The current-generation fascination with twin stick shooters may have lived and died with Geometry Wars many years ago, but the genre existed long before the now defunct Bizarre Creations put their hand to it and will do so long after. Hexodius is a new title that shows there is much more that can be accomplished simply by looking backwards.
Despite being several years Geometry Wars’ junior Hexodius does in fact relate much closer to the title which is considered by many to be the originator of this particular style of gameplay: Robotron. Enemies will follow you about the map but not unconditionally; they will get lost and become unattached from their deployment squads. The player can earn power-ups by collecting items on the battlefield and then spending the points that they earn and their success/failure is measured by number of lives and clearing enemy waves, not merely survival. It’s an old school design with a modern dressing, and that’s what makes it appealing.
The videogame features both Story Mode and Arcade gameplay components, the former of which offers the player basic training before engaging in any truly challenging action. The story is largely superfluous, delivered through a one-sided text-only conversation with a robot who makes an attempt to carry the humour from Valve’s critically acclaimed Portal titles, and yet doesn’t quite pull it off. The player progresses through the mode by accessing shops, checkpoints and new action challenges via hexagons on a map, with each new level ramping up the difficulty significantly. Hexodius’ Story Mode may start fairly gently, but it’s not long before it becomes a noteworthy challenge.
The Arcade mode is more about the immediacy of the action, but still allows you to tailor the experience with power-ups. Just as in the Story Mode, players can equip up to four different power-ups before going into battle, and these power-ups will become available after an increasing amount of time for each. Ranging from a temporary turret to accelerating your rate of fire, these power-ups can be very useful in both gameplay modes, but here in the Arcade mode they can significantly improve your high score run. See, while the Story Mode presents altering challenges for you to complete without loosing your allotted lives, Arcade is set to a time limit within which you need to work through as many waves as possible. If you get hit the penalty is time, but there is no limit to the amount you can get hit.
Hexodius is unimpressive from a technical standpoint, but by the same regard it does very little wrong. Clean and crisp but utterly uninspiring, the science-fiction schlock plays host to the gameplay and nothing more. The same could be said of the soundtrack; while far from offensive its predictable videogame accompaniment that never really dares to push against the preconceived boundaries.
A fun experience that ignored the constant desire to overcomplicate matters, Hexodius is both enjoyable and forgettable. It’s a bite-sized videogame to play between other, bigger titles, and when taken on-board with such expectation will never be anything less than value for money. There’s still a lot of room for the twin stick shooter to grow, but with Geometry Wars standing at one end of the console generation and Hexodius marking the other, it’s a clear indication of what can be achieved with different ideas and influences coming together.