They say that it’s a fine line between love and hate. What does that mean? Nobody knows that. But it might explain why I ended up playing a game I don’t really like as much as one that warmed my cockles something silly.
I fully expected to love Super Hexagon. Reviews have been absurdly good, and it looks bloody wonderful, in a super-minimalist sort of way. But I’d argue that it’s impossible to love something this unrelentingly cold.
It’s very, very simple: you move your triangle around the central hexagon – clockwise or anticlockwise depending on which side of the screen you press – to avoid the lines coming at you. Let a line hit you, and you die. Retry, and you’re taunted with a cry of “AGAIN” from the game’s digital voice. That is the extent of the interaction.
It takes patience to get used to the overly twitchy controls, and you’re hardly encouraged to do so. I didn’t really want to, but the purity of the challenge meant I had to. Progress is incremental, but once it starts to click – and you start to memorise what’s going to come at you – it’s undeniably satisfying.
But it’s missing something. Gauge tries to distract you, laughs at you, pesters you; there’s a perverse sense of humour in the level design in 774 Deaths. Super Hexagon doesn’t even seem to enjoy your miserable failure – which sort of takes the fun out of it, doesn’t it?
And from quite the opposite corner of the App Store, the delightfully handmade – literally – Voyager. In Oh My! Me Studiosâ€™ own words, the game is “100% hand-crafted using needle-felted wool and stop-motion animated”. How great is that? It’s heart-warming that this game even exists.
The charm offensive continues when you play the thing. The tilt controls are nicely calibrated, and soaring up through the atmosphere and beyond into space is a gentle joy, seeing what oddity you’ll come across next. When you eventually crash, you’re consoled with some choice words of wisdom. But difficulty and challenge don’t really come into it; it’s a dreamy journey that’s enjoyable just to go on.
As a result, it’s not the most compelling game to return to. But look at it! It’s lovely.