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Honeycomb Beat (DS) artwork

Honeycomb Beat (DS) review

"When you’re done in Honeycomb Beat’s Puzzle Mode, you’re done. This is fine, except the only rewards are unlockable backgrounds. No hotties in bikinis, colorful fireworks, or even an exciting song to dance around to. At this point, I would even settle for a measly “Congratulations” screen."

I have a feeling that Nintendo is trying to say something about the intelligence of gamers. First they insulted my brain and kindly offered to retrain it. Then came the puzzles, with the especially devious Puzzle Quest masquerading as a finely crafted RPG. Sneaky devils. I thought that my head might finally be safe from tampering. After all, how could a game called Honeycomb Beat be anything but a music game? Foolish me. It’s a conspiracy I tell you.

In case your brain does need a little extra flexing, the puzzles of Honeycomb Beat offer a pretty decent workout. It’s incredibly easy to learn, with a breezy tutorial that will have you up and running in under two minutes. The playing field is a series of hexagonal tiles, each colored white on side and orange on the other. Click a tile and it flips over along with all adjacent tiles. Flip every tile to white and you win, which you probably assumed already, is easier said than done. Arrow tiles flip entire rows while other must be clicked numerous times. Last but not least, you are supposed to do it all in a set amount of moves.

At the core of Honeycomb Beat is Puzzle Mode. There are 20 areas to clear, with 10 stages on each level. For the mathematically challenged, that is an impressive 200 puzzles. As expected, some are so easy that a mentally impaired monkey could finish them, while others seem so impossible that you will swear the developers made some mistakes. If my experience is any indication, you should get cozy with the Restart button mighty quick. Realistically speaking, you can go over the suggested move count, but that’s like making up words for a crossword puzzle (which I am particularly good at). You can still do a little bragging, but you’ll always know what you did.

The puzzle selection screen is set up as an enormous grid. Completing a puzzle not only opens the next one in line, but all adjacent ones as well. So finishing 5-1 (area-stage) opens 5-2 and 6-1. Each area tends to concentrate on one style of puzzle. One area will focus on circular patterns while another piles on the arrow tiles. Unfortunately, the first few stages of each area always feel introductory. 9-10 may rack your brain, but then 10-1 is comparatively simple. With the way new puzzles are unlocked, you can run through Honeycomb Beat area by area or stage by stage. Either way, the level of difficulty is always an up and down wave instead of a smooth progression forward.

In games like Tetris and Bejeweled, you can always go back to top your high score. When you’re done in Honeycomb Beat’s Puzzle Mode, you’re done. This is fine, except the only rewards are unlockable backgrounds. No hotties in bikinis, colorful fireworks, or even an exciting song to dance around to. At this point, I would even settle for a measly “Congratulations” screen. Nope, we get backgrounds, which you probably won’t even notice 99% percent of the time. Hudson really went all out on this one. Since you can run through the grid as you please, there is almost no incentive to even bother completing all 200 puzzles. Well, I suppose there is the warm and fuzzy feeling of a job well done.

If you prefer fast-paced puzzles that test the reflexes as well as the mind, Evolution Mode is where you should go. In this nerve-racking mode, the puzzle is one gigantic tower of hexagons that rises from the bottom of the screen and doesn’t stop for anything. Keep the tower from reaching the top, or it’s all over. There are 10 stages in all, with each requiring a certain number of lines to clear. It’s easy enough to clear the first few lines, so you should find yourself impatiently waiting for the next ones to appear. Don’t get too cocky though, because the tower picks up speed. Sooner or later you’ll slip up and find yourself furiously flipping tiles in a panic, just hoping to get lucky as the tower closes in pixel by pixel.

I thought that Evolution Mode might give Honeycomb Beat the replay value that Puzzle Mode lacked. It might, if it weren’t so unbelievably difficult. Level 1 will challenge, Level 2 will frustrate, and Level 3 will have you praying for a miracle. And this is only after ten minutes of playing. That’s the trouble with Honeycomb Beat. Eventually you’ll hit a wall, with no good reason to get over it. While Honeycomb Beat certainly isn’t a bad little brain-teaser, it seems more interested in stumping you for brief periods of time instead of luring you back with addictive simplicity.

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Staff review by Brian Rowe (May 07, 2007)

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