Review: Hexcells

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It pains me to think there might be someone reading this right now who has never played Minesweeper, and not just because the thought makes me feel old. Minesweeper was a ubiquitous part of Windows for decades because it was such a simple yet engrossing logic puzzler. It wasn’t perfect, of course, since it occasionally required a little guesswork to complete. But that was a flaw that was bound to be corrected eventually in an evolution of the formula, and Hexcells is just that. By adding additional dimensions and features to its hand-crafted puzzles, Hexcells essentially perfects the logic puzzles we’ve been burning time on for so many years prior.

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Hexcells presents you with a board of orange hexagons, connected in all sorts of patterns. From the start a few of them may be grayed out with a number on them, which indicates how many of the hexagons connected to the grayed one need to be marked. Left-clicking marks a hexagon blue, while right-clicking grays out an unmarked hex and reveals its number. Using these numbers, you can logic out exactly where every marked hexagon is and proceed until every hex has been left- or right-clicked. Of course, as you proceed these configurations will only get more complex, and will even sprout some new features you might not be expecting.

It’s essentially Minesweeper, but without the random generation of our ancient friend. That does mean that your time with Hexcells is pretty much limited to its 30 static puzzles, but the trade-off is that there’s absolutely no guesswork to suffer through here. Every single level is designed to flow logically right from the start, and does so using all of the tools presented to the player. Not only will you need to keep track of the numbers on hexes, you’ll also need to consider how many marks are left to make in some puzzles. The six-sided configurations also lend themselves to new logical conclusions beyond the grids you might be used to.

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Then about halfway through the game, it begins introducing even more methods of puzzling out marks. You’ll get brackets on numbers that indicate marked hexes are connected, and dashed numbers that mean they’re separated. You’ll find more numbers outside of columns to show how many marks are contained within, and those get mixed with the brackets and dashes too. It gets complex enough that the game lets you click columns to show guide lines, or right-click their numbers to gray them out as a note that you’ve addressed them already. These little quality-of-life details make a big difference when you get to the monster logic marathons of the final puzzles, working your way around concentric circles and vast fields of hexes.

It’s all presented in an ultra-clean style that’s perfectly readable and accompanied by intensely pleasing sound effects and an ambient soundtrack. I’m a big fan of that style to begin with but really the impressive quality of the puzzles is what kept me gripped until I worked my way through all of them. Honestly I had intended to take only a quick look at the game, and an hour and forty minutes later I had perfected all the levels (thanks in part to the game giving you one free mistake per level). It was simply too good to stop playing, even as my brain was groaning at the sight of the bigger and badder puzzles. Not many puzzle games offer truly irresistible gameplay, but Hexcells does it effortlessly with a powerful command of logic and aesthetic.

One comment

  • I love this game and am thrilled to see it getting attention from others. It’s sequels are good, too, though I personally prefer the simplicity of the first game’s mechanics, as the sequels begin introducing all sorts of weird mechanics.

    Liked by 1 person

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