Quite a bit has been written about Super Hexagon, the latest mobile offering from indie developer Terry Cavanagh (VVVVVV). In an age where mobile game replayability hinges on the vertical depth of essentially identical content (farm new jetpacks and tell your friends!), the game is a bit of a throwback. You see, you can play it for hours and hours, but there’s no farming. No progression. Just a lot of dying and restarting. The game is just straight up Nintendo-hard, and evokes an era when games lived on storage-poor media, and the best way to ensure playtime was to design with an eye toward punishing difficulty.
And holy crap is this game punishingly difficult.
Super Hexagon’s formula has a geometric simplicity that allows for insane difficulty scaling. It works like this:
-There’s a hexagon in the middle of the screen, orbited by a little triangular token.
-The screen spins as walls close in on the center, creating intoxicating patterns.
-Tap the left/right sides of the screen to orbit the token around the center, and don’t hit any walls.
It’s kind of a lot like that one night in college. You know, with the dancing?
The game comes with three difficulties unlocked: Hard, Harder and Hardest. Last 60 seconds in each to unlock even more absurdly challenging modes. Pro-tip: you won’t last 60 seconds. In fact, once you’ve died on Hard for the 100th time, you’ll realize that “more absurdly challenging” is an entirely indecent proposal, and all three challenge modes are superfluous…
…or are they?
See? It can be done! Promise!
It’s not an easy (or medium) game, but as you play and play, you start to zone in, and just like that you start having small amounts of success. The first time the direction of the spin changes, it’s jarring. Then you get used to it. The crazy, super-fast cascading spirals in Hardest? You can get used to those, too. But it’s going to take some patience. It took me a full week and a half to clear Hard. A couple days later, I got to about 51 seconds on Hardest while riding the train. My heart nearly exploded from the adrenaline rush. I was so close.
Then it finally happened: I beat Harder, lasting a whopping 63 seconds… and here we discover the other lovely thing about this game: talking about it always gives me the chuckles. Anyway, as of writing this piece, I’ve lasted only a meager 15 seconds on Hardest, and the game is relentlessly kicking my ass. But hey, I’ve felt this way before, and I know if it was possible to beat Hard and Harder, it’s only a matter of time… right?
And that’s the thing that makes this game so great. Yes, like nearly every other mobile game under the sun, long sessions of Super Hexagon involve doing a lot of the same thing. It’s difficult, and it can get frustrating, but the difficulty makes your progress really count. When you do finally clear that crazy staggered spiral thing, when you do loop around and somehow not die, and the friendly robot lady voice says “hexagon” as you clear the minute mark, and then you die almost immediately? Glorious.