For a game that looks as simple and straightforward as Hexcells, there’s a surprising amount of entertainment to be derived from what is essentially a hex-based Minesweeper.
The rules of the game are very easy to pick up – cells begin as yellow, and your task is to uncover a hidden pattern of blue cells underneath. By right-clicking, you can flag a cell as not-blue which, if you’re correct in your guess, will reveal a tile with a number written on it. This number gives you information about how many nearby tiles are part of the pattern. It’s quite elegant, and if I had stopped there I would have almost called it mundane.
By the third set of puzzles, a new rule is added. Aside from the numbers that show up on tiles, numbers can now appear outside of the hexes, signifying the number of blue tiles in a particular row. The rule by itself is still simple. But what makes this game a fantastic little puzzler is that despite the incredibly easy to understand mechanics, a good amount of challenge is given to the player. Like Sudoku or other logic games, it’s actually the simplicity of the rules that creates an engaging experience.
Isolated, every puzzle feels manageable with just enough information given to the player in order to solve the pattern. It wasn’t until I got to the very last level that I realised just how complex things had become. I felt like the boiling frog. The time it took me to complete every level up until that point was how long it took me to finish the last. Was it awesome? Absolutely.
It sounds rudimentary when I say there are only four rules. The way those rules interact with one another though, that’s the cool part. Solving one corner might give you enough hints to jump to another, and by filling in one row, you can see how an entire section opens up. Coupled with the visual aesthetic of the game, Hexcells feels natural in the way it flows, leading the player from one edge of the screen to another.
How Short is Too Short?
I did have a couple of gripes though, one of which was the UI. I admit, the lack of an undo button is part of the charm; if you’re anything like me, you’ll have this inexplicably strong desire to get every single star, er, hex by completing everything with zero mistakes. What was distinctly missing, however, was a save button. For the earlier levels, this wasn’t a problem since the puzzles took me two minutes, maximum. But that final puzzle, level 29. Dear lord. I spent at least an hour on that thing, the last twenty minutes or so with someone poking me to eat dinner.
Maybe it was my paranoia, but I can’t just leave a game open on my computer without either saving or reaching a logical stopping point. What if my laptop spontaneously combusted while I was away? All that progress! Lost!
Aside from that, my only real complaint was that it’s too short. There are thirty levels split amongst six sets. For someone that’s really slow at logic games, I managed to finish in little over two hours. There is a standalone expansion that adds an additional thirty-six puzzles, and it costs as much as the original at $3.
It’s pocket change, and if you like a relaxing puzzler with a great, clean aesthetic, Hexcells is definitely something I would recommend. The problem convincing people to buy it, however, is that there are mobile titles that offer similar experiences that last longer and also cost less.
- Simple, but elegant mechanics
- Satisfyingly challenging puzzles
- Super relaxing
- Short, very short
- You can’t save progress on individual puzzles
- There are only three overall save slots (and this is a PC game)
OS: Windows XP or later
Memory: 2 GB RAM
Graphics: Shader Model 2.0+
Hard Drive: 60 MB available space