The problem with releasing an absolutely killer first album is repeating the feat the second time round. The difficult second album is a well tread phenomenon in music but the same pattern also exists in other sectors, not least game design.
Few people can lay claim to the legacy that Alexey Pajitnov has left in his wake. Being the creator of Tetris is as big a gaming accolade as there is and following up on a game that has had countless ports, versions and clones makes Led Zeppelin's struggle to record the imaginatively titled 'II' seem trivial by comparison.
Enter Hexic, Pajitnov's second game proper; his difficult 'second album'. (Actually, Pajitnov released Welltris, a 3D sequel to Tetris, amongst a slew of other minor puzzle games between the release of Tetris and Hexic but it doesn't suit our intro so let's not split heirs.)
As you might expect with Hexic, Pajitnov has stuck to what he does best: puzzle games. Upon loading you're presented with a grid full of different coloured hexagons (the clue's in the title). The idea is to match same coloured hexagons in order to make them disappear. This is done by manoeuvring a selection tool that highlights three hexagons at a time with the thumbstick (or with the '2', '4', '6' and '8' keys). Pressing the centre point on the thumbstick (or '5') rotates the selected trio and any hexagons that are matched as a result of the movement disappear.
To mix things up a little, there is a continuous stream of variants added to play. For example, there are bomb hexagons that count down each time you make a move – fail to get rid of one in nine moves and it's game over. There are stars that when matched as a trio cause more hexagons to disappear, and you can also create larger hexagons within the grid, called Star Flowers, which can be rotated strategically to line up subsequent moves.
Like Tetris, it is simple enough for anyone to play but invites mastery from those that have a brain for puzzles and a keen sense of forward planning. It's extremely addictive stuff and the subtle pace at which the game is revealed in all of its depth sets it apart as a title of unique calibre that could only have been forged by a master puzzle craftsman.
If there is a criticism, it's that switching the direction in which the selection cursor rotates via the right soft key is slightly awkward, particularly during Timed mode bouts. It's hard to imagine how this could have been avoided, however, and it is a negligible niggle during the self-explanatory Marathon and Survival modes (which offer much more lasting appeal anyway).
Importantly, the presentation is impeccable and despite the rainbow of colours that make up the in-game visuals, Hexic maintains a classy adult appearance throughout.
Hexic is an instant classic of its genre, no small feat considering the sizable shadow of its lineage. Its transition to mobile has left nothing wanting in translation, emerging as a title deserving of a place in every discerning gamer's pocket.