The Six-Sided Rave
I want you to imagine playing a game of precision co-ordination in a nightclub full of pulsing lights and throbbing music while being repeatedly spun around on a swivel chair. If said fantasy sounds nightmarish and unfair to you then you might want to sit this one out, but if that sounds like a rip-roaring good time then here’s Super Hexagon, an abstract indie game based around reflexes and spacial awareness. Playing Super Hexagon is elegantly simple; you use your arrow keys, d-pad, or control stick to rotate a small triangle around a hexagon in the centre of the screen, and must dodge the shapes converging on the hexagon to pass the level. The game consists of only six levels, each taking sixty seconds to beat, but you can essentially play any level indefinitely, and if you want to beat all of them you’ll find that Super Hexagon’s merciless difficulty will keep you preoccupied for quite some time. It’s one of those experiences where you quickly learn to never start a level with the assumption that you’re going to beat it, you just see how far you can get, and know that if you throw yourself into the gauntlet enough times you’ll eventually succeed.
Unlike many other masochistic games of accuracy, Super Hexagon is not just about whether you can skillfully thread its figurative needle, but also about whether you can stay in control while it constantly attempts to disorient you. The stages spin around as you play, sometimes changing direction without warning, and the game constantly blasts you with busy visuals and music. On the whole I found fighting against these repeated attempts to dizzy and confuse me pretty fun, but at first at least it can feel a little unjust that the game tries to pull this trick on you. The difficulty within any one level can also be displeasingly inconsistent. The stages are essentially procedurally generated, existing as sets of obstacles stitched together differently each time. This alternation gives some essential variety to the game, but the exact way it handles the randomness of the levels means that you might be able to cruise through a later chunk of a stage relatively unhindered or you might start a stage to find yourself faced with a particularly troublesome section. Still, it feels entirely natural to immediately tap the retry button and jump back in whenever you do lose because of the extreme sense of flow that the game manages to establish.
Not only does Super Hexagon get a lot out of its minimalist design, but the controls are solid and dependable. Your triangle may shift around its pivot with some serious speed, but it starts and stops moving the instant you ask it to. Meanwhile, vibrant, alternating colours and a high-energy soundtrack that bridges the gap between dance music and chiptune blend with the gameplay to make it easy to forget the outside world and become hypnotised by everything that’s happening on-screen. Super Hexagon is not perfect, but it is pretty damn great, and at a cost of only £2 it’s hard to say no to this little slice of intensity.