B as quickly as possible, the game has a fairly restricted amount of accessibility to prevent players getting lost. However, I did find that if you try hard enough and spam the keys you can make it to ledges that were probably unintended for access. This is actually where I found most of the volcanic vents, hidden away.
- Viscosity: 6/10
Without a doubt, the lava found within Hot Lava should be basaltic. Only such a high viscosity lava would be able to pool out and cover such an area. The flow mechanics do show a relatively ‘lively’ lava, as it flows with ease around the map, which would be expected from basalt. However, as pointed out in the Because Science video, the lava’s density should be much much lower to allow the avatar to sink that easily into the lava.
- Death: 2/10
While the death in Hot Lava is entertaining, especially from a nerdy Easter egg point of view, the Because Sciencevideo brilliantly explains how instead of sinking into the lava, you are more likely to float on the molten surface. However, the whiting out is potentially realistic (I can’t say for saw because I haven’t been killed by lava before), because we do tend to envision bright white when touching hot objects. There is also the fact that Kyle in the video points out that the air above the lava would be so hot your avatar would actually burn their lungs out while making the first jump. But that doesn’t make for very fun game play.
- Overall plausibility: 1/10
The Floor is Lava is always a great game to play. However, if trying to play the game in real life it would be impossible. In terms of Hot Lava, the lava itself would have melted/ burnt nearly all of the furniture and would weaken the structural integrity of the buildings that you end up jumping through due to them having mostly a wooden frame.
On top of this, the ability to maintain just a widespread molten pool of lava is near impossible. In real world fissure eruptions, the molten lava is only found directly next to the active fissures and in the currently active streams of flowing lava. The rest has cooled to a solidified, rocky surface. This can be seen in some stagnant parts of the lava pools, but not to the extent that would be expected.
As always, I hope you enjoyed the review. If you’re looking for a fun obstacle course game I’d recommend Hot Lava to try out. And if you want to read some more video game goodness, please check out our other blogs!