2013 IGF Finalists: Excellence in Design

Super Hexagon

Super Hexagon is a bit of a strange finalist for Design Excellence. While most of the other games in this list do something unique or interesting, Super Hexagon does nothing particularly fantastic. Rather, it takes a genre that is done very often – “don’t touch the walls” – and gives it a new coat of paint and polish. The end result is something distinctly indie, as nothing this difficult would be put out anywhere else. And trust me when I say Super Hexagon is difficult; If you don’t like losing, you will probably be reduced to tears

The concept is very simple: move a little triangle around a circle and avoid the hexagonal walls closing from the outside in. If you touch them, you die. What makes Super Hexagon so engaging is the brutal difficulty. Rather than bothering to rank difficulty on a scale from “easiest” to “hardest,” difficulty is rated from “hard” upwards. This difficulty scale doesn’t lie, and while the easiest difficulty will tax you a little bit, the hardest difficulty will destroy your fingers.

The most interesting thing about Super Hexagon, however, is just how differently the iOS and PC versions feel from each other, despite being virtually identical. On PC you tap left and right on the keyboard, whereas on your iPod or iPad you simply tap the left or right edges of the screen. That is the only difference. Despite this, control on iOS feels more natural and fluid compared to the PC. I can’t honestly say why, but it does. You can get Super Hexagon from Steam or the iOS App Store.

Super Space ____

Unusual names often beget great games, and Super Space ____ is no exception. Super Space ____ is another project from Digipen, but unlike yesterday’s Perspective, it’s not especially technically impressive. Rather it combined cooperative mechanics and twin-stick shooters in a way that is both novel and incredibly engaging. It is also, much like Gauntlet, a very good way to get your friends to never speak to you again. At least, if you (or your friends) take offense to constant, hilarious mistakes.

The mechanics are simple: each player controls a turret on a drifting ship. As the ship has no proper thrusters, the recoil from the player’s guns move the ship instead. Thus, players must coordinate to move, rotate, and attack enemies without succumbing to the frustration of having four different people all doing different things. Of course, only one player can win (highest score) so sabotage by screwing up your rival’s shots is a very valid way to play. The end result is an absolute mess of players alternately cooperating and competing, constantly helping and backstabbing each other as they scramble to get the best score.

My experience with this game so far has been equal parts fun and infuriating. It’s rarely fun to be screwed over by your buddy as he pushes for the top score, but the wonderful thing is that you can do it right back to him. The whole time I played this game with my friends we were laughing, swearing, and playfully punching each other as fortunes changed from promising to nothing in a moment. Super Space ____ balances competition and cooperation in such a well-rounded way that you’d be missing out on something special if you ignored it. You can download Super Space ____ from the developer’s site.

You may love mechanical design, but don’t underestimate the appeal of a good sound work! Music and sounds can really bring out the best in a game, after all. Tomorrow we cover Excellence in Audio!

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