[Review] Super Hexagon
This week, after great success on the iOS market, Terry (VVVVVVV, Don’t Look Back) Cavanagh’s nail-biting action game Super Hexagon arrived at a price of $3. An upgraded version of Hexagon (a game jam warm-up that got out of hand), the concept of Super sounds simple: You are a small triangle spinning around a hexagon. Finding yourself face to face with rapidly enclosing walls, you must survive. True, it may very well be simple, but that’s the attraction of the game.
Right from the very first menu, Super Hexagon is minimalistic, elegant, and fast. Within seconds, you can find yourself playing a round, and within seconds, you’ve lost. I’m not going to beat around any bushes- this is an incredibly difficult game, and its intensity will definitely turn away its fair share of players.
At its heart, Super Hexagon is one of the simplest games to be commercially released in ages, but in its minimalism lies its strength and addiction. As your triangle navigates the increasingly fast and complex waves of walls, passing time checkpoints to go from “Point” to “Hexagon,” you fight against the swinging camera, struggling to maintain focus as the center pulses to the tune of Chipzel’s throbbing chip soundtrack. The “win state” for each level is survival only for a minute, but oh, what a difficult minute.
At each death, the only thing between you and another attempt at victory is a press of the space button, taking less than a second and starting up with the triangle right in the position where you died as the music returns from a different point. Outside of Super Meat Boy and bit.trip RUNNER, it’s hard to think of a single title that has such fantastic flow between states of death and life. Even in this game where death can easily come in less than five seconds, you’re never taken out of your groove, but rather sucked back in.
At the beginning, there are three modes available: Hexagon, Hexagoner, and Hexagonest, each ranked at Hard, Harder, and Hardest, respectively. Even though the same basic gameplay is in place in each, they’re all quite different experiences. The game moves faster, the color scheme changes, and the wildly swinging camera behaves differently in each one. After the sixty second mark, the color scheme, camera angles, and wall advancement change as you enter Hyper mode and the game speeds up considerably.
Most survival games of this type dole out helpful unlockables as a reward. Not Hexagon. Once you reach the sixty second mark, you unlock the ability to begin a game directly in Hyper mode. This is Terry Cavanagh’s world, and the only reward for your victory is a harder trial, culminating in Hexagonest’s Hyper mode, a trial from hell with the difficulty distinction of “hardestestest.”
Bringing even more devilish wit to keep players addicted, the game includes an Arcade Mode for parties in which every difficulty is unlocked and players can enter their high scores under whatever name they choose. Given the fast-paced nature of Super Hexagon, it’s a small but quite impressive addition that adds more even value past the already engrossing online leaderboards, both global and against friends.
Again, I wish to reiterate how effective the menus are. After finishing a round, it takes nothing but a tap of the tab to bring up high scores or the escape key to return to a previous menu, using the arrow keys to navigate within each level. The simple design and quick flow function perfectly, and while these menus may not be the most visually impressive that I have ever seen, they are, hands down, the best.
Confession time: upon choosing to review Super Hexagon, I began to worry that my computer would be unable to run it smoothly, but there is nothing to worry. Even my laptop, a machine that struggles with almost everything, was able to play the game at a responsive and silky smooth framerate, something that never happens on my decrepit machine. If your computer can play anything, it’ll be able to handle Super Hexagon, no problem.
While it may not be the deepest game, or one for the faint of heart, Super Hexagon is truly a masterpiece of addicting and minimalistic game design that any fan of twitchy trials should clamor to place into their library. Perfection.
[+Smooth and intense gameplay] [+Superb soundtrack] [+Intense challenge] [+Elegant and easy menu design] [+Striking visuals] [-Challenge may alienate timid players]