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Honeycomb Beat Package Art
GENRE
Puzzle
DEVELOPER
Hudson Soft
PUBLISHER
Konami
LOCAL WIRELESS
MULTI-PLAY
No
Wi-Fi/GLOBAL ONLINE
MULTI-PLAY
No
MICROPHONE
No
BUY NOW AT

Honeycomb Beat

DS has fast become a storehouse for puzzlers. Hudsonís latest is a variant on Lights Out, but with hexagons instead of squares. The premise is simple: each puzzle is composed of two-sided hexagons, all with the same top color and bottom color; touch a hexagon, and it will flip, along with any adjacent hexagons; to complete the puzzle, simply flip all the hexagons to one solid color.

visuals

Like most puzzle games Honeycomb Beat sports a spare aesthetic. The menus are clean and easily navigable. Puzzles are displayed on the touch screen, while the top screen displays a visualization of your choice. You can choose from ten unlockable visualizations, which oddly enough, are effected only by the sound effect of flipping a hexagon and not by the music.

Displayed behind each puzzle is a wallpaper of your choice. Again, you have the choice of one of ten unlockable wallpapers, all of which look similar to Windows wallpapers. In addition, the game tracks your progress in the upper left corner of the top screen by bidding you a ďGood Luck!Ē whenever you begin a puzzle and by printing the coordinates of a hexagon whenever you flip one.

audio

When you first boot HB up, you are greeted by kosher lounge Muzak reminiscent of Hotel Dusk 215 or Clubhouse Games. This soothes you through the menus, until you begin playing; at which point, the music flips to, once again, your choice of six unlockable tracks. These run the gamut of Final Fantasy-inspired music, without the excellence, but still solid all around.

Unfortunately, a mere handful of sound effects rounds out the HB experience: one for menu selections, two for hexagon flips, two for the Retire/Retry menu, and the alarm to warn you of your failure. These sonic shortcomings would be more forgivable if it wasnít for the advertising that tries to pass HB off as a cool puzzle/music game.

gameplay

HB features a tutorial and two basic modes: Puzzle and Evolution. The tutorial is short and sweet, but can be skipped by any observant gamer. Puzzle Mode features 200 puzzles arrayed into a honeycomb of hexagons of 20 rows of 10 games each. You begin with the first puzzle (1-1) unlocked; once beaten, all adjacent hexagons open up; this includes the two below it (2-1 and 2-2) and the hexagon to its right (1-2). In this way, it is possible to unlock up to three new puzzles after completing a puzzle and to finish up the 200 puzzles in whatever order you so choose.

As described above, the premise of HB is to flip all the hexagons to one solid color, which happens to be white. The secondary color is one of ten primary colors of your choice, forming the fourth and final way HB can be customized. The first few puzzles in each row are generally easy and teach you the basic shape and strategy you will be using throughout the row.

Each puzzle has a set number of hexagon flips, which the game defines as beats. You must clear the stage within the allotted number of beats in order to get an excellent rating; to merely complete a puzzle, you have a leeway of up to ten more beats, plus the original allotted beats, before you will fail the puzzle. If youíve gone eight beats over the limit, an alarm will sound. Completing a puzzle will unlock the adjacent puzzles; however, an excellent rating is required for unlocking the various wallpapers and visualizations.

In addition to the basic hexagonal flipping design,HB features a few specialty panels placed on select hexagons. Vectors are panels that will cause the entire row of hexagons theyíre pointing along to flip -- this includes horizontal and diagonal vectors. A non-vector panel will merely flip the hexagon itís on and none of the adjacent hexagons. Count panels require a specified number of flips before the count lock will break and the hexagon itís on will flip; but even though the count panel wonít be flipped until the count lock is broken, any panel adjacent to it will be flipped as usual. It is important to note that any specialty panel will be effected if any adjacent hexagon to the one the panel is on is flipped.

Specialty panels can be either part of the puzzle or an item that must be dragged and dropped onto the hexagon of your choice. If an item, the specialty panels will be displayed on the left side of the touch screen along with the current stage number and the objective number of beats for an excellent rating. These items are always required to complete the puzzle for an excellent rating.

The overall difficulty of the puzzles can vary greatly; but by and large the first 100 are fairly easy and second 100 fairly difficult. Sometimes the difficulty can spike for no apparent reason, and you will be stuck for quite a few tries. Fortunately, you can retry any puzzle by tapping the restart conveniently located in the lower left hand corner of the touch screen -- you will be using it a lot.

Evolution Mode is an attempt to Tetrify (make like Tetris) HB. Starting on the first level and working your way up to the tenth, you must clear a row of hexagons by flipping them all white. Hexagons constantly push up from the bottom in randomly flipped patterns; you can either wait for them to rise or speed them upward by pressing a shoulder button or by touching Up in the lower left hand corner of the touch screen.

It is important to make sure you clear alternate rows at the top of the stack. Otherwise, if you clear the row beneath another, then that row will fall down on top of another row, but its hexagonal crenellations wonít mesh; the result is something like the teeth of zipper trying to connect end to end, rather than by alternating places. This leads to disconnected rows that can be difficult to clear, but useful under certain circumstances.

Once the hexagons reach the top, itís game over; and in keeping with the currently fashionable Brain Age, you efforts are rewarded with a brain rating. The game tracks your personal brain evolution as you get progressively get better and the overall ratings between the four save files on the cartridge. The higher levels of Evolution Mode feature specialty panels, while the lower levels do not. The Hu Bee (the Hudson mascot) panel is unique to Evolution Mode and is effectively an all clear, flipping all colored hexagons to white.

multiplayer

Unfortunately, HB is solo only, and the lack of multiplayer is its glaring weakness. Anyone can readily imagine a Vs. Evolution Mode involving cleared lines being dumped on your opponent, if not other inventive multiplayer offerings.

overall

It is hard to recommend HB wholeheartedly. It will appeal to puzzle fans immensely; but the lack of multiplayer and slow, abstract puzzle-solving will not be for most. In addition, the difficulty can spike all over the place, with a handful of easy puzzles completed in the first few tries followed by a brain-buster that takes 10-20 minutes. HB is not the type of game you sit down and beat right away in a few sittings; rather it is a thinking manís game best played on and off over the course of a month or two.

That said, HB is a unique, budget-priced puzzler with some devilishly clever designs. Hudson even enlisted the world renowned puzzle company, Nikoli, to design 20 of the 200 puzzles. HB is the type of sleeper that will be fondly remembered by those who have beaten it. Kudos should go to Hudson for their expanding portfolio. HB is just one of many which proves that DS is the Nintendo system worth owning right now.

final score 7.5/10





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Staff Avatar Abraham Walters
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"The cake is a lie."


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