Thursday, 8 March 2012
It's hard to believe that it was only a couple of years ago that Terry Cavanagh released his gravity-shifting platformer VVVVVV. Captain Viridian's epic adventure seems such an integral part of the indie community that he, much like Terry himself, has now become something of an icon. Which is why it is particularly heart-warming that despite the game's commercial success (with VVVVVV now being available to buy on a variety of platforms), Terry still has time to contribute back to the freeware scene that nurtured his beginnings - even if it is only for one day. And one day is exactly all that it took to create Hexagon, Terry's contribution to the GDC-bound 'Pirate Kart V'.
Looking back at VVVVVV, many will recall one particular intermission scene involving a brutal test of endurance, memory and skill; The Gravitron. Encountered by the player after the fourth level of the game, poor old Viridian ends up trapped inside this evil contraption, repeatedly bouncing off the wall and ceiling, attempting to survive for sixty seconds whilst wave after wave of deadly projectiles are fired at him from either side of the screen. For some, that minute seems like forever and it's often complained about as being one of the most difficult obstacles in the game to overcome. Of course - on the other side of the spectrum - for some, the Gravitron with it's set length and fixed patterns was not enough. So for the hardcore few foolhardy enough to attempt to outlast eternity within those gravity-reversing walls, Terry included an unlockable 'Super Gravitron', an endless mini-game that is both insanely hard and additive in equal measure - and Hexagon, with it's dizziness-inducing rotating perspective, primitive geometric design and incredible difficulty plays much like its evil, LSD-fuelled successor.
With only the left and right keys at your disposal, you move your small triangular avatar around a shrinking hexagonal core to avoid the oncoming barriers while the field of play pulsates and twists to the rhythm of a harsh, speaker-buzzing Gameboy soundtrack. You progress through levels named after geometric objects, starting out at Point, then onto Line, Triangle, Square and so on, with each stage lasting ten seconds (fifteen seconds for the last two) until you reach level six, the titular Hexagon. This final level acts as a survival mode (much like The Super Gravitron), and as the game keeps a record of your highest score it offers an opportunity to battle against your previous attempts (or even a competitors) as a high score challenge.
While Hexagon is simple in concept, trying to reach that one minute landmark can be extremely testing, much like Super Gravitron before it. The randomly generated obstacles, sudden shifts in direction and Chipzel's thumping chip music combined with the continuously pulsating hues of red, orange and yellow result in a game that could be compared to the mythical Polybius in terms of visual and mental strain. With your eyes focused on the rotating core as your lone triangle bobs left and right through the maze of deadly walls, it's only too easy to lose track of time - despite the fact that it's a game clearly designed to be played in short bursts.
Hexagon is by no means meant to be a conventional game and casual players may find it's difficulty immediately off-putting. However, as is the case with many of Terry's previous experimental games, there's a dedicated hardcore audience who'll absolutely love it.
Download the game here (from the Glorious Trainwrecks website).
Play the game online here (at the Distractionware site).