Releasing under the name of Studio Goya, Nick Carney has designed one delightfully dense hex based puzzle game. A good visual puzzle game has clear, concise rules. And once you learn those rules, I expect the game to combine them in interesting ways that take a bit of thinking to tease of the solution. Lastly, when I finally figure out the solution, I want to feel like I have earned my clever solution and not have figure out some cheap trick to win.
Hex Two delivers on all these fronts. Puzzles are separated into seven different collections for you to work your way through. In every puzzle, you must clear out every block by landing on them. The rules for how to clear the blocks vary and some blocks will not need to be cleared and instead act as obstacles. Each new collection has one or two puzzles to introduce the new concept with a brief one or two sentence tutorial and then you are off to the races. The challenge and ultimate payoff comes from understanding the moveset rules and how you move about the space without leaving yourself in a position unable to finish the puzzle.
Concepts start simple: forcing players to think about if they want to jump one or two spaces, then introducing new blocks that can only be taken from one or two spaces respectively. Blocks are not limited to just how you move, but will also remove or add blocks, hide until jumped over for the first time, among several other neat ideas. In case you have trouble keeping track of the different rules for each block, the UI clearly marks which blocks are available to move to.
New collections don’t open until you have cleared the base puzzles in your current selection. This works well as each new collection is additive, introducing new concepts to the rules you already know and creatively combining them into a fresh set of puzzles. While not required to progress, each collection also has one or more challenge puzzle that will rigorously test your understanding of the rules you have been taught thus far. I have not solved all of them, but I can attest that they are dastardly but fair.
Each puzzle effectively has one solution - sometimes the route is different but it is essentially a mirror of the other approach. This may be simple, but allowed Carney to put in some more significant challenges toward the end of each collection knowing that the player is aided by only having to think through a reasonable number of approaches.
I have not fully completed every puzzle, but I have yet to come across anything that felt unfair. Indeed, each puzzle came with a satisfying “aha!” moment and I had a clear understanding of how I reached the solution. Though for players without as good of a visual memory, a “replay your solution” feature would make for a lovely addition.
If I had any cause for complaint, it is that I wish there was more variety in the music. The track provided works well as background noise, but I do not think I would seek it out otherwise.
Hex Two had a previous entry that I have not yet played, but appears to be filled with the same head scratching goodness of this current entry. I look forward to whatever Nick Carney produces next as I have been sold on his puzzle making ability.
Score: 4 out 5 (Recommended)
Hex Two was developed by Studio Goya. It is available on Steam for $4.89 until June 15.