You know it’s funny, just the other day I was thinking to myself
“I wonder whatever happened to that Russian dude who created Tetris”. Really I was!
Well, I need not wonder any longer. Apparently Alexey Pajitnov went on to work for Microsoft from 1996 - 2005 and went on to create another successful puzzle game called “Hexic HD” a game that comes pre-loaded on every Xbox 360 hard drive, as a sorta thank you from Microsoft! Gosh, where have I been?
So why am I even reviewing “Hexic HD”? It’s not like I am trying to convince you to go out and buy it or anything- because you can’t!
SideNote: An interesting piece of information “The only way to get the game is pre-bundled with system. There is no Xbox Live Marketplace feature to download the game, so if it is deleted off the HDD, the only option in recovering it is to call Microsoft's support line. This can sometimes be a very long process and could be avoided if the game was made available on the marketplace.”
Anyways, “Hexic HD” looks simple enough but trust me it is a puzzle game that works every one of your tiny brain cells!
You are given a playing field filled with multi-colored hexagons; each are rotatable with two of its neighbors. Shuffle them around to match 3, and poof, all 3 disappear. No surprises there. But the more you play, the more it changes and challenges.
Soon you're creating more complicated shapes, defusing bombs which can ruin your streak in a hurry.
Bombs are dropped after a short time and each time a move is made, a timer on the bomb counts down from seven. You must form a cluster match before the timer gets to zero and failure is severe, resulting in the bomb being defused and the dreaded “Game Over”.
You can earn special pieces like silver stars and black pearls which give you special abilities. Be careful though, not all special pieces are there to help you. Hmm, that no longer qualifies them as being “special” now does it?
In the survival mode for example, the object is to clear the screen of as many pieces as possible, but as soon as you run out of possible moves, the remaining pieces get locked down. Sure the board is refilled, but you now need to work around the locked pieces, or better yet, try to pull them into combos to get rid of them. Sound challenging, mind-boggling, intimidating, and scary? All of the above, I’m sorry to say!
I continually failed, yet there was something that kept me playing!
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There are three modes of play: Marathon Mode, Timed Mode, and Survival Mode. Marathon Mode is where most of the fun will be had and is simply described as: "keep playing until a bomb blows up."
I found the bombs to be a real pain because they will end your game if you don’t take care of them practically right away!
But they do serve some purpose especially in timed mode and can be used to your advantage to wipe out large clusters of tiles sharing the same color on the board at the same time.
While nothing will ever rival Tetris in terms of perfect, pick-up-and-play, puzzle popularity (wow try saying that 5 times fast!), “Hexic HD” does a nice job as a more advanced puzzler.
You must use the A button to rotate a cluster of three gems clockwise and the X button to go counter-clockwise. I know it sounds easy enough but controlling the rotation of the hexagons takes some getting used to. Especially after merely swapping tiles horizontally or vertically as in most match 3-type of puzzle games.
Timed Mode is basically a ticking clock that will count down if you don't continually make clusters. The only real incentive to play this mode is for the achievement bragging rights of getting 75,000 points within the time limit.
Survival Mode is a nice little detour from the main game, where the object is to finish with the least amount of gems on the board. Those left over when no more moves can be made will remain there to the next round and the game is over when you can no longer go.
Sorry guys, there is no multiplayer mode available for “Hexic HD”.
Update: At press time for this review, it was announced that “Hexic Deluxe” is coming for XBLA which will offer full online multiplayer capabilities; it is scheduled for release in September 2007.
The game quickly goes from a fairly easy walk in the park to extremely challenging after about Level 3; in fact to really get a handle of the very basic principles of the game is extremely difficult. It also should be noted that it’s not really the sort of game where you can have a “quickie” in fact once you get going, games can last a good 30 minutes or so (depending on how well you are playing the game, that is.)
“Hexic HD” looks like your typical puzzle game with its shiny and brightly colored panels, and it is a fun game for the serious puzzle gamers out there, (once you get the hang of it), but it has too high of a learning curve for the super casual players. And it definitely alienates the suddenly super popular non-gamers that every developer seems to be targeting lately.
I don’t know which is worse, at first I envisioned poor Alexey Pajitnov sadly trying to recapture the success and fame of his original addictive puzzler Tetris. Now I am just left with images of him sadly toiling away at Microsoft for years in order to create a new hit puzzle game for them.
Sadly that didn’t happen with “Hexic HD”. Tetris it’s not, but “Hexic HD” still has game.
Psst -Word of advice Alexey my boy, just sit back and relax and enjoy the millions you made with Tetris in your golden years. Y’know that kind of break-out success will probably never happen to you again. Let’s just call it a “once in a lifetime” kind of thing.Find out more about Hexic HD Here