“Hey, come look at this!” I yell at my lady, who is sitting across the room. She takes a look over my shoulder at my tiny iPhone screen for roughly sixty seconds – about three lives – before getting dizzy and having to leave. The thing is: I have some bad seasick vertigo as well (perpetual spinning and falling will do that to you), but I just can’t stop. This is Super Hexagon, the latest minimalist action game from indie god Terry Cavanagh.
I didn’t really know what it was when I bought it. I saw some weird screens that looked vaguely Tempest-ish. I knew that it was made by the same guy that made VVVVVV and the best parts of the Pirate Kart. I knew that @jennatar did the voice. I knew it was only 99 cents… for now. That, plus the tons of word-of-mouth hype it was getting on Twitter from all my game people friends made me splurge a little bit and download a copy while I was supposed to be working.
What I didn’t know before this moment was that it started as a Pirate Kart game and is free to play (in the non-Super form) on the internet.
So what is Super Hexagon? You control a tiny triangle that moves centrifugally left and right. You fall downwards (upwards?) and try to stay in the dark lanes, avoiding the lightly colored walls blazing past you. Every round begins with a simple spoken command: “Begin.” Then you dodge, left and right, spiraling down the drain at a faster and faster pace, knowing death is but a nanosecond away.
Every 10-15 seconds (if you survive), you advance a level, through “Point,” “Line,” “Triangle,” “Square,” “Pentagon,” and finally “Hexagon.” (Geometry!) You fall faster. Your movement patterns become more elaborate. You die. “Game Over,” she says. Over and over. A tap, and you start again. “Game Over.” Tap. Make it farther. Beat your top score. “Excellent,” she whispers in your ear. The blazing trance-y chiptunes bore a hole in your eardrums as you tap, lost in the sounds. Start again. Just one more game, you say to yourself. You get dizzy. You look up at the houses racing by, or the walls crawling away from you. You look back down into the abyss. You fall. An hour has passed. You beat your friend on the Game Center leaderboard. You try the harder level. You die. You realize there are four more levels EVEN HARDER than that one. You cry.
You pick it up and play again. You come to terms with the fast movement of your triangle. You get better, and better. You live ten seconds. You try again. This is Super Hexagon. The frenetic pace matches that of a speed run on Super Meat Boy, but the lives are even shorter. This is the game that you need on your iPhone. Forget Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP. Forget Hero Academy. Forget Infinity Blade. All you need are some pumping tunes, two thumbs, and reflexes faster than you’ve ever needed before. Twitch gaming at its finest… as long as you bring some Dramamine.