If I’m honest, I had no clue what I was doing for the first 10 minutes or so of Hexagroove. But then, that is all part of the fun. There’s a decent amount going on at any one time to focus on, but unfortunately, as a whole, it might not keep your attention.
In a base sense, Hexagroove: Tactical DJ is an interpretation of a DJ’s set with some trippy visuals thrown in for good measure. Upon picking the campaign, you are thrown in head first with relatively little explanation. Hexagroove is very movement-based which is hard to interpret from text, especially for some of the more non-linear objectives. On one hand, this can be a little overwhelming, but on the other it gives a great deal of satisfaction as you figure it out organically. The top left of the screen indicates a few central stats like the length of the track and general rhythm and musicality. Just above that is a red bar with a heart next to it that works much like that of the red bar in Guitar Hero. It’s a general sign of a crowd’s satisfaction and, when it is completely drained, you lose and must restart the track.
You win over the crowd in a few central ways. In the center of the screen is your instrumentation. This can range from a single piano to a number of different melodic lines including bass, piano, percussion and more. When a line is blue, this means the crowd is currently enjoying it. When it is turned off or switches to green, you must change up the line with a tap of A, B, X or Y to make it go blue again. When the crowd is content and the music is going along as normal, a small ball floats into the interpretation of a crowd that can be tapped in rhythm by you for extra points, initiating a bounce combo. This is entirely optional but is a nice way of cutting into the monotony of a good line.
The optional ball is not the only way Hexagroove attempts to get through the monotony. There are sections of gameplay in the middle of tracks that work around swapping the instrumentation. The screen is filled with a white glow and another section of gameplay pops up. You are told to pick your instrumentation again from a new set of loops. It can be as full or minimalistic as you would like it to be. Then, you must make your way down a line whilst keeping your analogue stick pointing in the right direction, or alternatively you will need to complete a rhythm minigame. These both do different things to the track, with the rhythm game activating some percussion for a bridge or drop, and the analogue game putting an effect on the entire song for a few seconds. This allows you to blend into a new sequence of a song organically. Or at least it attempts to be organic. It doesn’t always work to this effect, with some percussion sets and lines not working as well as others.
In a sense, this sums up the way Hexagroove: Tactical DJ fights between its music and its gameplay. The choice you are given in the form of new lines and percussion is interesting but too often feels like canned effects – almost akin to a soundboard. It attempts to give little layers of gameplay but there’s not quite enough to keep it interesting, and tries to provide broad, adaptive songs – for the most part it lacks both systems to feel fully fleshed-out. Replaying a song you’ve already played before is a little tedious in terms of both the music and gameplay, only offering subtle differences like choice of instruments and the way the song ends. Unfortunately this often does not justify playing the same five minutes of gameplay again.
The freeform and multiplayer modes are a bit more interesting as they are more adaptive and less rigid than the campaign songs. It is here where you can, at will, choose when to enter new modes, effectively choosing your own drops and bridges. This is heightened at the end of songs as you can choose between fading out or going for a big bang. Ultimately, the more freedom and varied gameplay Hexagroove can give you, the better it is for it.
This still does not solve all the issues but it does manage to make the game a bit more enjoyable. Ultimately, Hexagroove: Tactical DJ on Xbox One doesn’t feel fully contained in what it is. It tries to offer engaging gameplay and adaptive songs, but never really delivers either. When given the choice between the big bang ending or fade out, Hexagroove quietly fizzles away on the sidelines.