Played on Windows.
Also Available on Mac and Linux.
Disclaimer (Review copy) at the end
I knew when I heard about The Hex, I was going to have trouble reviewing it. The Hex is the latest game by Daniel Mullins Games, the same developer of Pony Island. Pony Island itself is a strange game that is hard to describe without giving it away. So the first question I had was would I have a similar problem with The Hex? Of course, the answer was yes.
The Hex revolves around a small inn known as the Six Pints Inn where a murder is about to take place and it’s up to the player to discover what’s going on. While this sounds like a setup to a 90s adventure game, it’s far from it. The game revolves around the six characters in the Inn, each character from their own video game series.
The game starts with a telephone call, the Innkeep hears there is about to be a murder at the Inn. He calls one of the guests, a weasel wearing jeans and red shoes named simply Weasel Kid. He’s clearly based on a certain mascot from Sega, that I recently reviewed a game of. He asks him to retrieve a key from a room, which ends up causing him to fall through the floorboards. This sends Weasel Kid into a flashback of his life as a video game character, which means through the history of his games.
From there The Hex starts as a very well executed spoof of Sonic games in general, showing three different versions of the games that made Weasel Kid popular. Each game extends the story while delivering gameplay but intwines the story with each game.
I hesitate to say much more in regards to the story, because while there is a wealth of gameplay in The Hex, the pull of the game is to experience the story, and over the next six hours, you’ll meet each of the six characters in the Inn, and learn far more about them and the games that they came from.
What’s brilliant with The Hex is the skillful way the game develops each character while avoiding isolating them in a single section. The story of The Hex didn’t just pull me in, I was wrapped in it by the end and I had to know more.
Many developers take a complex narrative as an excuse to leave pieces of the game out or end up confusing the player and expecting them to dig deeper or replay the game multiple times to pick up the necessary narrative elements from each area. It’s something that has always bothered me when playing quite a few games claiming to have complex elements to the storylines.
However, I feel like The Hex avoids that level of complexity, and delivers its ideas and rational effectively. The Hex allows the player to understand the game with relative ease. I was actually surprised that I didn’t feel the need to go research the story or ask others questions about the plot to feel like I “got it”. I still went to discuss it more, but I understood all the major pieces of the narrative by the end of the game, and I also enjoyed the story every step of the way, even when it confused or dazzled me.
The text doesn’t wait for input, but just pay attention to it and it’ll be fine.
That’s not to say the entire story is on the main path. There is a decent amount of content for the player who wants to dig deeper and find more. There are a number of pieces of the story that can be picked at for days if the player wishes, secrets and … well, let’s just say true fans who dig far deeper than I have found quite a bit of depth beyond just the well executed and presented story.
Of course, if the game segments connecting the story isn’t done well, what’s the point. The Hex breaks a cardinal rule of video game design. You should design one game, rather than multiple games. It was a big flaw of Spore, and it’s something that held Spore back. It’s something many games have failed at.
Yet, I think I can give The Hex a pass for doing this. With the story being the major driving force of the game, the gameplay only needs to be acceptable to keep the player entertained and driving forward. The fact is The Hex does more than that. There are six characters, and while most have a specific game, their design is based on exploring their genres further, and work well because of it.
The games in The Hex are relatively simplistic. Super Weasel Boy doesn’t allow the player to die, though a couple of others in these games do eventually provide failure states. Each game is at most a puzzle or simple reaction tests, then a complete game. While I won’t spoil too much of anything else in the game, I do have to admit every game was fun, different and touched on something different.
The Hex is almost a “Developer game” meaning a game made for developers or other extreme fans of gaming as a whole. If someone has only played First Person Shooters, or only played Platformers, many of the joke, spoofs, and other genres that The Hex explores may become lost on the player, and that would be a shame because there are a number of very clever parts of the game that works well if you know what they’re referring to. Sadly this becomes the problem with in-jokes. They can be very funny if you know the reference, but odd and out of place if you don’t. While I don’t know if I would have a problem, a new gamer or someone who didn’t play different genres may struggle with this game.
It doesn’t show Steam Reviews after the first game, but man they are hilarious.
All the games and story of Hex have a similar graphical focus, and it all works well. It’s surprising how well The Hex’s similar art style works across so many genres, the same is true for much of the game. You always know you are playing The Hex, no matter which way The Hex turns. It’s well done, and while there are some minor cheats to these rules, the singular experience of The Hex is like nothing else.
I recommend anyone interested in The Hex to try to play it without getting spoiled even to what’s in the game, while I have spoken about the earliest part of the game, trust me when I say there is far more to discover and experience, and you should experience it through the game.
I have been overly positive about the Hex, but sadly I must bring this review back down to reality. While The Hex is good, there are a few potential issues with it.
The Hex is heavily focused on the story, this isn’t a flaw, but there are not many difficult parts of the game outside of a few challenging moments. If players are looking for unique gameplay, they might find it here, but the game challenges the player in ways other than a direct challenge. Players will be focused on enjoying the storytelling, or wondering what will come next.
Super Weasel Kid’s story is filled with a sudden decline in quality.
That’s not to say the game is lacking in interactive elements. There are tons of games in the Hex here, but the narrative is the core of the game, and the gameplay sections are limited at best.
The other problem is that between the six characters, a couple of their games seem to overstay their welcome. While I enjoyed much of the game, there’s a point where a couple of parts of the game seemed to drag on.
A good joke is all about timing, as is a spoof or parody. Too long and you’re just causing the user to do the same thing that you’re parodying, and too short and players won’t get it, or will get bored of it. A few parts of The Hex go on too long, and while there are interesting pieces of those sections, in hindsight, I might have cut down the length of those sections.
But The Hex still delivered a solid story and a unique experience. At the end of the day, I wanted something new, unique and refreshing. I wanted to see the next game by the developer who created Pony Island and ended up with something equally different. If you want something outside of your comfort zone or a game that challenges the player to think a little deeper, The Hex is it. Is it perfect? Sadly, no, but it’s wonderful all the same.
I give the Hex a
I highly recommend this game because of how special this game is. Try to go into the game as fresh as possible, and experience The Hex yourself.
Final Thoughts: If you enjoyed Pony Island, try the next game from the developer. This is a game that does a little of every genre and ends up with an enjoyable experience through the story instead of the game.
Stats: 8.8 hours played, 13/28 achievements earned
Disclaimer. I reached out to Daniel Mullins Games and asked for a review copy, they provided one. I’m grateful for the copy but I don’t believe it has affected my review. With that being said I feel it’s important to be clear about this and allow the reader to make their own opinion on it.