An inventive twist on the mechanics of Sudoku, Hexologic is a smart puzzle experience. The Finger Guns Review.
As a critic, there’s only one pleasure that’s greater than being asked to review a game by its developers. That pleasure is when the game turns out to be great too. That’s the situation I have here. I was asked to take a look at Hexologic [Steam], a game that originally launched back in 2018, and oh boy, I am glad I did. An inventive twist on Sudoku that gets mechanically more complicated the longer you play, this title is a hidden treasure that’ll be worth a look for puzzle game enthusiasts.
Sudoku. The rules are pretty simple. You’ve got to fill a 9 x 9 grid with numbers so that each row and column equals 45. They’ve got to be built of the digits 1 to 9 where a number isn’t repeated more than once in either a row or column. It’s a mathematical and logical challenge that feels like a basis of where Hexologic begins.
In this game, each level is a map of linked hexagons. These shapes can be populated with a series of dots, from 1 to 3, by clicking on them. At the end of many of the lanes of hexagons, going in any of the 6 directions in which they can be connected, will be numbered arrows.
The aim of each level is to populate each of the hexagons so that the sum total of the dots in each direction equates to the number on the arrow. For example, if there’s 3 linked hexagons and a ‘5’ in an arrow at the end, the aim would be to find which set of 3 number bonds work and in what order to total 5 in the context of the rest of the hexagons and arrows.
Much like Sudoku, the first step to completing a level in Hexologic is to find a spot where you can determine at least one hexagon. Towards the start of the game, that’s relatively easy. For example, there’s rows of 3 hexagons with a ‘3’ arrow attached to them. As every hexagon has to be populated, these are easy to populate. Once you’ve populated some, you’ll have new information for other lanes of hexagons. The further the game progresses, the more tricky this becomes. You’ll have to reference multiple rows to see how each hex should be populated. Sometimes you’ll have to make a guess between two numbers and then see how that plays out later.
The shape of the levels inspire some pretty inventive play too. A handful of the levels weave around like a tail, but they begin with a cluster of hexagons. Some of them have dozens of numbered arrows to consider.
The 90 main levels through Hexologic are broken down into 6 different zones. You’ll have to progress through each level in order, working your way through each zone in turn. Each new zone introduces a new mechanic to the game play too.
The first zone is akin to a vanilla Sudoku puzzle. It’s purely about filling the hexagons with 1 to 3 dots to total the various numbered lanes. In the second zone, some hexagons are pre-populated with numbers higher than 3. This changes the dynamic slightly but it still relatively straight forward. Soon though, you’ll come across linked colourful hexagons where adding a dot to one will populate the other too. Towards the end of the game, you’ll find multicoloured hexagons that combine the dots in other hexagons. The most testing parts of Hexologic are when mathematic symbols are introduced. Here you’ll be trying to balance hexagons on each side of an ‘=’ signs while making sure the lane totals amount up to their goal and dealing with ‘<‘ and ‘>’ hexagons. It’s rarely actually challenging but it’s still relatively gratifying.
That’s a feeling that’s accommodated by the music, aesthetic and general vibe of Hexologic. Throughout the game is a gorgeous, motivating beat that’s complemented by a relaxing synth melody. Adding to that are the pleasant chimes, the plinks and plonks that trigger whenever you fill a hexagon with dots, which are quite pleasant on the ear. They’re topped off by a delightful little soundbite when a level is completed. The shapes and sound combine for a very mollifying experience.
It’s a shame that the experience is over so quickly. At least the intentionally designed campaign aspect of it. On the default easy mode, Hexologic will likely take a few hours to get though. It took me 2 and a half hours. In this mode, the outlines of the hexagons turn green when the dots in the lane sum up to the correct amount. The alternate hard mode has the exact same set of puzzles but removes the indicators to say whether a column has reached its goal total. This does make Hexologic more challenging because you’ll have to check progress on multiple lanes manually each time you change something. Especially towards the end of the core 90 levels.
There’s content to play beyond the main campaign in Hexologic too. At the end of each zone in the game, there’s 3 special stages that make the most of that particular area’s mechanics. These are more challenging, longer form puzzles. They add an extra half an hour to the play time. There’s also randomly generated levels to play. These lack the intentional level shape structure of the main campaign but are still enjoyable regardless.
If I was to improve one thing about this game, it would be to change the menu structure. All of the levels are stacked upon one another in the menu. Starting from the bottom and the tutorial level, each level is a little higher than the prior one in a massive vertical list. This can be a pain to navigate when you’re looking for particular levels.
For a few hours, I was thoroughly entertained by Hexologic. It’s accessible, chilled and a smart reimagining of the mechanics of Sudoku. I’ll be honest – I felt disappointed when I reached level 90 and the structured content ended. That was partly because I was enjoying myself so much and partly because it felt like the game still had places to go. The ending felt abrupt, like it was building up to a crescendo that never came. Still, if you’re looking for something to play for a few hours that’s not going to be too taxing while still rewarding, Hexologic fits that bill perfectly.
A smart reimagining of the rules of Sudokuo, Hexologic is an approachable, easy to play puzzle game with a chilled aesthetic. There’s not a great amount of content here however, with the structured levels lasting just a few hours, but if like number puzzles and you’re looking for a fun way to fill an evening, Hexologic is worth a look.
Hexologic is available now on PC via Steam (review platform), Nintendo Switch, iOS devices and Xbox One.
Disclaimer: In order to complete this review, we were provided with a promotional copy of the game. For our full review policy, please go here.
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