‘Hexagon’ Assaults the Senses
My palms were sweating, my ears were ringing and my pupils were dilated — my body reeled from the sensory assault. No, you really should get back to studying, my conscious brain told me — but I tapped the screen to retry anyway, entranced. Such is the power of the new iOS (iPhone, iPod Touch) game Super Hexagon, a “pure” puzzle game that, like Tetris before it, has enough uncanny allure to keep you coming back again and again.
The gameplay of Hexagon is easily understandable after seeing someone play it in-person, but rather difficult to explain with words. The player controls an arrow that moves around the perimeter of a hexagon that pulses in the middle of the screen. As a timer counts up, the arrow is assaulted by all sorts of shapes and lines that come with increasing speed and complexity, and the player’s objective is to avoid all such objects for as long as possible.
But, while this concept may be easy enough to grasp, it is probably the only thing the game is going to give up without making you view a game over screen several hundred times. Let us not mince words here: Super Hexagon is a hard game, built from the ground up to walk the fine line between adversity and frustration, like its retro-throwback peers Canabalt and VVVVVV, which emphasize pattern memorization and muscle memory over high production values or a sweeping narrative.
This is hardly surprising to fans of the developer — after all, the one-man-team behind Hexagon, Terry Cavanagh, is also behind VVVVVV — but people who download the game and expect instant success are in for a rude awakening. Unless you are a god of twitch gaming — that is, fast-paced titles that rely on quick reflexes and hand-eye coordination — you will likely last less than 10 seconds at your first go on the game’s easiest mode, which the game helpfully describes as “hard.”
Still, if you’re able to get past the initial difficulty shock, you will find yourself slowly but surely increasing your score through simple practice. This is a rare trait, and certainly one of Super Hexagon’s greatest strengths: The game, itself, teaches you to play.
In each of the six modes, there are only a set number of patterns (shapes, lines, etc.) the game can throw at you. Memorizing how to avoid those patterns is the key to success.
While some simple puzzle games require the player to go to external sources to learn high-level strategies, Super Hexagon requires no such guide; only your time and patience are required.
While this game is definitely worth the time and money (only $2.99) of anybody in search of a decent iPhone game, it should also be noted that it is highly, highly addictive. If you sank dozens of hours into Tetris on your flip-phone back in the day, be aware that Hexagon might lead to the death of your social life, the loss of your significant other and a significant reduction of your GPA.
You have been warned.
— By Steven Wright