Price: $1.99 (Currently on sale for $0.99)
Version Reviewed: 1.0
Graphics / Sound [rating:4.5/5]
Game Controls [rating:4/5]
Re-use / Replay Value [rating:4/5]
Just so you know, Hexile had me wrapped around its steampunk finger before I even played it. The minute I saw a screenshot, nostalgia from my Myst-playing days rushed quickly back to the forefront of my mind. Even though this game is certainly not Myst (nor did I believe it to be - I had in fact read the game's description), but what Hexile does have going for it is a pretty original premise that is ushered along by its addictive gameplay and unique graphic design.
The basic idea behind Hexile is that you're presented with a board of numbered tiles, and your objective is to remove all of the tiles from the board by tapping them in ascending or descending order before time runs out. The catch is that you can only eliminate a tile if it is one digit above or below the last number removed from the board. If you remove a 7, the only tiles you can next remove from the board would either be a 6 or an 8. If you chose the 6, the next one would have to be a 5 or a 7, and so on until all the tiles are eliminated. The game begins with very simple puzzles to get you used to the idea, and then gradually ramps up the difficulty as the levels progress. Power-ups are added to the mix as well, allowing you to blow up a tile (if you get out of sequence, for instance), or a Time Dilator that stops the count-down clock, just to name a few. As you move from level to level, Hexile challenges you with more complex tile and number arrangements, some of which you'll find yourself trying several times to master.
There's a whole lot of good going on in this game. The opening puzzles lure you in with their simplicity, and then yank the hook in later levels as the game continues to challenge without reaching that frustration level where you want to throw your device through a window. Music and graphics are top-notch, with an eye towards that retro-mechanical Myst aesthetic I talked about earlier that makes the overall experience pleasing to the eyes and ears even as your brain slightly boils later in the game. Each puzzle is just short-lived enough to drive that "just-one-more-turn" mantra in your head, and the next thing you know you've been playing for 30 minutes straight.
The downsides to this game are very minor, and could easily be removed with an update. First off, the tutorial is not contained within the app itself. Instead, Safari launches and takes you to online support, which is nicely designed but sparse with information. However, given the simplistic game mechanics, this doesn't turn out to be a huge deal. Another minor nitpick is that amongst all the wonderful art design in this game, the developers curiously did not skin the "Failure" alert. Whenever you fail a level, the default iPhone confirmation box appears asking if you'd like to retry or quit. Obviously this doesn't detract from the game, but it'd be nice if the whole package took on the retro skin.
Here's a video with a glimpse of later-stage gameplay:
As it stands, Hexile is definitely worth the original price tag of $1.99 (grab it while it's on sale for 0.99!), and is perfect for moments where you're stuck in line or waiting forever in the doctor's office. If they fix the minor issues, add an online leaderboard (supposedly this is coming), and maybe add some achievements that unlock other modes or power-ups, I can see this game easily rating a perfect 5.