Game Of The Year: Super Hexagon
David Lynch is a massive fan of Super Hexagon. Find out why he didn't choose Halo 4 for his Game Of The year...
Published on Dec 20, 2012
It’s probably rather telling that I’ve decided to ignore this year’s big budget releases and focus on something small and perfectly formed. 2012’s games, a list of admittedly very impressive titles with sky-high production values, have obviously taken up a great deal of my time, but none have really got under my skin in the same way as Super Hexagon.
It’s very easy to look at the year’s most impressive gaming experiences and come up with all sorts of important sounding words and imbue meaning onto them. Words like immersion, character, art, even the rather ridiculous sounding asynchronous, have all be used to concoct many of the reasons why the games industry’s most complicated titles are worthy of attention.
But, there’s a new part of the industry that began to really take shape during 2012. It was games like Super Hexagon that helped many realise that the phone in their pockets or the tablet on their desk were truly becoming an integral part of the gaming landscape.
Super Hexagon isn’t pretentious and it doesn’t ask more of you than 60 seconds of concentration, but you’ll undoubtedly give it more. All you’re tasked with doing is manoeuvring a small triangle around a central pivot point and avoid in coming shapes as the visuals pulsate along with the excellent soundtrack.
In today’s gaming world Super Hexagon’s simplicity is a breath of fresh air.
“I think why people like Super Hexagon is because it's a really good fit for that kind of mobile play,” explains Super Hexagon’s designer, Terry Cavanagh. “You can play for less than a minute and still have a really engaging experience; there's very little bull shit with game. You pick it up and press a button and you're immediately playing. It's like there, (slams hand down) game!”
In fact, Super Hexagon’s immediacy is what makes it such a perfect game for players on the go. Its ‘fail and repeat’ structure is hardwired into how players eventually learn to overcome what at first seems like an entirely impenetrable challenge. It’s a style of super-hard (and yet ultimately very rewarding) gameplay that indie developers like Cavanagh are famous for.
Super Hexagon started out life as simply Hexagon, an idea established at a Game Jam, an event specifically set-up to bring together game ideas, design and a limited time in which to realise them.
“Game Jams have been really good for me and they've become a really important part of my creative process. I find them really good for making something tangible out of a stray idea and pretty much anything that I've made that turned out to be any good started out life as a Game Jam game.”
“Super Hexagon came out of a Game Jam that I did in March,” explained Cavanagh. “I made a game just called Hexagon and I really liked how it turned out and I had a little bit of time and I wanted to spend some time making a more complete thing.”
“I think the original Jam version is actually way too easy. But I should probably explain what I mean by that. It was shallow, you would see pretty much every facet of the game within about 30 seconds and then it would just stop getting any harder. Players trained themselves to the level where the first 30 seconds weren't difficult anymore and then you could pretty much play forever; the game never really grew beyond that.”
But Cavanagh recognized that Hexagon could be developed into something that could manipulate its levels and gives players a real challenge.
“Now it's kind of semi-random,” explains Cavanagh. “It's got a deck of setpieces they it can deal to you and it has the odds of giving you a different piece based on how far in you are and things like that. That sort of gameplay really works for me. It generates a challenge for you.”
It’s all part of what makes Super Hexagon such an addictive game. Though you may think you’re learning the levels and what to expect of the waves of in-coming shapes, there’s always something in the works to keep you on your toes.
“I've done this sort of thing a lot with other small Jam games and I try to think of different things and I like this sense of things being familiar but also random. Learnable, but also never being predictable, too.”
It’s this kind of opportunity to make games that is fuelling the importance of platforms like iOS and Android (and even Steam to some extent) and it’s one of the reasons it’s such an exciting place to be. Games like Super Hexagon can start out life simply and then go on to find a global audience.
Everything about Super Hexagon strips away the usual blockages to gameplay, too. It focuses all of the player’s attention on the deceptively complex task of surviving its mazes of in-coming shapes and this all ties into the truly superb retro soundtrack making Super Hexagon feel like a playable version of a music synthesizer.
“The music is just licensed music from an artist called Chipzel,” explains Cavanagh. “It's really fantastic and it inspired the game to some extent. I discovered this music and, originally with the Jam game I just found this track that really fitted, but after that I started to listen to [Chipzel’s] music a lot more and that inspired me to make it something bigger.”
“I listened to the music so much when I was developing the levels it's actually tuned to the songs really, really closely. So even though it's not picking waves based on the bass notes or anything, it still feels like it fits the music, which is really important.”
It’s hard to ignore the games industry's big players, but we’ve seen a huge shift of focus over the last year. There are more ways of playing games than ever before and we’re beginning to see more games as a result. While I’ll always be excited by the next big thing, it’s games like Super Hexagon that remind me why I fell in love with gaming in the first place.
No other game has made me want to share it with people more. I just want to find out how long they can survive. It took me three months to beat the first level and survive longer than 60 seconds, but I did it.
According to Cavanagh, though, that really isn’t that impressive.
“My best time on the first level, I set on the PC version, and that's about 370 seconds, but people can beat that; I'm no longer the best player of the game.”