Sometimes I just don’t like a game very much. It’s not because the game is necessarily bad, it just winds up not appealing to my tastes at all. Such is the tale of HexSweep, a game I certainly found fault with for particular reasons, but ones that are hardly universal.
I first downloaded HexSweep out of curiosity. Off the bat, it definitely resembles Unpossible with its cylindrical track and dark-colored player ship and obstacles, though using six fixed lanes around its cylindrical tracks. HexSweep does use a lot more color, and while it seems clearly inspired this game, it makes another clear differentiation in its structure: it’s not about lasting for as long as possible through waves of procedurally-generated obstacles. It’s instead got 30 total tracks to play on, with the two-prong goal of traveling through enough speed boosts to complete the level, and then racing onward to try and collect as many turbo boosts until fuel runs out, with the obstacles disappearing, and just becoming about getting that sweet, sweet speed. So, it’s kind of like Unpossible – and the various challenging arcade games that inspired it – crossed over with Wipeout. It’s an intriguing mix.
The thing is, I found HexSweep to be inordinately frustrating. And I think the reason why is because of the game’s use of fixed tracks. Let’s compare to Unpossible, a game I rather enjoy. That game is challenging at its harder difficulty levels, but in its randomly-generated levels, there’s always that sense that the next run could be better, it could be easier, or maybe that really difficult section won’t appear until later on. In HexSweep, the levels have been created in a fixed way like a racing game’s tracks, so there’s always that one challenging part, always waiting. It’s always there in a specific spot, and it becomes very easy to hate very particular things.
But wait, Unpossible has fixed levels too with its daily modes. However, those aren’t as frustrating! That game feels so much more about learning how to tackle specific sections, and the fixed daily levels presents an opportunity to practice, knowing when things were coming. There are only so many challenging sections to try and beat, so getting better at one feels like it has larger repercussions: you are getting better.
In HexSweep, getting better at one track takes practice, and figuring out the rhythms of it. While playing it, I eventually just have to memorize certain button taps at particular times in order to know how to avoid particular obstacles. Any learning I do is all about that one particular track I am trying to beat, and the applications to getting better as a whole are few and far between. I perhaps pick up on little tactics to improve, but ultimately it’s about mastering the one track I’m on right now.
And that’s just not what makes ultra-hard games fun; especially the current wave of them that have taken over mobile gaming. Super Hexagon is fun because, yeah, it’s hard, and it’s fast, but each session can go toward the greater whole of getting high scores by learning how to do better in the one mode, and overall. Three difficulties and two speeds is easier to manage than 30 different tracks where the speeds increase, and it’s possible to not really know what’s coming next because the speed gets so fast. Flappy Bird and its variants do so well because they’re hard, but, again, they’re about learning how to do better overall. HexSweep fails at this.
Heck, this all could just be that the restart button is a tiny button in the bottom center of the screen on the iPad. It’s a small effort to restart, but since the game is played with both thumbs, it requires reaching over to the button, just one more added challenge to starting over, something that the best games in HexSweep’s genre do well.
But I also concede that a lot of this could just be because HexSweep doesn’t fit my personal tastes. The current wave of games inspired by Super Hexagon and Flappy Bird fit perfectly with what I like. And I admit that I love the game’s look, and that the idea is certainly clever to put a racing game twist on what is an oft-imitated formula. I accept that people can like this game for the exact reasons I don’t.
The game is a free download with 5 tracks, and a $1.99 IAP to unlock the full game. If I haven’t dissuaded you – or persuaded you exactly with the reasons I didn’t like it – give the trial tracks a try, and I mean really dig into them, and there’s a good chance you’ll like this one a lot more than I did.