I’ve been trying to come up with a witty one liner that sums up my experience with Super Hexagon, the latest from that guy who likes to drive you nuts (in a cool way), Terry Cavanagh. It’s not exactly easy, though, but I’ll explain on the way.
Super Hexagon is a crisp, clean update to Hexagon, a game that Terry made in the space of a weekend and currently remains on its own website. The aim is simple enough, with a hexagon sitting at the centre of the screen and a tiny arrow along one edge. What you need to do is move that arrow left and right in order to avoid a stream of lines that move in towards you at a rapid rate. Sure, it sounds easy, but wait until you start playing!
See, the purpose of every game that Terry has so far created is to make each experience as difficult as possible, not to a point where it may drive you insane per se but to push you into trying harder to beat your high score. VVVVVV, Terry’s break out hit, proved how successful such a formula can be, and it’s a similar story here, though one with a slightly different result. See, there’s no story here, this is an all out puzzle action title that will test your nerves. There is a goal to aim outside of the high score, as each ‘check point’ you pass adds a line to form a hexagon. Do that, and you’ll beat that difficulty level.
There are a few similarities to VVVVV though. Most obviously, Super Hexagon has a similar retro visual style, simple but very effective. Each difficulty setting has a matching colour tone, and you’ll notice a darker or lighter tone to said colour to emphasise each side of the hexagon shape.
That’s about it really, but the point of this game isn’t in its presentation. Again, it goes back to simplicity, like the classic Atari or Commodore 64 games of old. Who needs HD hair strands when you’ve got something that’s completely addictive to play?
Where the game shines outside of its game play, strangely enough, is its sound. I say strange because most puzzle games don’t even bother to put that much effort into its sound, instead focusing on the game play itself. In Super Hexagon, you’ll get a fantastic selection of chiptune tracks, put together by Chipzel, that add to the frantic nature of the gameplay with some addictive beats. You’ll also hear the voice of Jenn Frank who will keep you briefly informed on your progress as time passes, among a few other minor menu chimes.
The good news is, I haven’t come across any issues that would bring it down a peg. Maybe a moment or two where it seems my little arrow friend magically phases through the incoming obstacles, but it doesn’t take away from the action. I guess the only thing to consider here is longevity, but short games are perfect on iOS for a quick bus ride or a lunch break, so that problem isn’t an issue here as it would be else where. Still, the chance to square off in a multiplayer death match would be an interesting mode to consider for later patches … if there are any.
Look, I’m the first to admit I’m not good at this game. My best so far is 43 seconds on the first difficult setting (as you can see by my screen shot. The game goes so fast, even those are hard to do some times!), but the clincher here is the fact that I’m still playing. I’m not frustrated by it, nor am I scared away by how difficult it can be at first.
The more I play, the faster I am as I get used to a sudden change in tempo here or a difficult section there that I’ve already seen before. Try and try again and eventually you’ll improve so much you’ll even think of moving up a difficulty setting. Emphasis on the word try. An easier difficulty setting may be against what Terry wants to provide, but it could also bring in a wider audience and that can’t be a bad thing.
As it is now, Super Hexagon will alienate some players because of its style and no doubt its difficulty, but there’s clearly a market here for these kinds of games that are not only addictive but push you to your limit in the space of a minute. For the entry fee, it’s well worth picking up if you feel like a true challenge.
Right, I think I’ve figured it out now. Here goes (deep breath): Super Hexagon is like being stuck in a psychedelic wind tunnel in a nightclub full of broken Tetris blocks that are wearing too much neon as they rush towards you and your only way out is to hold a kaleidoscope to your eye and run as fast as you can to the exit until you realise there’s another two levels to the nightclub then another handful of sub levels guarded by a giant ogre … I think.[review pros="Entirely addictive game play, simple but effective presentation, great chiptune score" cons="Very high difficulty which may alienate some players, not a huge amount of content, no ogres" score=85]