The floor is literally lava in the beta of Klei's energetic first-person platformer

In some respects you've already played Klei Entertainment's new first-person parkour platformer. As a kid you pretended the floor was lava, maybe in your bedroom or living room, and tried to get from one side of the room to the other without touching the carpet until a parent yelled at you. "Knock it off! Don't stand on that! Go play outside!"

As a kid in Hot Lava, which is now in open beta (it'll enter Early Access later) you're inspired by a superhero cartoon you see on TV. It's quite a good one, complete with the hero whose swimming powers don't come in handy due to the lack of an ocean (plus she can't even understand her own dolphin). Watching the heroes battle a dastardly lava boss captures your imagination, and that makes just getting upstairs and into bed a daring adventure. The carpet turns to lava and you parkour off furniture and walls and swing from the chandelier.

At school, the fantasy continues with your classmates—in this case, other players—as you bounce around the hallways, classrooms, gym, and cafeteria, being sure to never touch the floor.

There are a number of parkour moves beyond simply jumping. Keep an eye out for items outlined in green, like ropes and platforms, since they can be grabbed with a mouse-click and swung from, or sometimes even clambered onto. Green smears on vertical surfaces indicate wall running is possible by sticking to the glop and propelling yourself forward. You can boost your speed, and thus the length of your jumps by strafing and rotating in the same direction while jumping, and surf along certain objects as though railsliding without a skateboard.

As you're bouncing around you can collect cards that unlock new cosmetic customization options for your character. Plus, you can see how you fared against your Steam friends in timed challenges with a leaderboard. I also saw a player bouncing around with a pogo stick that I now desperately want.

One big issue I've been having in the beta is with unstable frame rates. The first time I played on Wednesday I would abruptly drop from around 60 fps to single digits—which isn't great when you're trying to time jumps or grab ropes. I played again this morning and it was considerably smoother, but there are still occasional drops in fps that threw off my timing.

First-person parkour is tricky to pull off in a game, especially on keyboard and mouse, and really needs a natural fluidity as you speed through jumps and activate movement skills. In that respect, Hot Lava isn't really there yet. Again, it's in beta, but at this early stage it's lacking a certain smoothness to its movement. It's still good fun to play, and the art, character animation, and environments are wonderful, too. But there's plenty more work to be done before it really makes me feels like a kid imagining himself being a parkour superhero, instead of an adult trying to imagine himself being a kid.

Christopher Livingston
Senior Editor

Chris started playing PC games in the 1980s, started writing about them in the early 2000s, and (finally) started getting paid to write about them in the late 2000s. Following a few years as a regular freelancer, PC Gamer hired him in 2014, probably so he'd stop emailing them asking for more work. Chris has a love-hate relationship with survival games and an unhealthy fascination with the inner lives of NPCs. He's also a fan of offbeat simulation games, mods, and ignoring storylines in RPGs so he can make up his own.