Title           Hex
Game Type       Puzzle
Company         Mark of the Unicorn, Inc.
Players         1
Compatibility   All (crashes often on exit with later Kickstarts)
HD Installable  Yes (when on-disk protection is removed - trivial)
Submission      Hidehiko Ogata Profiled Reviewer (hog@aqu.bekkoame.ne.jp)

Anyone for a turn-based Q*bert?

You know how it is in the early days of a platform; the high demand for
new software is mostly met with re-implementations of old ideas, while
programmers learn the ropes of their new wonder box. Many end up as
drecks; some as enhanced, if a bit too straight ports. Once in a while,
however, a selected few come out with neat new angles to shine on their
own. Hex (Mark of the Unicorn, '86) was such a gem, originally for the
Atari ST (I believe), ported to the Amiga soon after.

One might argue that suspending the flow of Q*bert would be a blatant
cheat - "OF COURSE I can get the colours right with enough time!" - but
hang on; the designer Stephen Linhart had something ingenious up his

The goal of the game remains the same: hop on to cascading tiles (which
are now hexagons as you must have guessed) and flip them all into the same
target colour. You face just one or two opponents in a level, who won't
"kill" you by touch, but try to flip tiles to their target colour
instead. What's more, adjacent tiles in the same colour become "locked"
together, and thereafter won't change their colour until all of them are
stepped on. This simple rule wonderfully transcends Hex from a potential
mindless hopping race into a bizarre strategic game of territory - or
Go on a trip, sort of.

Then there's magic. After each successful level you can learn one spell.
It comes in many flavors and to various effects and target areas, ranging
from the harmless multi-hop to the devastating random flips all over the
playfield. Here the game takes a little tinge of RPG: your power and
capacity of magic grows with victories, or withers with losses. Lose too
many levels and say goodbye to all your magic capacity, you are
vanquished. Your ultimate goal is to conquer all 120 levels against 12
opponents with various powers and temperaments.

If the magic system helps to open things up, it is also what lets the game
down in the end. The earlier levels open quite promisingly as a joyful and
laid-back mixture of chance and logic, with that elusive drive "to have
just one more go". It can be so much fun to learn and anticipate each
opponent's distinctive tactics, then to see a harmonious pattern emerge
out of mayhem, accompanied by the the haphazard pseudo-canon played with
each contestant's footsteps.

Too bad then, that the abundance of powerful spells in later levels (like
taking over opponents' control for several turns) starts to overwhelm
the game balance at about midway on, until it boils down to what is
essentially a big spell shouting match. Such was typical of so many
earlier titles - when the basic premise was worn out, they had little else
to offer - yet it was okay for practice, at the time.

On the technical front, one shouldn't expect much. Played on a 16-color
lo-res screen, with adequate software sprites and bleep-fweep sounds, it
has all the evidence of an early ST port. I for one couldn't care less
- the contents overcome the games's looks for once, which delights me no
end. The game also echoes another fad of the 'infatuation with the
mouse' era, yet thankfully it does not suffer from it - on the contrary,
the control is nigh-on ideal. Playing Q*bert with a mouse... who would
have thought such a thing possible?

In short: a nice little thinking-persons' action puzzler while it lasts -
in the charming experimental spirit of 16/32-bit platforms' primordial era.

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