For whatever reason, I’ve always had a soft spot for twin-stick shooters. I tend to find the good ones (Geometry Wars) great, and the mediocre ones (Zombie Apocalypse) mostly enjoyable. Into that genre comes Hexodius, which fancies itself “an arcade twin stick shooter with dungeon crawler mechanics.” That blending of genres certainly looks promising, but as we all know, looks can be deceiving.
Beyond the standard twin-stick setup, Hexodius also maps four special abilities to your bumpers and triggers. There are plenty of options when it comes to customizing your loadout, and you can assign them to any of the four buttons as you see fit. The default movement and firing speeds feel a bit sluggish for the genre, but there’s nothing here that truly damages the gameplay.
Arguably the weakest element here is the visual presentation, which consists of simplistic enemies, lackluster environments and repetitive design. The problems aren’t just superficial, either, as one of the game’s most annoying issues is how difficult it is to distinguish enemies and/or enemy projectiles from the backgrounds. I lost count of how many times I was struck by something I couldn’t readily spot, and that doesn’t even account for the countless occasions enemies attacked from off screen.
There’s little of note about the audio, either, but it gets higher marks than the graphics simply by not actively hurting the gameplay. Make no mistake, though, the chiptune soundtrack wears out its welcome long before you finish the game.
A pointless back story about a rogue A.I. sets the stage for Hexodius‘ story mode, which consists of an impressive sounding six levels, each of which contains a grid-based map with plenty of rooms to explore and conquer. Unfortunately, while there is a lot of content, you’ll have seen pretty much all the game has to offer long before you finish. It’s a classic case of quantity over quality that results in a couple hours worth of ideas stretched over 3-4 times that amount.
Rooms contain one of three objectives: survive, defend, or destroy. Survival rooms are the most plentiful, and they simply charge you with destroying all the enemies (a bar fills across the top so you know how much more you need to do). In defend you’ll look after your little robotic sidekick while he hacks a door. And in destroy you’ll need to obliterate a generator while fending off enemies before the timer hits zero. Those three room types comprise approximately 95 percent of the game with a handful of bonus rooms where you collect objects and boss battles rounding things out.
Each room is graded (F-S) based on how many points you earn with different amounts of in-game currency distributed depending on what grade you get; there’s actually no difference between the “S” and “A” ranks as you earn an “S” by reaching the “A” threshold and not taking any damage.
Money is used to purchase passive and active upgrades for your ship. There are some cool abilities — such as a deployable turret and a pair of satellite ships that give increased firepower — but odds are you’ll zone in on your favorites and rarely alter them during the pre-fight loadout screen.
That brings us to another issue: pacing. Theoretically, the map, which contains both mandatory and optional rooms, represents the game’s dungeon crawling aspect. In practice, it adds virtually nothing, and instead breaks up any momentum Hexodius might have built up. You finish a short room, get sent back to the map screen, fly around a little, hit the loadout screen and play another room. Rinse and repeat… and repeat… and repeat… and repeat…
A lot of things could be swept under the rug if the game were a blast to play. That’s not the case. It isn’t a bad game per se, it just feels a little slow and clunky for the genre. Plus, most of the game’s challenge, which includes an infuriating spike in the fifth level, seems to be the result of cheap tactics. As noted earlier, it’s commonplace for projectiles to fly from off screen and hit you. Not cool.
It was a noble endeavor to try and shake up the twin-stick shooter formula, but Hexodius succeeds only in muddying the waters by shoehorning in elements that don’t belong. I’d recommend trying the demo before plunking down the $10; if you enjoy the basic layout and can see yourself doing it for another seven or eight hours (more if you choose to continue playing arcade mode) then by all means download it. If not, move along.