Platforms: Win, Mac
I’m sure someone somewhere has said this, but I wouldn’t even know where to start looking for the proper attribution: puzzle games are only as good as their instructions. While that might not be 100% true, when you’re talking about such a game with such a low cost, a lot of people aren’t going to look kindly on the first and most important puzzle being figuring out how things work. I almost wrote off Hexoscope entirely, because after reading the rules and playing the tutorial level, I still didn’t really understand how it worked.
The goal is simple enough – move the pieces around the board via swapping to connect the pink power source to the blue power receiver. The pieces can’t be rotated. But the tutorial level is wasted potential as it tells you what to do move by move, but it never really explains why you’re doing it or how the mechanics work. See, as you connect pieces to the power source, they also turn pink, and in doing so turn the pieces around them blue (more on that in a minute). What I didn’t get at first is that only blue pieces can be swapped with other blue pieces – the pieces with black backgrounds cannot be interacted with.
Once I figured that out, the game suddenly made sense. The chaos conditions – visible at the start of a level or at any time during by opening up the “Briefing” tab on the left – determine how many powered tiles are required to make an adjacent tile blue. You will also sometimes encounter static tiles (indicated by a thicker inner black border) that are unmoveable no matter what their power status is. Some reviewers complain about levels being randomly unwinnable without restarting, but it’s not something I encountered in my brief play time.
Hexoscope contains six paradigms, each with twelve levels, and offers a timed as well as an untimed mode for each. That’s quite a few puzzles for a dollar, and certainly more than enough game once you get it figured out. I really wish there were options to change the colors, rather than just adjust the brightness and contrast, but to be honest, I didn’t really expect it out of a budget title like this. It’s a clever enough puzzler, I just wish it hadn’t tried to make itself look smarter than it actually is.