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The Hex (PC) artwork

The Hex (PC) review


"A Hexception from the norm"


A few years ago, I played Pony Island; a game I really liked, but couldnít write about why I liked it so much without ruining the game for anyone reading. Thatís kind of frowned upon. It was this weird concoction of meta-humour and industry satire that delighted in finding new and wonderful ways to contort your expectations. I recommended it then, and I recommend it now, but it was a real bastard to tiptoe around the spoilers while still trying to document enough about the game to produce a review of any worth.

And then Daniel Mullins -- one man developer, hater of reviewers Ė cropped back up with The Hex; a game very different from Pony Island in almost every way, but as equally difficult to talk about without inviting the reader to look behind the curtain. No easy rides for me, I guess.

The Hex, then, does nothing to hide its wanton attack on meta; it starts out in a bar frequented by six video game characters who are cast under immediate suspicion when the pubís patron receives a call informing him one of them is planning to commit a murder. This casts a heavy air of suspicion around the gathering, throwing them into whatís set up to be a really weird reimagining of And Then There Was One until the exact moment that stops being the case in a series of circumstances I shouldnít really talk about.



Man, this is going to be hard work.

With this murder in mind, The Hex starts cycling through the various characters, never really exonerating anyone, and showing that everyone has some kind of dark motive hidden away in their past theyíd probably rather keep hidden. Super Weasel Kid is a juxtaposition of platforming icons like Mario and Sonic who is initially given a simple task to undertake within the tavern. This slowly leads to a number of flashbacks and eventually an interactive slice of his life as a game protagonist.

Exploring Kidís background works better than it should, and thatís mainly down to how inventively subverted his series of simple platforming sections are presented. His is a familiar tale; his debut game being unpretentious and clean; full of blue skies and giggling clouds. The Hex recreates this, tasking you to complete a few of these platforming sections yourself, finding a clever way to work Steam user reviews into the body of the levels without them taking centre stage. The estimation is overwhelmingly positive; people consider Super Weasel Kid a defining staple of the platforming genre and a game synonymous with their childhood. The sequel isnít as well received with many not liking some of the new additions, such as a brawling system, or the attempts to make the game more rad rather than whimsical. Efforts to fix this are seen as selling out; slap-patch repairs and adjustments leading to a series of bugs and glitches that invite further ire from a once supportive fanbase.

The rise and fall of Super Weasel Kid is succinctly and creatively told, and presented in such a way that is instantly relatable to anyone unlucky enough to have suffered through the likes of Sonic í06. And therein likes Hexís biggest strength and weakness, both. It tries (and largely succeeds) in threading a narrative through the exploration of six different genres, but, in doing so, it has to explore six different genres under the umbrella of a single game. Does that make sense? I feel like Iím not making much sense. Let me try to explain:



Kidís tale works not only because of how innovatively itís told, but because it doesnít hang around long enough to wear out its welcome. With another five genres to cycle through and an intertwining narrative to present, The Hex doesnít always have the luxury of brevity. Sometimes, that doesnít matter. Perhaps the longest section is when the game takes apocalypse survival sims to task, taking a few well aimed digs at the likes of Rust and Fallout. But it doesnít often feel that long because it doesnít mire itself in the aspects it seeks to mock. In this case, the game it explores is unfinished, in what becomes a rather obvious send up of all those early access failures everyone gets stung by from time to time. Just as your time inside a world filled with crafting and turned-based combat starts to lose its sheen, game development is cancelled and the world is overtaken by the modding community, who insert cheat engines and subvert the plot however they see fit.

Itís clever; more or less everything The Hex does is an astute critique of infuriating video gaming practises; it picks on the constantly evolving meta functions of fighting games and MOBAS, which arduous player bases demand X gets nerfed and complain how Y is underpowered. It picks on targets as easy as DLC or ones as abstract as just how lonely and soul crushing game development can become. But sometimes that gets lost in the shuffle of trying to keep so many balls in the air at once. Sometimes, that gets lost in the most common pitfalls of satire.

For example, at one point The Hex seeks to make fun of JRPGs and their reliance on mindless grind and drawn-out cutscenes, and it achieves this by making you wade through mindless grind and drawn-out cutscenes. The JRPG stage certainly has its moments and contains a few clever shortcuts woven in to try and alleviate some grind and backtracking, and perhaps itís fair to suggest that these moments are a necessary evil of sorts. The Hex needs the occasional bit of down time to build up to the broken brilliance when it subverts something and goes a bit weird. Riffing on twitch streams, mimicking mini-games, hiding secrets among the code. It all conglomerates into one gloriously chaotic jumble thatís a hell of a lot more fun to play through than it is to write about.

3.5/5

EmP's avatar
Staff review by Gary Hartley (February 03, 2019)

Gary Hartley arbitrarily arrives, leaves a review for a game no one has heard of, then retreats to his 17th century castle in rural England to feed whatever lives in the moat and complain about you.

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hastypixels posted February 03, 2019:

Pony Island's puzzled got the better of my interest and patience, and not being a fan of the chaos hurt its chances of winning me over. I dig subversion under the right circumstances, but that is a perilously subjective tightrope to tread. The Hex sounds like it might fare better, though perhaps I'm just not as interested in works that exist solely to tear other works down.

Either way, good review. Tiptoeing around spoilers is never fun.
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Masters posted February 11, 2019:

^This.

Good job telling us about the game without telling us about the game. That ain't easy.

You're reviewing a bunch of games you can't fully talk about lately. I guess that sort of thing can keep a person sharp. Unlike say, not writing anything at all.

Also: another winning tagline! How long can he keep this up?

Also: another RotW win! How long can he keep this up?
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EmP posted February 11, 2019:

I'm probably putting as much effort into taglines ad I am entire reviews. At some point, the pun streak will end and I will be very sad.

Thanks for the comments, both. I really dig Mullin's stuff; it's satire, so it isn't always above just poking fun, but there's always a narrative twisted up and cleverly included. It was a tricky review to pick through, but I don;t think I left anything dangerously spoilery in there.

Appreciate the catch, Marc. Thanks both for reading.

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