Hexement

Hexement is a combination of old classics turned on their heads. You battle against nature to help a world survive. Fire falls from the sky, earthquakes demolish your constructions and your water runs off into the abyss, taking all your points with it. Also includes level editor and fiercely strategic multiplayer.

The game begins with players raising and lowering land on a field, creating pockets of ground to flood with water, which in turn invites animals to swim in the pools created. Meanwhile, fireballs rock the screen and threaten the stability of the terrain, breaking dams and gushing water over the edge. I could be describing Zed Two's Wetrix, an innovative water-based puzzle game first appearing on the Nintendo 64, but this is Hexement, a somewhat similar playing game for the Xbox 360. Yet, despite risking instant dismissal as a mere clone, Hexement manages to surpass its apparent inspiration with better graphics and more enjoyable gameplay changes which makes it the water-based puzzle game to beat (not that there are many challengers, of course).

I've never been much of a Wetrix fan, but I enjoy Hexement quite a bit, something I believe I owe to the game's more familiar hexagon grid, more interesting piece types, and a clearer sense of progress through the game. Players still are positioning falling tiles of land, water, and fire onto the ground below, but the clearly defined hexagons make placement more precise compared to the less defined field in Wetrix (as lakes obscure the checkboard pattern on the floor). Despite all of the terrain effects and combinations in Hexement, I like just having to focus on three pieces each with clearly defined roles: land to raise the ground to form lakes, water to score points by filling those lakes, and fire which forms volcanoes and acts as the game's villain. There's no annoying terrain sinking pieces as in Wetrix, and Hexement lacks its claustrophobic feel thanks to the large playing field which expands with each level, a plus for me as I find Wetrix too small and frantically paced with which to keep up. Hexement is far from a relaxing puzzle game, but I do feel like I have time to plan my moves, building my lakes and keeping the volcanoes away, which makes for a more satisfying experience.

Players receive pieces of terrain, queued up on the top-left of the screen, and must find a suitable place on the board for it. Since the goal of the game is to create and seal in bodies of water without allowing the water to run off the edge of the grid, players are encouraged to form pools by fencing in sections of the board with land to ready them for the water. Blue pieces dispense water to the earth and, if properly prepared, will promote the growth of forests on adjacent land tiles. Water itself is worth half a point, but trees make otherwise worthless land tiles worth a full point and, if the water is large and deep enough, fish and turtles will appear, swimming for an additional two and three points. Of course, things aren't that easy as players must keep fire tiles' destructive nature in check while keeping track of how the four elements play with one another. For example, land engulfed by flames can be put out by water or land, but dropping land on fire will produce rock, and if said rock hexagon is re-ignited, a volcano will form. Volcanoes and the flaming rocks they spew are the game's chief threat, wreaking havoc and spilling water over the edge, but players must also contend with earthquakes, triggered when one the ground is too uneven. While players are free to drop elemental tiles wherever they like, they must be conscious of the weight of the field, as building too much on one side can exceed the balance of the world.

Thankfully, the game provides six warning tilt beacons to show players problem spots while disaster and water meters track the other threats. The display tells the player everything he or she needs to know without cluttering up the screen and hiding the hexagon grid. The graphics are clean and pretty, a more natural take without any of the garishness of Wetrix, and a there's a real sense of harmony on screen when everything's going great that a Rubber Ducky and rainbow just don't convey as well. The Earth feels alive, Hexement guiding players through the birth of the world, soaring lava rocks and dead, dry ground make way for lush lands and clear blue pools. The starry space background looks fits the atmosphere well, the lights scattered about convincingly and with a dash of colored space dust for flavor. The wildlife may not be animated and the trees and volcanoes a bit angular, but the colors and detail throughout are excellent. I particularly loved seeing the figure of Atlas holding the land, a throwaway ornament which may be missed by many players but is no less appreciated. The chosen soundtrack suits the theme well, listenable without drawing attention away from the action, and the entire package is extremely well done.

Hexement offers a fair amount of options as well including multi-player and a custom scenario mode in which players can either save new creations or freeze frame a single player environment to be played later on. The multi-player game is a nice addition beyond the limited means to attack the competing player, requiring that players submerge a volcano on their property to get it to reappear on the opponent's land. The high score table is local only as the game was developed prior to the on-line score sharing and other indie game workarounds we enjoy today. Hexement provides a detailed tutorial including showing players exactly how the elements impact the tiles, and people can fiddle with around with the controls so that zooming in and out of the field and rotating the pieces are as effortless as possible. The game controls marvelously and gives players the freedom to spin the world around, identify troubled spots, and swiftly make the necessary fixes.

Hexement is a fantastic puzzle game. The sole negative, beyond a want of on-line multi-player and leaderboard, is its terrible name. There's a good bit of depth here thanks to the ability to create custom scenarios, and the single and multi-player games are wonderful. Though it may be viewed as little more than a clone, Seventh Gear Productions earns its applause for fixing Wetrix and delivering a satisfying puzzle game of its own.

★★★★★
March 2, 2011
April 11, 2009 | 240 points
Developer | Video | Download

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