16 seconds. For the first two days that I owned Super Hexagon the longest time I could accomplish on the simplest of six difficulty settings was 16 seconds, and I felt pathetic. After two more days I’d conquered that setting with a record of 63 seconds, having progressed to the third difficulty, and I felt like a techno fuelled geometric god.
VVVVVV showed that developer Terry Cavanagh has a penchant for minimalistic, punishing design, but with Super Hexagon he’s taken it to another level, distilling the essence of videogame simplicity and challenge. Like the most addictive reflex based platformers, Super Hexagon possesses that magical combination of being instantly accessible through the sheer simplicity of its mechanics, but compellingly impenetrable when it comes to the difficulty of progression.
You control a tiny triangle in orbit of a central hexagon, and must rotate around it in order to avoid the spiralling whirlwind of incoming lighter-coloured hexagonal blocks that would squish you. Much like Jetpack Joyride, you have no control over the speed of progression and are limited only to the positioning of your protagonist.
Simple, right? Wrong.
You’ll be hard pressed to break 5 seconds during your first attempt, and runs exceeding 30 seconds are a rare glee-inducing event, likely to elicit both tears and profanity in equal measure when they inevitably conclude. But given time, Super Hexagon is the type of game that trains your hand eye co-ordination, reducing what initially seem like insurmountable barriers to toddler hurdles as you satisfyingly increase your time second by second.
It’s not all brilliant though; a few unfair deaths occasionally spring out of under responsive iPhone controls, and a slight imbalance within the randomly generated nature of each level means that a ridiculous stage is sometimes followed by a ludicrous one within the same difficulty setting.
But these are tiny quibbles in what is otherwise an equal parts gorgeous and addictive experience. There’s an attractive simplicity to its aesthetic design, as the screen pulses and gyrates along to some infectious chiptune beats – the kind you’ll find yourself unconsciously humming at the office water cooler in the morning – and the spiralling angular geometry hypnotically fades between neon colours of the rainbow.
Cavanagh’s latest occupies a utopian space for iOS titles then. It’s easy to pick up and play with just enough depth and difficulty to become an itch you’ll need to scratch on a daily basis for a minute or two. And for 69 pence, what more could you want?