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Hexcells Plus Review

Hexcells Plus Review

Over simplifying things to the point of meaninglessness, there’s roughly speaking three kinds of puzzle games. There are your conundrum style brain teasers, like the acclaimed Professor Layton games, that offer more IQ challenging sorts of puzzles that you could easily look up in a walkthrough but refuse to because your pride’s on the line. Next, you have your “action-arcadey” type puzzlers where you have to make a lot of small decisions really fast, such as Tetris or Dr. Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine. Finally you have the third kind, the “hit your head against a brick wall until it falls over” sort of puzzle where a smart person could possibly figure it out in a couple of minutes but basically any idiot can grind their way to the solution eventually. Think Sudoku or an actual jigsaw puzzle on this one, or alternatively you can think Hexcells.

Now, a grown up review at this point would probably explain the basic rules of Hexcells; something along the lines of “You start with a grid of hexagons and have to highlight and destroy them to clear the board, using numbers within the hexagons to determine how many adjacent hexagons need to be highlighted, and numbers outside the grid to determine how many hexagons are in that particular row or column.” However, this is the kind of review that mentions Dr. Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine in the opening paragraph with little justification, so let’s just go with “It’s like Minesweeper crossed with Picross”.



It’s difficult being put in a situation where you essentially have to review Minesweeper, something that’s little more than an irritatingly addictive timewaster. Hexcells does however contain properly designed puzzles as opposed to randomly generated stuff so there is generally a lot more thought put into it. Just the fact that the game uses hexagons and not squares bumps up the sophistication somewhat, even if flat hexagon grids do sometimes confuse the human brain into looking like 3D cubes which turns some of the larger puzzles into trying to fill out a crossword on one of those magic eye pictures.

Probably Hexcellsbiggest downfall is there are just too many little extra rules that don’t even seem consistent. For example, a number within dashes (-2-) means there are two hexagons in the adjacent spaces that need to be highlighted but they can’t all be in a row, and a number within curly brackets ({2}) means they have to be in a row. It’s already easy to get these confused, but the bigger problem with them is Hexcellsgrids aren’t always fully connected and there’s a lot of gaps and blank spaces, and the rules on whether blank spaces count as being part of a row seem to change from puzzle to puzzle which causes some frustrations.

The difficulty curve isn’t great either; Hexcells is mostly pretty easy until you get to the extra challenges in the Hexcells Plus add-on pack, but the tactic for making the puzzles more difficult seems to be “make them as visually confusing as possible”. Hexcells should probably take out the option to have the game windowed because some of the larger grids are pretty much impossible on anything less than a full screen resolution. Just like Picross some puzzles contain numbers outside the grid to show how many hexagons need to be highlighted, and on larger grids you’ll have dozens of them going sideways, vertically, diagonally and it all turns into a visual cluster fluster. This does NOT make the puzzles actually any more difficult or intellectually taxing, it just increases the time you spend initially circling the board looking for where to start and then you slowly grind your way through it like any other puzzle.


Just like Minesweeper, Hexcells does have an addictive quality to it but it’s kind of a numbing addiction like chewing the lid on your pen. It’s a good game to keep you occupied while listening to music or watching a slightly dull television show but hardcore puzzle fans will ultimately find it unengaging, and possibly frustrating when some of the bad design starts to show up. Despite not being randomly generated it still has that Minesweeper problem where occasionally you just have to guess what space to click and which one to avoid, and needless to say the less random guesswork involved in a puzzle game the better.

Ultimately, Hexcells is very cheap and pretty short. If you are the sort of person who accidentally wastes entire days playing Minesweeper or Solitaire then you’ll probably get into this and it’ll give you a much stronger sense of satisfaction than either of those things. However, anyone looking for an engaging intellectual experience will find this lacking; it inherits all the problems from Minesweeper and Picross but doesn’t fully capture either of their appeals. If you’re a fan of gentle puzzle games it’s worth a try, but don’t lose any sleep over it if you can’t be bothered.


6.00/10 6

Hexcells Plus

Game is enjoyable, outweighing the issues there may be.

Hexcells is a decent enough gentle puzzler, the kind of game you can chill out to music with. It’s somewhat let down by occasional bad design and confusing visuals however, but for the price anyone who likes this sort of thing won’t feel ripped off.

This game was supplied by the publisher or relevant PR company for the purposes of review


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