The Steam release of ‘Super Hexagon’ today is not the first release of the arcade title. In fact, it was released awhile ago in past times to some pretty rave reviews. Unfortunately, for beings such as myself with only a PC and Windows Phone, it was only seen for iPhone, which is some dastardly device made by the same people who make the popular Newton Message Pad. Luckily for people such as myself there was the free game ‘Hexagon‘, which is an (kind of) alpha version of ‘Super Hexagon’. Now, after months of diligent practice with the flash version, I have been graced with a Steam release of ‘Super Hexagon’ for Mac and PC, and could not be more thankful.
‘Super Hexagon’, for those who do not know, is an action/arcade game from developer Terry Cavanagh of ‘VVVVVV‘ fame. In ‘Super Hexagon’ the player takes on the role of a triangle, which is faced by oncoming walls which will crush the triangle if it does not escape through the gaps in each wall. The walls come in patterns and shapes and can range anywhere from easy to intricate in both timing and execution. Each level is infinite in structure and the goal is to survive as long as possible. There are three different difficulties, Hexagon, Hexagoner, and Hexagonest, and three additional levels of the same names, but in “hyper mode’. The levels take 60 seconds to beat and increase in difficulty the longer the player survives. The result is an incredibly difficult experience, with new players finding even reaching 20 seconds in the easiest level a difficult task.
‘Super Hexagon’ is signature Terry Cavanagh style. The game features distinctive coloring and uses vibrant oranges, purples, reds, etc., much like the coloring of ‘VVVVVV’. The colors switch quickly and you get a feeling for the palette without spending too much time with the game. The coloring is welcome because it is fitting to the minimalist styling. I do not need to see rainbows of Rob Fearon type colors in a game based around shapes, and therefore an omission of more colors is something I am thankful for.
Other than the colors, the majority of what the player will be seeing are simple shapes. Cavanagh throws quadrilaterals, hexagons, squares, and pentagons at the player, which are a slightly more eye-catching color than the background. For instance, if you see a purple background, be prepared for a bright purple hexagon to attempt to destroy your lowly triangle. These shapes occasionally alter and reform.
‘Super Hexagon’ is seemingly unintentional in its beauty. Without the minimalist visuals everything else would be unplayable, and some super cranked ultimate super edition graphics would ruin the whole experience. The visuals help lend to the experience, as they are memorable, but rarely distracting from the task at hand.
Perhaps the most gripping aspect, outside of the gameplay of ‘Super Hexagon’, is the fantastic soundtrack from chiptune artist Chipzel. Each difficulty level comes with its own set of music and the music helps dictate the rythym of the levels. The tracks are pounding rhythmic club-inspired songs full of twists and turns centering around base drum beats. They are infectious and help aid in the inevitable addiction. It is the type of music you wake up having found it to have invaded your dreams, only to leave you yearning for another tap of that indomitable space bar which allows for another fix.
There is the possibility I am romanticizing things; however, the scenario presented above is nothing more than a description of how I felt one morning after gorging myself on round after round of ‘Super Hexagon’ on Hexagonist the night before. The soundtrack was fresh in my mind and each time I hear the distinctive theme song I will envision the pulsating of the central hexagon amid the rotating colors. The music is a surprisingly emotional and evocative piece of the game, despite ‘Super Hexagon’ remaining relatively unemotional throughout.
So, without further rambling, let’s get to the juice of the article; the beloved gameplay aspect of a video game. Let us first get a simple but vital fact out of the way: ‘Super Hexagon’ is technically sound and runs near flawlessly. I only say near flawlessly because I ran into a few frame rate issues, which could easily have been the fault of the feeble laptop on which I was playing. But nearly 100% of the time the game is running at a perfect frame rate.
To complement the frame rate, the controls are extremely tight. I am not a huge fan of playing with a keyboard, only because I would be partial to gamepad support, which will not be available upon release. It is not so much the controls as it is the nature of holding a gamepad as compared to a keyboard.
This would especially be useful for Arcade Mode, which is a new mode made specifically for the PC and Mac versions. At least it would work perfectly for my ultimate ‘Super Hexagon’ experience. I would love to hook up ‘Super Hexagon’ to my TV and plug in a gamepad and turn on arcade mode for a party I was holding (in some imaginary world where I throw parties). Doing so with a keyboard seems somewhat awkward and inaccessible to me.
Despite this minor complaint, the rest of the gameplay is flawless. ‘Super Hexagon’ offers one of the most addictive experiences available for PC. Once you have picked it up and began playing you will quickly find it to be near impossible to stop pressing the spacebar to get another shot at the same damned difficulty level you have already played 100 times before. I would describe it as uniquely addictive, because you get nearly the same thing each time you start a round, but every effort feels to be one on its own.
Terry Cavanagh has created another subtle masterpiece, once again proving that simplistic graphics, arcade homage, and retro styling can still be made into a revolutionary and modern gaming experience. I at first doubted if a big screen port of the iOS hit would be nearly as satisfying or addictive as its small-screen counterpart. I now can say confidently that ‘Super Hexagon’ not only makes the jump successfully, but makes more functional sense at a higher resolution on the big screen. I still, after 5 hours of play, find myself as enchanted by the colors and music of ‘Super Hexagon’ as I am challenged by the brutal difficulty. In my eyes, that is not only the reason as to why I have a sort of quiet adoration for ‘Super Hexagon’, but also believe it is the most compelling and addictive arcade game released in years.
‘Super Hexagon’ is avaiable now on Steam for $2.99 (link will not work until game is officially released on Steam). For more info on ‘Super Hexagon’ check out the official website and Terry’s ever-active Twitter page. As always, come back for more reviews, art, trailers, and our ManDate weekly podcast. You only might regret it.