Deduction and puzzle game lover, here's a perfect game series
Hexcells is the first one of the series. In Hexcells the game area consists of hexes, each having zero to six neighbours. Hex is either blue or black with a number. Mechanics familiar from Mine Sweeper (MS), the number states how many blue hexes are next to the black hex. Your job is to reveal for all hexes whether they are blue or black.
Unlike in traditional MS, everything can be deduced - guessing is not required at all if you know what you are doing. The controls are similar to MS, with left- and right-clicking determining whether you think the hex is blue or black one. Also, in case of a mistake you don't need to start at the beginning, though if you do more than one mistake, you have to start again if you want a "perfect" score (and ultimately an achievement).
The learning curve is very smooth, the challenge rising gently towards later, larger puzzles. As you get further, new mechanics are introduced, with similarities to nonograms/hanjies: a number will state that a column or a diagonal will have certain number of blue hexes. There are two special cases to this that either say that all blue hexes will be interconnected or that they must have a break in-between. All mechanics naturally introduce new ways to think and deduce through the puzzles.
Music is ambience like "glowing crystals", and when you make right moves there's a distinct "ding!" sound echo that adds fluidly to the ambience.
All the 36 puzzles are well-designed and fairly interesting. This is also its biggest drawback: there is little replay value after beating all the puzzles, a task that takes just a couple of hours. The other drawback is the lack of a save feature (for single puzzles; game obviously remembers if you have beat a puzzle before), so you have to complete each puzzle fully or either leave the game running or start the level again later. If these features are a bottleneck for you, both of them are
introduced in Hexcells Infinite
, the third part of the series.
If you're left craving for more, Hexcells Plus
is the de-facto sequel. You should really play Hexcells first and only then go to Plus though, for the sequel is way more challenging and introduces all the mechanics from early on and even adds one new one. Hexcells Infinite
is a good alternative to both: it has its own puzzles and all the mechanics and features from Hexcells and Hexcells Plus, but the challenge curve starts from easy like Hexcells and goes to difficult like Plus. In that respect it's more stand-alone than Plus sequel.
All three are nevertheless good puzzle games. As for challenge, Hexcells is the easiest one and therefore the natural place to start. Also, it's a fairly cheap investment.