Getting Retro with Super Hexagon: A Mind-Bending Rhythm Game for Android
Super Hexagon, available for Android as well iOS, is a mind-bending mobile rhythm game with an addictive potential that puts much of its competition, including a legion of Flappy Birds clones, thoroughly to shame.
Super Hexagon is the latest offering from Terry Cavanagh, the mind behind VVVVVV, a frustrating but compelling platformer . The game has an appealing, minimalist geometric style, and a profoundly addictive gameplay loop (not to mention a killer soundtrack).
The concept is simple enough: you play a tiny triangular ship, moving in circles through an infinite randomized maze collapsing towards the titular hexagon in the center of the screen. Touching the walls means instant death, and their thickness, speed, and convolution increase over time to raise the difficulty of the game. The game is made harder by the random spinning, skewing, and sliding of the entire game world.
The game is much more challenging than you might expect from a mobile game – Super Meat Boy (the game with nigh impossible achievements) is an apt comparison. On ‘hard,’ the game’s easiest difficulty, surviving the full minute needed to beat the level is a pretty substantial challenge. There are no saves, lives, or second chances: a single failure, and you start over from the beginning. The tedium this might produce is offset by the short lives and the randomized levels. The game is never quite repetitive enough to bore you.
The game also does a beautiful job of funneling you from death to rebirth as quickly as possible, starting you over with two taps in a fraction of a second. Life and death blend together, and you’ll find, if you aren’t paying attention, that you’ve sunk more time into it than you would have thought possible.
The game comes with a total of six difficulty levels (if you’ve played the desktop version, the features are virtually identical). Three of the six difficulty levels are locked, and you must beat an easier difficulty to unlock them.
For your three dollars, the game offers a shocking degree of replayability: after several hours of gameplay, we were only barely able to beat the first level. The game also makes a good competitive game as we went back and forth comparing top scores. Each level has its own characteristic patterns and its own color palette, music, and variations on the core gameplay: Some are more fun than others.
The controls are simple, if not perfect: tap the right half of the screen to spin the ship clockwise, and the left half of the screen to spin counterclockwise. The acceleration isn’t totally linear, and it takes a few dozen deaths to get the hang of rotating exactly as far as you intend to. Even after hours of gameplay, we still died due to timing errors pretty regularly.
The backing music to the game is a buzzy electronic score by Niamh “Chipzel” Houston, which lines up nicely with the pulsing, sliding graphics. It’s not exactly pleasant, but it evokes arcade games and chiptunes of old
, and we found that we played significantly better with the music pumping.
Even on our LG G2, the game’s performance was less than ideal, dropping more than the occasional frame. It also burned through battery life at a surprisingly rapid rate (similar to streaming HD video), which is unfortunate for a game so well suited to idle play in lines and bathrooms. Don’t expect to get more than a few hours of gameplay on a full charge.
Despite being a little pricey for a mobile game (and hard on your phone), the elegant design of Super Hexagon and its absurd addictive potential redeem it. If you’re looking for an idle time waster, Super Hexagon is worth your time and your money.