(Terry Cavanagh, 2012, iPhone)
People, by which I mean influential people, with blogs and readers and Steam friends (as opposed to the boring, everyday, standard sort of people that you might see on a bus, who might own a touchscreen smartphone but statistically are more likely to use it for sending each other photos of their sexual organs than for playing hexagon-themed arcade games) have described Super Hexagon as “Zen”. That’s a word with multiple meanings, all of them useless in Scrabble due to its pesky capitalisation, and yet it is undeniably a bit like an interactive version of one of those carefully raked Japanese rock gardens, if you’ve ever stumbled through a rock garden drunk while the rocks spin around you, your clumsy swerving in effort to avoid a fatal collision being further hindered by the way your vision zooms in and out in time to the techno that pumps through your recommended headphones. Perhaps “wabi-sabi” would be a more appropriate description.
What I’m trying to say is, is, you’re only really going to finish Super Hexagon on its hardest difficulty setting (like I did yesterday) if you have the supreme mental detachment required to achieve absolute buddahood for at least sixty seconds, which when you’re at One with the universe, turns out to be an infinite amount of time. It might get even more interesting after that, but the realisation that you’ve actually beaten the damn thing after five months of struggle has the effect of painfully returning your spirit to the earthly plane, resulting in a feeling of disorientation and anticlimax that’s significantly removed from the normal sense of accomplishment one gets from conquering a tricky challenge.
This sense is not helped by the high score table, which once you go and check it turns out to have been conquered by either hackers or pan-galactic beings who exist outside time and have thus managed to keep playing for 4.8 billion years on the easiest difficulty level (blowing creator Terry Cavanagh’s early advantage out of the water in the process.)
Anyway, the game works because it’s about the mastery of a simple and entirely fair system. If you mess up, and you will mess up on such a frequent basis that you will begin to doubt your own motor control, there is literally nobody else to blame. You just didn’t press the right direction in time. Given sufficient manual dexterity, best attained with several months of practice, any possible combination of shapes can be navigated through. In that respect, it’s fairer than Tetris, Asteroids or any other pure arcade game I can think of off the top of my head, although those all take more than sixty seconds to finish.
And that’s all I have to say about Super Hexagon.