PUBLISHER: MS Game Studios
DEVELOPER: MS Game Studios
DATE RELEASED: November 22nd, 2005
NUMBER OF PLAYERS: 1
XBOX SYSTEM LINK: no
XBOX LIVE COMPATIBLE: yes
HDTV Support: Not Supported natively
5.1 Surround Sound: No
GENRE: Xbox Live Arcade/Puzzle
PLATFORM: Xbox 360
ESRB: E (Everyone)
Retail Price: Free with Xbox 360 Hard Drive
If you've purchased a Premium Xbox 360 console in the US or in Europe you've probably realized by now (or maybe not) that the Xbox 360 Hard Drive actually came pre-loaded with a full game; Hexic HD. While the Xbox 360 version might be most people's first experience with the Hexic franchise, Hexic HD is actually a re-release of the PC version of Hexic, "Hexic Deluxe". The Hexic franchise, while published and developed by MS Game Studios was actually created by the same man who brought the world Tetris, Alexey Pajitnov, who has been working for MS for several years now attempting to create new and unique puzzle games. Hexic is his latest and that alone should be enough to warrant giving it a try.
Hexic HD, like many other puzzle games is based around the matching and lining up of objects. While games like Tetris require you to line up blocks in a complete horizontal row, and games like Bejeweled require you to line up 3, 4, or 5 of a kind, Hexic puts a slightly different spin on the matching puzzle genre by requiring the player to match clusters of same colored, six sided gems. The Game is played by spinning clusters of 3 gems either clockwise or counter clockwise. The cluster will continue spinning until a same colored cluster is created or until it has made a full rotation. Once a same colored cluster is created the gems in that cluster disappear and the gems above the empty space fall straight down to fill the void and new gems will appear and fall from the top until the game board is completely filled again. If the falling gems happen to create another cluster in their resting place that cluster will disappear and the player will get a combo point. This process will repeat until there are no matching clusters left on the screen. Then the player may make another move. Unlike some simpler puzzle games Hexic has various special gems and combos that can be used to dramatically increase your score as well as the enjoyment of the game. Special gems, flower clusters, and Bombs are just some of the things you will be introduced to while playing.
Similar to the PC version, Hexic HD has 3 game modes: Marathon mode, where the game continues on until a bomb explodes or no clusters can be created. Timed mode, which includes a countdown timer. And a Survival mode, in which new gems do not fall from the top and the player must clear as many of the gems as possible.
Unlike the PC version Hexic HD has vastly improved graphics and sound, as well as the addition of Xbox Live leader-board ranking and the requisite Xbox 360 Achievements totaling to 200 GamerPoints.
While the game is called Hexic HD according to the official web-page on Xbox.com the game does not actually support HD resolutions natively. Regardless of whether that is true or not the Xbox 360 displays the game beautifully in all resolutions. The graphics are crisp and clear and much much nicer looking than the PC version. The style and smoothness of the graphics are reminiscent of Mac OSx and are smooth and jaggie free enough to make you wonder if perhaps they're vector based. The fluidity in which the gems rotate, fall, and disappear is just as pleasing. The game is simply beautiful by puzzle game standards and will be a welcome change from fans of the PC version.
The sound effects are just as crisp and clear as the graphics. Each type of combo makes its own particular sound so even if you triggered a fast paced string of combos you can easily determine what kind of combos are occurring from the sound queues alone. The Music in the game could be described as sort of an "easy listening Techno", it reminds me of a softer version of the Fight Club movie score. The music fades pleasantly in and out of conscienceless and provides the right blend of background noise and variety to keep you motivated without getting distracted or annoyed. And of course if you don't like the games normal music there is also support for custom soundtracks.
As with most puzzle games the gameplay and replay value is key and Hexic HD will not disappoint in this area either. With three game modes and the addition of Achievements and Leader-boards there's a lot here that will keep you coming back. The game itself drives you to get higher and higher scores, and combos but with the addition of the Achievements there are some concrete goals set to achieve X amount of points in Y mode, or to create a cluster using these specific gems, etc. Some of the achievements are based on actual skill but others can be accomplished by simply playing the game a lot, though good players will achieve those in a much shorter period of time. The leader-boards are also a very nice features. It's no fun simply competing against your own score on your PC but trying to beat out the others on your friends list or the Xbox Live members at large is a much more rewarding way to look at and try to better your score. There are enough players out there and a wide variety of Achievement difficulties to keep both casual players and Hexic Addicts coming back again and again.
One thing I felt was missing from this game was a few multiplayer modes. The Leader-board function is nice but being able to go head to head split screen, or over Xbox Live would have been the perfect icing on the cake for this game and pushed the replay value that much further. Maybe I'll have to wait it out for the inevitable knock off: Hexic Fighter... one can dream.
Another cool feature that differs from the PC version is that your games are automatically saved. I discovered this by accident when I was in the middle of a game in Timed mode and needed to leave. I shut down the console from the Xbox Guide. A few hours later I came back and decided to play a few games in Marathon mode. After the few games I went back to Timed mode and to my surprise It picked right back up where I left off hours and games earlier. Which is a good thing because some of your better games can last for quite a while (I've had single games last as long as 45 minutes, which is quite a long time by puzzle game standards).
In the end Hexic HD is the essential white stuff for puzzle game fans. The fact that a game of this caliber comes pre-loaded on Xbox Hard Drives should be a very welcome surprise to anyone who enjoys a good puzzle game. The graphics and sound are top notch by puzzle game standards. The fact that the game supposedly doesn't support HD resolutions is a moot point considering how good they look after being scaled by the Xbox 360. Sound and Music is crisp clear and beautifully done, however 5.1 would have been a nice addition. There's load of replay value but no multiplayer modes, which was a bit of a let down. The Leader-board feature makes up for that a little. The Achievements have a great mix of challenge types and difficulty, and there is enough single player modes and challenges to keep you coming back for more.
Overall I give Hexic HD a score of 8.5/10
Edited by twistedsymphony, 09 December 2005 - 01:06 AM.