Title Hex Game Type Puzzle Company Mark of the Unicorn, Inc. Players 1 Compatibility All (crashes often on exit with later Kickstarts) HD Installable Yes (when on-disk protection is removed - trivial) Submission Hidehiko Ogata Profiled Reviewer (firstname.lastname@example.org) Review Anyone for a turn-based Q*bert? You know how it is in the early days of a platform; the high demand for new software is mostly met with re-implementations of old ideas, while programmers learn the ropes of their new wonder box. Many end up as drecks; some as enhanced, if a bit too straight ports. Once in a while, however, a selected few come out with neat new angles to shine on their own. Hex (Mark of the Unicorn, '86) was such a gem, originally for the Atari ST (I believe), ported to the Amiga soon after. One might argue that suspending the flow of Q*bert would be a blatant cheat - "OF COURSE I can get the colours right with enough time!" - but hang on; the designer Stephen Linhart had something ingenious up his sleeve. The goal of the game remains the same: hop on to cascading tiles (which are now hexagons as you must have guessed) and flip them all into the same target colour. You face just one or two opponents in a level, who won't "kill" you by touch, but try to flip tiles to their target colour instead. What's more, adjacent tiles in the same colour become "locked" together, and thereafter won't change their colour until all of them are stepped on. This simple rule wonderfully transcends Hex from a potential mindless hopping race into a bizarre strategic game of territory - or Go on a trip, sort of. Then there's magic. After each successful level you can learn one spell. It comes in many flavors and to various effects and target areas, ranging from the harmless multi-hop to the devastating random flips all over the playfield. Here the game takes a little tinge of RPG: your power and capacity of magic grows with victories, or withers with losses. Lose too many levels and say goodbye to all your magic capacity, you are vanquished. Your ultimate goal is to conquer all 120 levels against 12 opponents with various powers and temperaments. If the magic system helps to open things up, it is also what lets the game down in the end. The earlier levels open quite promisingly as a joyful and laid-back mixture of chance and logic, with that elusive drive "to have just one more go". It can be so much fun to learn and anticipate each opponent's distinctive tactics, then to see a harmonious pattern emerge out of mayhem, accompanied by the the haphazard pseudo-canon played with each contestant's footsteps. Too bad then, that the abundance of powerful spells in later levels (like taking over opponents' control for several turns) starts to overwhelm the game balance at about midway on, until it boils down to what is essentially a big spell shouting match. Such was typical of so many earlier titles - when the basic premise was worn out, they had little else to offer - yet it was okay for practice, at the time. On the technical front, one shouldn't expect much. Played on a 16-color lo-res screen, with adequate software sprites and bleep-fweep sounds, it has all the evidence of an early ST port. I for one couldn't care less - the contents overcome the games's looks for once, which delights me no end. The game also echoes another fad of the 'infatuation with the mouse' era, yet thankfully it does not suffer from it - on the contrary, the control is nigh-on ideal. Playing Q*bert with a mouse... who would have thought such a thing possible? In short: a nice little thinking-persons' action puzzler while it lasts - in the charming experimental spirit of 16/32-bit platforms' primordial era.