Super Hexagon Review
Shapes are super.
My enemy is a revolving maze, spiralling towards a polygon at the centre. My protagonist is a small triangle that spins around this polygon 360 degrees, navigating through the encroaching corridors. Electronic music thumps through my headphones, resonating with the beating heart of the six-sided shape at the centre of my screen. As the obstructions are hurled at me faster and faster a female voice offers an encouraging “Excellent” as I eclipse my personal best. No mistakes now! I spiral through the spinning maze just barely avoiding the walls and spy my exit, there is light at the end of this tunnel. I let go of the bumper of my gamepad a fraction of a second too late and my triangle gets lodged in a trapezoidal mouse trap. A loud crashing sound and the beating colours stop suddenly. Game over.
Back in September an indie developer by the name of Terry Cavanagh released his latest work for the iOS platform – Super Hexagon. Not owning an iPad and often frustrated with the small screen of iPhones for gaming, I was excited to see this much anticipated PC version was release on Steam for the princely sum of $2.99.
Keep it Simple, Stupid
Remember the first time you played the original Tetris? Spacial recognition, coupled with a need for quick reflexes made for incredibly addictive and exciting gameplay as the speed of the “gravity” slowly ramped up. Failure was inevitable, the only saving grace as you watched your empty column pile up with hole-filled layers was the bragging right of your high score. Such simple yet effective gameplay, complemented by an original and very catchy soundtrack lead to Tetris to become a cult classic in the annals of gaming history.
You turn your little triangle to the left or to the right, you either hit the wall and die or you avoid the wall and keep the clock ticking.
It is with this style of simple yet effective gameplay that Super Hexagon flourishes. You turn your little triangle to the left or to the right, you either hit the wall and die or you avoid the wall and keep the clock ticking. The biggest difference between Super Hexagon and its 30 year-old predecessor is the gradient of the difficulty curve. From the menu you can choose from three difficulties: Hexagon (Hard), Hexagoner (harder) and Hexagonest (Hardest). No sugar coating here, just quick, brutally difficult sessions. The scoring is a timer with milestones, you begin as a simple “point” working your way up to line, triangle, square, pentagon and eventually, if you can survive the gauntlet up to a very long 60 seconds, Hexagon. That doesn’t mean you win, for the hardcore players it’s just when things start to get crazy. Every time you strike the wall you start at the very beginning. No power ups, no experience, just you and your reflexes.
Hex Me, Baby
As I write this review my personal best at Hexagon level is 46.22 seconds, enough to reach the 45.00 benchmark for pentagon. This is after playing a total of three hours over several nights, with most plays lasting between 7-20 seconds. This game was designed with the “casual” mobile gamer in mind, however, there is nothing casual about this game. Sessions are short and sweet, the kind that you can play waiting for the bus, but by the time you start to recognise the patterns and how to deal with them in quick succession, you are so engulfed that you may just miss your bus all together. No session is ever identical – similar patterns emerge but always in random order that keeps you on your toes.Competition between friends is encouraged through online leader boards, but you can get just as much out of this game by competing with yourself.
Controls are either left or right arrow keys on the keyboard, or defaulted to the right and left bumpers on an Xbox 360 gamepad. Having tried both extensively, the tactile feedback on the gamepad feels much more natural, though everyone will no doubt have their own personal preference. The control coding is smooth and with practice you are able to position that little triangle with surprising accuracy, essential for the later, crazier stages of the game.
The soundtrack is by Chipzel, a Northern Irish chip-musician who has crafted an 8-bit dance extravaganza. This music would be at home at an underground dance music festival as much as a flashy polygon game. An excellent design feature by Cavanagh was for the music to start at a random point rather than hearing the same melody every time as you restart. This avoids the frustration of hearing the same thing over and over as you retry.
Super Hexagon could be described as Tetris for the 21st century. Simple, no-nonsense gameplay that keeps you returning for a chance at achieving personal greatness. You just can't play one session. With a club-worthy retro gaming soundtrack, this iOS port will have you cramming in short and punchy gaming sessions wherever they fit into your busy life, and then some.