Critical Hit: Hexcells Triple Feature
Today ladies and gentlemen I have a triple feature for you!
By that I mean we’ll be talking about 3 games from the same series that are very similar. But as I consider myself an investigative journalist, I follow my role models in the professional world and mislead the public with my titles. (Yes, playing video games and then proceeding to engage in a monologue of my opinions counts as investigative journalism). Anyhow, let’s begin.
Quick Breakdown: A fun puzzle game with similarities to Minesweeper, where you must determine which cells are filled with blue hexes, and which are vacant.
Length: 2-3 hours
Hexcells is a simple puzzle game; its closest counterpart would be Minesweeper, but it’s a bit more involved than that (also a lot better, and you’re not timed). The way the game works is you have a… let’s call it a board, made up of hexagons, which we’ll call cells. You need to determine which cells are occupied with a blue hexagon, and which ones are vacant (which will be grey). The vacant cells have a number inside them, indicating how many adjacent cells are occupied.
You simply left click a cell to mark it as occupied, and right click it to mark it as vacant. If you’re correct, the cell will change accordingly. If you’re wrong, it’ll shake and mark you as getting making a mistake (more on this in a moment).
As you progress through the game, the puzzles will get more complicated, and additional ways to indicate whether or not a cell is occupied are introduced. Sometimes numbers will be encased in curly brackets, indicating that all the occupied cells adjacent to the vacant cell are connected - like a line curved around the vacant cell. Whereas a number that has a hyphen on each side means that there is at least one break in the line.
Numbers will also appear at the top of columns, or even at a diagonal, indicating how many occupied cells are in that row or column (reminding me ever so slightly of Picross). These numbers use the same additional mechanics as the vacant cells, with curly brackets and hyphens indicating if the cells are all connected, or have a break in them. The later stages will require you to use these different numbers in tandem to solve the puzzle.
Even in the later stages of the game, Hexcells never gets too difficult. It’s a fairly easy game, and you’ll probably be able to complete it in 2-3 hours without much trouble. After that, you’re done: there’s not much replay value unless you made some mistakes the first tine and want to perfect every level.
Each level in Hexcells is divided into 6 worlds. A world consists of 4-6 stages, making a total of 26 in a level. When you complete a level you are awarded blue hexes towards a total score of them. By earning enough of these blue hexes you unlock the next world. The number of blue hexes awarded for completing a stage varies depending on its difficulty, and you will be awarded fewer the more mistakes you make in a level. (Don’t worry, you can redo levels do earn the blue hexes you missed).
The music in the game is fairly calm and simple. It’s not particularly note-worthy, but it fits with the relaxed feel of the game. I find both the game and the music rather relaxing.
As for criticisms, there are two main things I feel this game lacks: 1). There’s no option to save a level mid-way through, so that you can leave the game and return to it later. My work around for this was to take a screen cap if I had to stop playing for some reason, and then just redo my stage progress from there. 2). It’d be nice if there was a way to map out a potential solution (similar to Picross’ overlay feature), so that you can indicate which cells you think may contain blue hexes, and which you think may be vacant without selecting them. Though, this is less needed in this Hexcells game than it is in later ones where you must figure out how large swathes of a level work together to determine if a cell has a blue hex or not.
Quick Breakdown: A follow up to Hexcells, that feels like the next series of levels in the game, essentially it’s hard mode.
Length: 8-10 hours
Not much has changed from the first Hexcells game to the second. The core premise is the same, as are most of the mechanics. I won’t be going over what’s the same as the last game. What I will talk about is what’s new and different in Hexcells Plus compared to the first game in the series.
The short answer: not much. Hexcells Plus is basically the next series of levels after the final ones in the first Hexcells game. It does re-introduce the mechanics found in the first game, but its difficulty has a sharper spike, and it’s (thankfully) quite a bit more difficult to complete. Although it only has 10 more levels than the first game (making a total of 36 in Plus), it takes quite a bit longer to complete, more in the range of 8-10 hours, compared to the scant 2 of the first.
Now, what’s new about Plus? Well, it introduces two new types of cells to the game. Vacant cells that have a question mark instead of a number in them, simply not indicating how many adjacent cells contain hexes. Also blue hexes that contain a number, indicating how many blue hexes are within a 2 cell radius. These two mechanics add a lot more difficulty to the game, and overall make it more enjoyable.
That added difficulty spike is also why my two criticisms from the first game are even more noteworthy than before. Those being the ability to save your progress mid-way through a stage, and the overlay feature to test out potential solutions. The overlay especially would be far more useful here than in the first game given the more complicated puzzles, and needing to look at how all the different numbers indicating hexes interact with each to determine which cells have hexes and which do not.
Nonetheless, Hexcells Plus is still a fun puzzle game. If you’ve already played the first game, then this one serves as a fine continuation to it, offering what is essentially a hard mode.
Quick Breakdown: The best of the Hexcells games, and the random level generator on top of the main game’s levels gives it more gameplay.
Length: 4-8 hours (Main game)
Again, Hexcells Infinite doesn’t introduce much new to the series. The main new feature compared to past games in the series is its random level generator. After you’ve completed the 36 levels in the main game, you have the option to keep playing as many randomly generated levels as you please, giving the game more longevity than the previous two.
The difficulty of Infinite is greater than the first game in the series, but notably less than the second. The difficulty curve is much more natural, and lends itself well to players who are new to the series. Depending on if you’ve played the past games or not, Infinite will probably take you about 4-8 hours to complete the main game.
It finally manages to fix one of my main criticisms towards its predecessors, namely that you may now exit a stage mid-way through and save your progress, to resume playing later. Unfortunately, there’s still no overlay feature to map out a potential solution before applying it.
If you’re into puzzle games, consider picking up the Hexcells pack when it goes on sale (often you can get all 3 games for less than $3). If you already have the first Hexcells game and want more, Hexcells Plus is essentially the hard mode for the first game, and Hexcells infinite will also provide you with more puzzles to play. If you only want one Hexcells game, go for Infinite, as it has some improvements over the other two, and the random level generator means it’ll offer more play. However you choose to go, it’s worth giving Hexcells a chance.
Hexcells Plus: Ha ha, good luck motherfucker.
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