Coming from Brain Slap Studios, a small independent French developer, Hexodius is a twin stick shooter in which you take on numerous enemies in one-off arena stages. The story goes that a little robot, Fred, needs to escape from the Hexodius complex.
To do so, he builds B.O.B., a drone that can be customised in numerous ways with many weapons, (think of one of those robotic hoovers with weapons and you’ll be pretty close), and helps Fred fight his way out of a complex that has been taken over by some crazy AI. It’s a pretty basic story and if I’m honest, it’s of little significance, but that in no way impacts on the delightful gameplay. Of which there are three types….exploring, equipping and escaping!
You start off with needing to explore a hexagonal complex. In what has been designed with a board game feel in mind, you are able to move around the grid complex as long as you can unlock arenas. Starting off, the route ahead of you is pretty linear and your choices are limited to one tile at a time. Further on through the game, you start to come up with a decision between 2 or more different arena cells and that is where you get a fair amount of freedom in your route to safety. Cell types can differ from the standard ‘last x number of minutes’, to ‘needing to destroy generators in a certain amount of time’, or by having to ‘defend Fred whilst he hacks a terminal’. It’s the variation in these which I feel gives Hexodius the ‘just one more go’ factor and makes it a bloody pain to put down! Alongside these battle cells, you can find shops, checkpoints, bonus areas (which are an absolute joy to play, invoking memories of the Viva Pinata breeding stages!) and later on in the game, teleports to help you move around the complex quicker.
Before moving on to one of the battle cells, you get to equip BOB with a range of weapons and equipment. There are three distinct weapon/equipment/upgrade styles and whichever you choose will have a massive impact on how each arena plays out before you. The ‘cooldown’ systems are one shot weapons including automatic turrets and mines, that need to be cooled down before they are able to be accessed again. On the other hand the ‘heating’ system weapons can be used for a limited time until they run out of steam and need to power up again. You can throw in equipment like nitros and energy shields into this category. Finally you can also upgrade BOBs overall shooting and defence powers within the passive system.
And whilst you’re probably sat there thinking that all these upgrades makes things a little easy, then don’t worry, whilst they help, they can’t all be used at the same time! Before each battle, you get to pick three upgrades and four cooldown or heating system weapons. You also get to decide on the order they become unlocked during play and this is where a tactical element comes into play. Do you go in early with the auto turrets or is it preferable to upgrade BOBs speed beforehand? Due to the number of weapons and upgrades available, the options are near enough endless and therefore the replay value for each arena is surprisingly high.
But again, before you go getting access to the big guns, you’ll need to collect enough energy credits to unlock each of your choices. This is done by shooting enemies and then flying close enough to the credits for them to be picked up. To do so, you’ll need to bring your ‘A’ game to the party, using all those dodging and shooting skills you first picked up back in that Xbox Live Arcade smash hit Geometry Wars and it’s sequel GW2. This really is the closest thing I’ve played to those great twin stickers and any Geo Wars veterans will be right at home with Hexodius. Even the mixture of enemy types will bring back good memories of those hours spent trying to reach the big leaderboards back in the day.
Throw in a nice little shop to spend your hard earned credits in (and to decide on BOBs upgrade route), some nicely placed checkpoint cells and some relaxing bonus stages and you’ve got a gem of a game. The scoring after each arena WILL make you want to go back to try for a higher level and beware, the search for the highest ‘S’ rated game will be a long and troublesome one, although play with style and you may just earn enough bonus points to make it a reality.
With 4 difficulty levels ranging from rather damn simple to infuriating hard, some awesome boss battles, and an arcade mode that lets you just jump in, shooting and dodging to your hearts content, Hexodius should be right up there on your XBLA buying list. The controls are stupendously smooth and for £6.75 it’s a damn steal, where many hours of enjoyment will be had from it. Like previously mentioned, anyone hankering back to the glory days of Geometry Wars will be right at home and whilst the leaderboard scaling isn’t quite as addictive as it was back then, there’s still loads and loads of replay value to be had here.
If you’re looking for a 5 minute time killer, or prefer to waste a couple of hours in one foul swoop, Brain Slap have got it just right with Hexodius.
For the price it’s a no-brainer. Go buy it.