Review: Hexic (Xbox Live)


The challenge appears to be a simple one... spin the hexes around to match the colours, clear the level, and proceed through the 100 challenges offered in this 'puzzle adventure'. Is it enough to have a cute puzzle mechanic, or do you need more in a modern game than the Xbox Live branding and some primary colours?

Author: Microsoft Studios

Version Reviewed:

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 Hexic Hexic  

Hexic takes place on a hexagonal grid. Early levels offer you an uninterrupted playing field, but as you progress through the game you'll find layouts with hexagons missing that create complicated patterns that make planning an important part of your game playing strategy.

It's a simple matter to select a group of three hexagons and rotate them around - hold your finger on the central point where three hexes meet and then slide your finger right or left to spin them clockwise or anticlockwise respectively. And that's your only move. Your goal is to make a block of similarly coloured hexagon tiles, at which point they disappear and other hexagons fall in from the top of the screen.

You have to make a block of hexagons, a line of three is not sufficient for a vanish to occur. This is not Bejewelled. But it is familiar...

Once you realise that each hexagon grid based level has a specific challenge to meet, such as attaining a certain score or clearing 'dark fragments' by having a hexagon cleared from that hex, it becomes even more familiar...

Then you realise that you have a level based approach as you step through the game, and if you fail at a level you need to spend one of five 'hearts' to play the game again, with hearts being earned back at a rate of one every thirty minutes. Come on, you can work this out...

 Hexic Hexic 

That's right. Hexic is another tweak on the tile swap/match game that has been popularised by Candy Crush Saga in the last year or so. As with all good hacks, there is something that makes the game just different enough so it can't be taken to court. Although the freemium mechanics are very much standard fare, the twisting of hexagons (as opposed to a direct exchange of two hexagons, used in Disney's Frozen Freefall) makes the game stand out.

It's just a shame that it gets rather fiddly and boring after a few levels.

Much of the appeal of the 'match' games is creating a feeling that you could easily pass a level's challenge if you just played once more. It's easy, you'll be able to solve it next time around. I've never got that feeling with Hexic. The twisting hexagons mean the lawyers will avoid the game, but it's also not as intuitive as other methods, and it's quite hard to visualise what will happen to the hex grid after you make a move.

Without that ability to do some mental planning, Hexic becomes less of an addictive hook that you know you can beat on the next game, and more 'try something and see if it works' during this game. The vision that the average game player has is reduced from three or four moves out to just one or two, and this damages the game's longevity and appeal in my view.

There's also a sense of clinical functionality in the graphics. Even on my Lumia 925 I was fighting with very small fonts, tiny hexagon tiles with wasteful white borders around the colours, and progress indicated by just a few pixels of colour in the game's level map. On the smaller screened budget level Lumias, Hexic is not the easiest game to make out.

The game will also default to going online when you open the title, looking for any internet connection to hook into the online high score tables. This is a nice touch if all your friends are also involved in the game, but again I can't help feeling that comparing your friends scores, and where they are in the level map, is something that we've already seen before. There's nothing new or innovative here either.

The same goes for the Xbox Live achievements. While these could have been a key differentiator and helped set the game apart and provided an extra challenge for the player, they all feel either artificial (by asking you to lose a game in a specific way) or asking you to do something you would already be doing in the game, and the developers kept throwing in mad ideas till they reached 200 points and declared that task done, and moved on to the next item on the list.

 Hexic Hexic 

There is a germ of an idea in Hexic that could do with developing... but if you develop it you end up with Candy Crush Saga. That puts the designers in an awkward situation where they can't make the game better than it already is, the design choices are limited, and the whole game feels like a well polished and programmed cloning exercise with just enough trade dress altered to keep everyone but the player happy.

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