Category Archives: Other

Sony patent signposts the end of previously-owned video games

used-games-shelfIt’s no great secret that developers and publishers in the video game industry would like to see an end to the used games market. The reasons for this are obvious: while everybody gets paid when a game is bought brand new, no one involved in the process of actually making the games get paid when it’s bought and sold for a second time.

However, there are several reasons why a healthy used games market is a good thing for the industry, and who knows how many gamers would give up on what is an expensive hobby if the chance to buy and sell games was removed. Unfortunately this isn’t stopping the efforts to curtail the market, with publishers such as EA making it harder to justify buying used games. And if Sony has its way the next generation of consoles could kill the market once and for all.

Used Games Market

gamestop-shop-front

Currently the used games market is huge, with a majority of gamers splitting their purchases between new and used titles. In the U.S. the used games market is worth at least $1 billion, and that’s a healthy chunk of the overall market. As well as big-name retailers and independent games stores offering trade-in value, there are the online marketplaces such as Amazon and eBay.

While there is one obvious downside to this situation (as outlined above) the developers and publishers seem to be blind to the upsides. For example, if a gamer sells a title on after finishing playing it, they’re likely to plow the money gained back into the industry by buying a new game. It also means people are more likely to gamble buying a full-priced title as they know they can offload it for a fair price if it fails to live up to expectations.

Sony Patent

sony-logo

This reasoning has made no difference to the overall anxiety amongst industry people, and most are clearly keen to force gamers to buy new rather than used. The latest weapon in this fight – which has already seen online functions limited to those who buy games brand new – is a new patent applied for by Sony just a few months ago.

As dissected by NeoGAF it would see RFID tags embedded in all new game discs. The hardware would have the ability to read that tag and determine whether the game should function on that particular console. A new game would be tied to one console, with used games becoming unusable or, at the very least, having some functionality removed.

Sony is expected to launch the PlayStation 4 in the next 12 months, so it’s entirely possible such a system for identifying used games is already in the works. Microsoft is also gearing up to launch a new console, and there have been constant rumors that the next Xbox is also going to stifle the playability of used games. So the next-generation could potentially be a fatal one for the used games market.

Conclusions

If this turns out to be the case then I suspect many gamers would have to think long and hard about whether they’re going to continue to invest time and money in their hobby. If just one of the next-gen consoles included anti-used games measures then the other is likely to win big. If they both include such a system then no one wins, especially not consumers.

Image Credits: Seth Werkheiser, Stephan Mosel

Game review: Bastion comes to iOS, and brings style with it

I’m always worried when developers port their games from the original platform to a new one. Console to PC, PC to Mac, console to mobile; whatever the case, the results usually suck (especially Mac ports). The new platform rarely gets the same support or attention as the original, and the ported game usually runs much slower because it’s running through some sort of emulator like Wine or DOSbox.

That being said, I hope other developers are paying attention to Supergiant Games’ release of Bastion on iOS.  This is the rare case where the ported game may be better than the original.

Gameplay

Bastion is an action RPG in which you are put in control of a character named “The Kid”. An apocalyptic event has occurred in the near past and it’s your job to “make things right” by collecting various items throughout the game world. There are several mini-game challenges that help build proficiency with the different weapon types that are introduced, but you’ll spend most of your time running through the levels, killing monsters.

Gameplay is straight-forward and seems to be a mix of equal parts Zelda and Fallout; it’s hack, and slash, and shoot. Weapons, skills, and even the buildings at your home-base can be upgraded as your character levels up.

Variety can be added to combat by mixing up different sets of weapons to match the fighting style you prefer. My preferred kit was the machine gun and a blow torch, whereas one of my friends liked using the pole-arm and a sniper rifle.

Bastion originally debuted on Xbox Live Arcade and was built around the Xbox controller. The crew at Supergiant have done an excellent job in revamping the control scheme for a touch device. The controls are intuitive, frustration-free, and fun.

Fightin' off a giant scumbag.
Fightin’ off a giant scumbag.
Image credit: Supergiant Games

If I were to choose one word to describe the game, it would be “polished”. The art design, music (seriously, this is one of the best game soundtracks… ever.), narration, and controls are all top-notch and draw you into the game. Played on the iPad with a set of good head phones, the gaming experience is more intimate than on a TV screen or computer monitor, more akin to reading a good book. This is where I think the iOS port improves upon the original. It’s a more personal experience.

Pricing & availability

Bastion is available through the App Store for $4.99. It’s also available on Xbox Live Arcade, Chrome Web Store, Steam (for Mac & PC), and on the Ubuntu Software Center. Sorry, Android users!

Final Thoughts

The one area of the game that falls short of the rest is the story, which is oddly something that many critics have praised. Compared to a game like Braid (or literally any decent book), the narrative is a tad generic and falls apart toward the end of game. If you come away from the game thinking “that was profound”, I recommend reading Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s The Black Swan as a comparison of something that’s truly thought-provoking.

None of this stopped me from pulling out my guitar and learning all the songs from the soundtrack though.

Get curious and play the mobile game Curiosity

Curiosity is not your average mobile game. It doesn’t tell you to knock down forts built by pigs, it doesn’t ask you to draw something, and it definitely doesn’t ask you to harvest a field. No, all that Curiosity asks is for you to answer one simple question: What’s inside the cube?

This simplistic, mysterious game idea was conceived by the developer group 22Cans and the well known game designer Peter Molyneux. It can be found on all major mobile platforms (Android and iOS) and can be played with or without logging into Facebook. Once the game is loaded, a cube should appear with what looks like a mismatch of two colors. In actuality, those colors being shown are two different layers consisting of much smaller cubes.

The layers are disappearing!

The main function of the game is to chip these tiny cublets off the outer layer to fully expose the inner layer. Since the cube is run on a giant server, at any given time countless people are breaking away that outer layer (and potentially in the exact same area you are breaking cubes at). One the outer layer is completely gone, the process repeats itself on the inner layer; layer by layer, cube by cube, until the final layer is revealed.

At the final layer is where Curiosity gets interesting. Whomever breaks the final cube on the final layer wins whatever is inside the cube. What could it be? Money? Fame? A free copy of Black and White or Fable 3? An all exclusive paid trip to Sheboygan, Wisconsin? That’s why the game is called Curiosity; we won’t really know what lies inside until that final click happens.

Until that day comes (it is rumored that there is 1000 layers to break through), enjoy the addicting gameplay Curiosity has to offer.

If you haven’t noticed, every time you break a small cube, you get coins. These coins can be used in the Curiosity main menu to improve your block smashing abilities on the current layer. The more cubelets you smash, the more coins you get, the better tools you can use, and so on. Furthermore, because the game is constantly being updated and improved, better tools and items are on the horizon to take your cube breaking abilities to 11.

The main page also has a Stats section that tells you how many layers have been removed so far and how many cubelets are left on the present layer. Your Facebook profile can also be linked to your coins so that you can move them across mobile platforms (as well as boast to your friends how awesome your cube wrecking skills are).

Sooner or later, that final cube will be revealed. Will your finger be the one to break it and reap the spoils?

Game review: Zombie Tsunami puts you in charge of the zombie horde

Of all the benefits that technology has gifted us, an excuse to ignore our families during the holidays is perhaps the greatest. Historically, we relied on the warmth and cheer *cough* of our families and friends to get us through the cold winter season. But no more! Now we can bask in the warm glow of our LCD screen of choice, while huddling alone in a dark corner.

This holiday season, I’ve ignored my family by playing Zombie Tsunami, the latest project from Mobigame.

Gameplay

Zombie Tsunami is a joyfully silly platform runner similar to the popular Jetpack Joyride. The goal of each round is to build up your zombie horde by eating the brains of civilians and avoiding obstacles. It shares Jetpack Joyride’s simple touch controls – touch to jump, that’s it.

httpvh://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WoYVFgYSA0g

The simple gameplay doesn’t at first seem like it would lend the game a lot of replay value, but well-crafted missions and upgrade goals kept bringing me back. On iOS, the game utilizes Apple’s Game Center to coordinate challenges between friends, which is actually how I first discovered the game. One of my friend’s issued a challenge to me to beat his 52 brain score and off I went.

The game reacts to the size of your zombie horde by throwing more obstacles at you the larger your horde gets. Gather a horde of 30+ zombies and you’ll soon find it culled down to 3 or 4 by bombs and chasms that have been thrown in your way. This limiting keeps the game challenging and prevents players from just zerging through each round.

Braaaaaaaaaaaaaains!
Braaaaaaaaaaaaaains! – Image Credit: Mobigame

An in-game market provides power-ups, cosmetic changes for your zombies (hats), and other gameplay bonuses. These can either be purchased with coins your zombies have collected during each round or by purchasing coin packs from Mobigame.

I’m personally not a big fan of the free-to-play-buy-in-game-items model, but Mobigame’s store is well implemented and I never felt like I was being pushed to buy coins or that I couldn’t compete without them.

Availability & pricing

Zombie Tsunami is available for free on iOS devices running iOS 4.3 or later.

Final Thoughts

My only big complaint about Zombie Tsunami is the inability to sync stats, progress, and upgrades across iCloud to all my iDevices. Although this is nothing I would have expected just a few years ago, it’s such a common feature now that I’m annoyed when a game developer doesn’t implement it.

Otherwise, this is an excellent free-to-play game with a lot of replay value. While it’s by no means innovative, it’s a great take on the Jetpack Joyride formula and a good way to escape from your loved ones during the holidays.

Holiday Gift Guide 2012: What the Kids Want Edition

Sometimes, kids can be the worst people to buy for.  Because of their constant exposure to the media and marketing, their desires and wants change from one fad to another almost instantaneously and always at the most inopportune time.  Of course, one can always go the route of buying them clothes (they grow up so fast, don’t they?), but before one resorts to this consider these “kid tested Techerator approved” gift ideas first.

The Wii U (or a Nintendo 3DS)

Nintendo is always a good contender for kids and families alike during the holiday season and this year is no different.  This time around, they have the new Wii U gaming console (with oodles and oodles of new games) as well as their portable 3DS platform for kid gaming on the go.  For a good source of family fun this season, consider getting the Wii U and show your kids how a true Mario fan saves the princess.  For some peace and quiet on the drive back from the holiday celebrations with relatives, consider the Nintendo 3DS instead with its own kid-friendly game offerings.

Kindle Fire (or an iPad mini or a LeapFrog LeapPad)

It is not hard to see that the world is catching on to portable tablets like a moth to a LED-powered flame.  The younger generation is no different.  Granted, there are quite a few options out there to consider this holiday season (each one with their own pros and cons), but here are a few recommendations.

At the low-end of the pricing spectrum is the $99 LeapFrog LeapPad with a simple user interface and plenty of educational apps for the budding minds you are cultivating.  For a mid-range tablet with full access to books, movies, and games, consider the $199 Kindle Fire by Amazon.  And finally, there is always the $329 iPad mini by Apple (if you’re having trouble deciding which table to get for your child, check out our helpful guide.).

Regardless of which one that is bought, the purchase of a tablet this holiday season should provide hours of blissful entertainment and learning (and your kid will like it too).

A Kid-safe digital camera

They come in pink

No matter the age, kids love participating in photographs.  So for this holiday season consider switching places with your child and let them take the pictures instead.  A good camera to look into buying is the Vtech Kidizoom Spin and Smile Digital Camera at $39.99.  It comes with a 2 megapixel camera, 4x zoom, and a plethora of special effects that can be applied to the pictures it takes.

Furbie

Don’t look now, but the Furbie is back.  Yes, after 14 years the Furbie is being re-released via the folks at Hasbro.  So what has changed this time around?  Well, according to the synopsis on the Amazon product page, the newest version of Furbie “…has A MIND OF ITS OWN.”  You can talk to it, tickle it, pet it, shake it (but not too hard), and play music to it.   Furby responds to all these interactions at first in its own proprietary language, but as time wears on it will start to learn English and respond appropriately (hence the “mind of its own” part).  Currently a Furby is going for $59.99 on Amazon.

Legos (or anything else non-technical)

Legos and Minecraft: a perfect union

So far, this article has presented some technological options for kids.  But what if one wants to remove technology from the equation?  Thankfully, there are plenty of imagination-molding toys and games out there that can provide the same level of engagement that a tablet or gaming console can.  So do your kid a favor and get their creativity flowing by buying them some Legos (and yes, they make Lego sets for girls).   The author recommends the Millenium Falcon Lego set (at $139) due to the fact that he never had one as a kid.

Conclusion

From tablets to Legos, the only reason why you’d have to resort to buying socks and underwear this holiday season for the kids on your list is if they desperately need them.

Images courtesy: faseextra, ohnogc, Gareth Courage, Liz@rt, Apple, Amazon, LeapFrog, and Lego

Game review: Eufloria HD is a relaxing, ambient strategy game

When most people think about strategy games, they probably imagine scenarios pitting orcs against humans, or the U.S. versus the U.S.S.R, or maybe the Vasari versus the Advent. What they probably don’t think of is space battles between rival groups of plants, but that’s the premise of Eufloria HD, a real-time strategy(RTS) game recently ported to iOS from the PC platform.

The idea sounds like it would be goofy and over-the-top, something in the vein of Plants-vs-Zombies, but by using a minimalistic, pastel themed design and a subtle plot, indie developers Alex May, Rudolf Kremers, and Brian Grainger created a game that’s artful and relaxing.

Gameplay

Eufloria’s strategy elements are straightforward, making it a good option for players who are new to the RTS genre. In each level of the game, the player is put in control of a home-base asteroid inhabited by seedlings. These seedlings can be used to create trees that in turn produce more seedlings or to do battle against the seedlings of other asteroids.

The goal of most levels is to take control of the asteroids in the area by defeating rival seedling groups. There are a few levels that switch this formula up by requiring you to protect specific asteroids or produce a certain number of seedlings, but there’s not much variance in gameplay and it’s one of the few criticisms I have of the game. There were very few scenarios that couldn’t be won by just producing a large army of seedlings and overwhelming the enemy.

The Wonder of Life
“The human reproductive cycle” or “Seedlings at war”

There are a few variants of defensive trees and offensive seedlings that can be produced but they don’t have a tremendous effect on the course of the game and in many cases can be ignored. For those that aren’t fans of the sometimes overwhelming number of upgrade options found in more complex strategy games like Command & Conquer this is probably a plus.

At times I found myself missing that type of gameplay depth, but paired with the simple aesthetics of the game the limited options seem to fit. This is a game that you can relax with and not worry so much about the repercussions of the technology research path you chose for your army.

Eufloria contains both a story mode and a skirmish(challenge) mode. Progress in the game’s story unlocks new skirmish challenges. These skirmish levels add replay value to the game and in some cases a little more challenge for those who are looking for it.

Availability & pricing

Eufloria HD is available on both iPhone and iPad through the App Store for $4.99  and the PC for $14.99 through Steam. It is also part of Humble Bundle 4 for Android with pre-release versions available for Android, Mac, and Linux.

Final thoughts

Although the strategy is basic, Eufloria ultimately won me over due to how well the touch interface was implemented – it’s intuitive and fun to use. It’s also a rare type of strategy game that’s easy to jump into and out of, letting you relax on the couch without having to commit to an extended play-session.

I’m honestly not a fan of the game on the PC. There are just too many better, more interesting options like Starcraft if I’m going to be sitting at a desk, but it works well as a touch/mobile game and that’s the platform I would recommend to anyone who’s interested in taking the plunge.

How technology companies are improving voice recognition software

While voice recognition software has certainly improved in the two decades, it hasn’t exactly been the blockbuster tech that Ray Kurzweil predicted. My first experiments with the technology were playing around with Microsoft’s Speech API (circa Windows 95) and early versions of Dragon Naturally Speaking. Both were interesting as “toys” but didn’t work well enough for me to put them to practical use.

Seriously, everything I tell a computer turns into something like this.
Seriously, everything I tell a computer turns into something like this.

Since then, I’ve tried out new voice recognition software every few years and always came away thinking “Well, it’s better. But it’s still not very good.” For fans of the technology, it’s been a slow journey of disappointment. The engineering problems in building practical voice systems turned out to be much harder than anyone thought they’d be.

Human languages don’t follow the strict rules and grammar of programming languages and computer scientists have struggled to build software that can match the intention of someone’s speech to a query or action that can be accurately processed by software. Building code that understands “What is the best way to make bacon?” (Answer: in the oven, just saying.) in the countless number of ways a human might ask the question has been challenging.

Collect ALL the data

One of the tactics used by software engineers to figure out how to handle varied types of input is to build a database of potential input (in this case, human speech) and try to find common threads and patterns. It’s a bit of a brute-force approach, but helps engineers understand what types of input they need to build code for and in cases of similar input, helps reduce the overall code needed.

If you can code your software to know that questions like “What’s it going to be like outside tomorrow?” and “What’s the weather supposed to do?” are both questions about the weather forecast, processing human speech becomes a little easier. Obviously you wouldn’t want to (or even be able to) build code for every possible input, but this approach does give you a good base to build from.

In the past, capturing the volume of data needed to do a thorough analysis of speech wasn’t really an option for voice recognition researchers, cost being a major factor. It was simply too expensive to capture, store, and analyze a large enough sampling of voice data to push research forward.

Leveraging scale

Over the last few years, lowered costs of storage and computing power paired with a much larger population of internet users has made this type of data collection a lot cheaper and easier. In the case of Google (and to some extent Apple), features like Voice Search probably weren’t initially intended to be products in and of themselves, but capture points for the company to collect and analyze voice data so that they could improve future products.

Analysis of a massive database of voice data paired with what are likely some very smart algorithms helped Google build their latest update to Voice Search. For the more scientifically minded, Google’s research site has a lot of interesting information on this analysis work. And as you can see from the video, the results are impressive.

Welcome to the future

For people who have been following voice recognition, the recent uptick in progress is very exciting. Now that the field has gained some momentum, development will likely advance at a rapid pace. The “teaching” component of these systems will improve, enabling them to decipher natural language without human help and more products will include voice interfaces. It’s been a long time coming, but it’s finally starting to feel like the future.

What Nintendo must do to make the upcoming Wii U game console a success

Winter 2012 will see the global release of Nintendo’s brand new games console, the Wii U, just in time for the holiday season. As the first TV adverts have been careful to point out, the Wii U is a completely new console, and not just an upgrade to the Wii.

The Wii U comes with a brand new gamepad, which incorporates a large touchscreen display, allowing for a new kind of multiplayer gaming known as asymmetric play.

Asymmetric play allows one player to interact with a game world (thanks to the personal touchscreen) in a different way to the players who are using the TV screen. This provides plenty of potential for chase or hide and seek game scenarios, and gives developers a whole new range of options.

Asymmetric Gaming on the Wii U
Asymmetric Gaming on the Wii U

The success of the Wii U is not guaranteed. Hardcore gamers have already spent months arguing as to whether the Wii U represents the first of a new generation of consoles, or is simply Nintendo catching up with Sony and Microsoft. Here are six things that I, as a long-term Nintendo fan, think that Nintendo must do to increase their chances of success:

1. Remember the hardcore gamers

Nintendo took a lot of criticism for “abandoning” hardcore gamers during the life of the Wii. The Wii gained so much momentum as a casual console that hardcore games often complained that games had become too easy, and that they missed the serious challenges of the Zeldas and Metroids that had gone before.

Nintendo needs to remember the gamers who have supported the company since the 80s, as these are the potential early adopters who will tell the non-gamers how great the new console is.

However, at the same time, Nintendo should also….

2. Remember the casual gamers

OK, so the first two points may seem contradictory, but Nintendo must also make sure that they hang on to the same Wii Sports / Just Dance / Wii Fit market that they cornered so beautifully with the Wii.

If the casual market takes to the Wii U, it allows Nintendo to steal a march on Microsoft and Sony before they release the Xbox 720 and PlayStation 4 respectively.

3. Keep Advertising

TV advertising played a huge part in the success of the Wii, and will be even more important for the Wii U. Potential buyers need to understand that they are looking at a new system – something that won’t be helped by the fact that it looks a lot like the original Wii and supports the original Wii Remotes and “nun-chucks.” Nintendo will have to ignore the hardcore gamers’ inevitable complaints about “lame” adverts and stick to making sure the casual market understand the Wii U.

4. Keep the Marios, Zeldas and Metroids coming

Gamers are a fickle bunch. One minute they complain that they want more Mario, then Nintendo brings New Super Mario Bros U out within months of New Super Mario Bros 2 on the 3DS and they complain that they are seeing too much 2D Mario.

Nintendo should pay no attention – these characters sell consoles, as was demonstrated by the huge surge in 3DS sales when Super Mario 3D Land was released. Nintendo need to keep more of these titles flooding onto the market.

5. Be generous with retro

Nintendo has a rich and highly enviable back catalog. They need to make sure people download these games by publicizing them well and charging a fair and attractive price. Many Wii users have never been near the Virtual Console – they are perhaps unaware of all the classic games within, or put off by their arguably high price. Nintendo have already made vast sums from these games – it’s time to pile them high and sell them cheap.

6. Take online seriously

The Wii U is Nintendo’s last chance to get online right, and the signs are good that the console is going to make a far from half-hearted attempt. We need online modes in all the first-party games and attractive downloadable content. Mario Kart for the Wii U with downloadable track packs and extra cups would make Nintendo a fortune.

What do Nintendo need to do to make you buy a Wii U? Let me know in the comments.

Game review: Letterpress is an addictive word game crippled by Game Center glitches

The rise of touch-based gaming has brought on a lot of interesting takes on old games as well as completely new gaming ideas, but browsing through Apple’s App Store for word games, there are really only four options: Scrabble, crossword puzzles, hangman, and the various clones of each. Even the popular Words With Friends is just a better implementation of Scrabble than the official Scrabble app.

It’s not a category where you’ll find much innovation other than developers pushing the limit on how many descriptors they can cram into the name of their game or social network sharing buttons they can wedge into the game interface.

Honestly, who isn’t excited about “Angry Chicken Halloween Edition Phrase Friend Sharing Fun Time HD Free” that shares every word you play with all your buddies on Friendster?

For those of us who’ve been disappointed by the sorry state of iOS word games, there’s a new game to get excited about. Letterpress by atebits, is an addictive word game that brings freshness to the category by focusing on simplicity and pushing strategy to the forefront.

A minimalist game
Image Credit: atebits

Gameplay

For Letterpress, atebits went back to the basics and built a stripped-down game that’s similar to Scrabble in concept, but plays much differently in practice.

Players are presented with a 5-by-5 tiled game board from which they must assemble words in order to take control of tiles. Points are awarded for each claimed tile, but unlike Scrabble, tiles can be stolen, subtracting from the opposing player’s score. You can protect tiles you’ve claimed by also capturing the surrounding tiles. The opposing player can still use your protected tiles during their turn, but those tiles don’t award them any points and aren’t shifted to their control.

This back-and-forth, tile stealing dynamic adds a layer of strategy to the game that levels the playing field between players with differing levels of vocabulary and helps prevent the one-sided play that sometimes occurs in Scrabble. If you’re someone who normally doesn’t fair well at word games, it’s entirely possible to win Letterpress with strategy alone.

So Ugly.
So Ugly. ™

Matchmaking for Letterpress is done via Apple’s Game Center, and so far this has been the source of most complaints about the game in App Store reviews. During peak playing times, submitting a turn or trying to start a new game will often result in a time-out error. This issue seems to have lessened somewhat since the game’s release but still occurs often.

The glitches aren’t enough to completely spoil the fun of the game, but it is annoying to sometimes have to wait until the morning after you submitted a turn to know if it actually made it through Apple’s servers.

Another personal quibble, although minor, is the game’s icon, which is perhaps the ugliest app icon ever created and seems out-of-place given the rest of the game’s clean visual style.

Availability & pricing

Letterpress is available on iOS devices running version 5.0 or newer. The game is free but requires a $0.99 upgrade if you want to have more than two games going at once or additional color themes.

Final thoughts

When Apple launched Game Center in the fall of 2010 the consumer response was fairly lackluster. The app had an ugly, skeuomorphic design that mimicked a felt card table – something many iOS users have never even seen. There wasn’t an easy way to get your Facebook or Twitter contacts into the app and once you actually had some contacts loaded, there really wasn’t much else you could do.

Needless to say, developers haven’t exactly flocked to Game Center, opting to build their own matchmaking services or leveraging third-party options like OpenFeint. Choosing to tightly integrate Letterpress with Game Center was a risk for atebits that will hopefully be rewarded as Apple builds up the underlying infrastructure for Game Center to handle the popularity of the game.

Game review: Super Hexagon requires your full attention and brain capacity

Many of the best video games are immersive. They pull us in, disconnect our brains from the real world, and let us pretend, at least for a while, that we are wizards, superheroes, or Italian plumbers.

Some game-makers achieve this effect by using fancy graphics or creating expansive, complex environments. Others, like Terry Cavanagh (who also created the excellent VVVVVV), skip all the fluff and just go straight to work rewiring your brain.

Cavanagh’s new game, Super Hexagon, forcefully pulls you from the real world by requiring your full attention and brain capacity.

Super Hexagon

Gameplay

The premise of Super Hexagon is simple; so simple, in fact, that it’s difficult to categorize. Cavanagh has labeled it as an action game, but that doesn’t really seem to fit. It’s more of a twitch-maze-dungeon-runner.

Your mission is to avoid the walls of a moving, hexagon-shaped maze. Success is measured by how long you survive. Sounds simple, right? Just watch the game trailer:

When you first start playing, it seems impossible. My first attempt lasted only 2.26 seconds. The next several attempts weren’t much better. After days of playing, I’m finally up to 25 seconds on Hard mode, the lowest difficulty level.

Acknowledging that the game isn’t easy seems to be Cavanagh extending an olive branch to gamer egos. Easy, Medium, and Hard modes have been replaced with Hard, Harder, & Hardest (Hexagon, Hexagoner, & Hexagonest respectively). Three increased difficulty modes are available via unlocks.

There is a balance to the difficulty. Super Hexagon is tuned to allow for small improvements that help you feel that you are getting better versus just bashing your head against a wall. I also found that the less I thought about my moves and tried to anticipate incoming walls, the better I performed.

This is where the immersion part comes in. While playing around the 10 second mark, I usually start to feel a sort of twich-zen clear out my mind. It’s a really odd feeling that reminds me a lot of my days playing Quake 3 Team Arena, when I’d hit “the zone” that unlocked seemingly inhuman speed and accuracy by filtering out everything but the dot of my scope and players’ heads.

An excellent chiptune soundtrack helps round out the immersive effect and matches the game perfectly.

Availability & pricing

Super Hexagon is available on iOS devices for $2.99 through the App Store. PC and Mac versions are in the works with a possible Android port.

Final thoughts

“In my day, video games were hard. They required skill. They required chutzpah. They required finely-tuned reflexes and hand-eye coordination. You kids, with your plants and your zombies and your fancy hats – you don’t know games. You’re too soft.”

– Me, as I hit “Try Again” for the thousandth time.