A rabbi, a robot and a hexagon walk into a bar.* The rabbi and the robot talk about narrative in games, while the hexagon just sits there, doing nothing. No wait, that’s not true. There is no bar. Certainly no rabbis or robots or even rabbits either. There is nothing but the hexagon. The hexagon is all there is and here’s the thing: that’s more than enough.
Yes, Terry Cavanagh’s Super Hexagon is one of those games. There is no narrative, in fact there is no reference to the outside world whatsoever. I mean: what’s a hexagon, anyway? What does it mean? All you need to know is that there are hexagons and lines and stuff. They are moving very fast. You are a triangle – but you could also be a dot, it doesn’t matter. (There is no “you”, anyway.) Try not to collide with the hexagons. And that’s all there is.
Success (i.e. lasting for 60 seconds) on a stage – which starts on “hard” difficulty, then gets “harder” and “hardest” – gives you an achievement, a place on the leaderboards, and bragging rights. Because Super Hexagon is a hard game. It’s brutal. Its challenge may already be legendary. And the more you play it, the better you get. You start to adapt, you start to see patterns in the seemingly erratic movement. You will improve. This is even quantifiable: you’ll see your highscore slowly – very slowly! – but surely climbing up. (I managed to last 14.3 seconds longer while writing this review. Go me!) You’ll work your way up those leaderboards, one frustrated restart at a time. I’m not a big fan of games that are hard for the sake of being hard, but I’m making an exception for Super Hexagon. Because extending your previous best time by half a second feels so very rewarding.
The recent PC port that’s now available on Steam is a flawless adaption of the iThing version. The keyboard controls work very well and nothing else has been changed. For $2.99 it is also very, very cheap. It might not be for everyone, but I love it because it is pure, intense gameplay, without anything that stands in its way. It has a way of sucking you in and spitting you out mere seconds later. And you’ll want to do it again. And again.
It’s hexagon. It doesn’t mean anything, it doesn’t want anything. Play it.
* if this makes you go “huh,” I recommend reading that thing about games for adults by Jonas Kyratzes. It’s very good, and very true, and doesn’t have anything to do with the rest of this text.