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It’s 2 AM; I’m both completely wired and completely bollocksed. The only thing keeping me typing these words is the adrenaline (and caffeine) left in my system. It happened again: just one more go of Super Hexagon bled into a marathon session with what is an excellent rhythm game, a hardcore twitch-reaction game and a trippy ride through a geometric nightclub.
Super Hexagon, developed by Terry Cavanagh and composed by Niamh ‘Chipzel’ Houston, is the game spawned from Hexagon, Cavanagh’s free-to-play proof of concept.
The screen is divided into wedges by a central shape, around which the player steers a small cursor through the gaps between distinctively patterned obstacles.
It only takes ten seconds to progress to the next level of a stage, and sixty seconds to beat the stage and unlock harder modes. One hit, and you’re out. It might not sound like much, but in Super Hexagon ten seconds is a brick wall and a minute is a mountain.
Hours come and go – fail, “Game Over”, spacebar, “Again”, repeated over and over as you chip away, second by second. After three hours with the game, I only got past the first two levels; two minutes worth of progression (disclaimer: it’s very possible I’m extremely shite at the game).
The central shape bounces in time to the music as the screen spins and zooms in what should, by all rights, be as nauseating as one of those dodgy-looking pop-up carnival rides. Thankfully, it’s not. In fact, the ‘playing fields’ are psychedelic marvels, a stream of dizzying perspective flips that introduce a fascinating layer of difficulty by disorientation as you struggle to maintain your bearings amidst the chaos.
The simple and striking two-colour graphical style manages to keep the action readable, allowing Cavanagh and Chipzel to push the boat out with a vibrant ‘neon-chiptune-dubstep’ aesthetic. Finally beating a stage, hearing the music swell as the screen explodes with colour, is a huge adrenaline rush book-ending a brutally immersive experience.
Over the course of several exhausting but enthralling play sessions, the game’s incredible presentation sucks you deeper into a trance as you lock into the shape of incoming patterns, the beat of the music and the sensitivity of your cursor.
The game sings as you build these skills up to an instinctual level. The overall fusion of sound, music and visual feedback takes over and shoves you into a wonderful flow state.
You almost glide through the game’s rapid-fire obstacle courses, synced up to the booming bass drops of Chipzel’s roaring, adrenaline-drenched soundtrack.
Getting into your flow is the reward at the end of the tunnel; it has to be fought for, the conclusion of a hundred failed attempts as you achieve that one perfect minute. When it hits, it’s magic.
It’s harsh to the point of sadistic, the antithesis of Guitar Hero’s ‘anyone can be a rockstar’ approach to rhythm game design, but it’s laser-focused arcade-esque design rewards anyone dedicated enough with a visceral payoff.