Hexic - Crystal Meth Anyone?

   09/03/2006 at 18:52       Richard Horne       6 COMMENTS. - Score 4/5
They say all good things come in threes, and that trend continues with Hexic which comes for three with a premium Xbox360 pack. Oh wait, that's free not three! Anyway, whatever...lets get the crap puns out of the way early on.

Of all the things I expected to be playing on my shiny new Xbox360, Hexic was not one of them. Yet since purchasing my slightly overweight new console, 5 days ago now, Hexic has been one of my most played games. Funny that, as were it not for the fact it came as a freebie on the hard drive, it would never have got a look in otherwise.

Created by none of other than Sir Alexey Pajitnov, the original designer of Tetris, Hexic instantly has big boots to fill, and lets be honest from the start, it's never going to fill them, however once we get over that fact, it's not without its own charm and appeal.

The gameplay in Hexic is actually quite simple. The screen fills with all manner of different coloured gems and it's up to you to rotate them in triplets to create identically colour triplicates. These triads of shiny gems then disappear and all the gems above fall in to the gaps you just cleared. As always, this leads to combos which in turn leads to an increasingly higher score. It's nothing you haven't seen a million times before and will no doubt see a million times replicated in the future. But there is something distinctly compelling about Hexic that makes it stand out from an overcrowded, well, crowd.

The main differences between Hexic and the other fore-runners in this genre are time and speed. You're not playing against the clock or against other soon to be dropped pieces. Which means that you can be much more calculated and strategic about each step - a wrong move then, is therefore your own fault as there isn't the added pressure of imminent death like there is in Tetris. As well as creating triplets of identically coloured gems, you're also rewarded for completely surrounding a single gem with gems of another colour thus creating a sort of flower arrangement. Create a 'flower' and the centre piece changes to a white crystal. Create a 'flower' of these and you get a fabled black pearl. Which I still haven't managed to get yet! And so eventually Hexic begins to plays out like a multi-coloured chess game.

The addition of bombs later in the game does add a certain degree of pressure. With each bomb showing a number which decreases by one after every single move you make. If the bomb reaches zero, fireworks from the explosion ensue prompting the all too familiar game over screen, swiftly followed by a quick glance at the leader board to make sure none of your friends have usurped your top score (if you're any good that is).

With three main modes - Marathon, Survival and Timed - Hexic's alternative variations offer a reasonable amount of variety with each mode being suitably different from each other to warrant equal amounts of playtime, though as always seems to be tradition, Marathon mode will no doubt earn the most play time as there's something to be said for having the highest score amongst all your online buddies.

Hexic follows in the footsteps of the usual suspects, Tetris, Columns and Bejewelled in that it's a simple to play yet difficult to master puzzle game. And so to re-iterate my opening point, had it not been a complimentary bonus I would no doubt have overlooked Hexic as another Tetris wannabe which would have been a shame as it would never have got the playtime it so deserves.
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