Slipping quietly onto Google Play over the weekend, Kotakugame of the year contenderSuper Hexagon performs its seductive dance on Android owners, spinning it's way into this week's top charts.
The spiraling shape will make you go insane, but that hasn't deterred Android gamers from getting a taste of the game that's drove iOS and PC players batty last year. I'm tempted to buy it again just to have it on my new phone, and the $.99 introductory sale price isn't helping matters. Oh screw it—bought.
Along with Terry Cavanagh's sublime creation, Temple Run: Brave makes an appearance in the paid charts as players gear up for this week's Android release of the free Temple Run 2. Which spot do you reckon that one will debut in next week?
The shortlist for the 15th IGF award finalists has been revealed. There were more than 580 entries this year, across an incredibly diverse range of genres, requiring the attention of some 200 judges to help pare down the games into seven award categories, with five nominees apiece.
Contenders for the Seumas McNally Grand Prize are as follows:
Socially astute mundane-job sim-cum-arcade game, Cart Life (Richard Hofmeier)
Meta-critical toy-burning casual-game satire, Little Inferno (Tomorrow Corporation)
Gorgeous magic-realist adventure, Kentucky Route Zero (Cardboard Computer)
Meanwhile, honourable mentions went to Gone Home (The Fullbright Company); Thirty Flights of Loving (Blendo Games); The Stanley Parable (Galactic Cafe); Super Hexagon (Terry Cavanagh); Starseed Pilgrim (Droqen & Ryan Roth).
Head over to the IGF site to see the full list of nominees each of the categories - visual art, narrative, technical excellence, design, audio and the Nuovo award for "abstract and unconventional game development". The winners will be announced as part of the Game Developer Conference in San Francisco, on Wednesday 27 March.
Terry Cavanagh, the man behind the indie hits VVVVVV and Super Hexagon (and, as such, the man whose name I've cursed thousands of times) has announced he's no longer to develop Nexus City, or its spin-off game Selma's Story. Nexus City was to be an RPG collaboration between Cavanagh and writer/developer Jonas Kyratzes, whose previous games include The Sea Will Claim Everything and the free Twine game Moonlight.
Posting on his Distractionware blog, Cavanagh writes, "Originally a very small game, over time it grew completely out of control – at this point, Jonas and I have worked on it on and off for over two years. However, that doesn’t really paint an accurate picture – I haven’t worked on Nexus City itself since 2011, and I only worked on the spinoff game, Selma’s Story, for two months last year."
"I’ve been thinking of Nexus City as “the thing I’m working on” since 2010. As a result, for a long time now, I’ve felt like I wasn’t really in control of what I can work on. Promising games would come along, and I’d stop myself from getting too deep into them, because I had to finish Nexus City first. Everything became a big ordered list of what I could work on and when, how long I could spend on it."
Cavanagh admits that despite the game promising an "amazing world with an amazing story," the momentum has long since run out. So what's next for the game-maker/engineer of perversely enjoyable frustration? "Right now – for the moment, I think I may just take some time off ... After that? I don’t really know! I have a clean slate again for the first time in a very long time, and I’m very excited about that."
Earlier today, our own Luke Plunkett nominatedCrusader Kings II for Kotaku 2012 game of the year, writing that it's "the only game on this list that's about sex and politics."
Sounds like a man who hasn't played Super Hexagon, right?
Or. Actually. No. Super Hexagon (iOS, Steam) isn't about sex and politics. It's not about zombies or wandering across the sand with strangers. It's about spinning a little triangle around and through a contracting, swirling, psychedelic bathtub drain of a maze and hoping to not have it crash into the walls of that maze for... my goodness... can you survive for 15 seconds? 30 seconds? Can you manage an entire minute?
I know that Super Hexagon isn't all that profound. Does this game tell you anything about its creator's life or about the human condition? Not really. Does it pull at the heartstrings and evoke genuine emotion? Well, yes. It sure does. Those emotions being the exhilaration of survival, the pride of successfully applying what you've learned, the despair of defeat. You know, the stuff that movies and books can't do. The stuff games can do so well.
That's right, people. Super Hexagon puts the game back in "game." Those who don't vote for this perfect combination of sights, sounds and controls probably also have a terrific explanation for why Tetris shouldn't have been game of the year back when it came out.
It lingers in my memory. It summons me to play it again and again. It's great to play. It's a tiny thing, sure. It's a gem.
Several years ago, I angered friends and allies when I declared Desktop Tower Defense as Game of the Year over some game called BioShock. I liked BioShock and its brainy first-person underwater shooting a lot, but DTD was the game I couldn't stop playing. It was the game I was late to a party for on the day I discovered it and the game I had to proselytize to everyone I met. It's the game that obsessed me and, importantly, it was a game that was just about flawless. It was a simple and vexing. It encouraged the player to tinker and test its limits. It was easy to start, easy to re-start and tough to stop playing. Still, some folks told me I was wrong to pick it. DTD was a free browser game! It was just a trifle, a little amusement! Wasn't rewarding it as GOTY over BioShock the equivalent of declaring an amusing street sign as the Best Thing I Read In 2007? Such is the plight of big games and little games, all vying for the same praise as the Kotaku Game of the Year.
The fact is that movies and TV have more in common with each other than many modern video games do. If we were, say, putting Super Hexagon in a GOTY deathmatch with Mass Effect 3 (hey, at least I could get to ME3's ending!) we'd be comparing a game I played by touching a piece of glass that I was carrying on the subway to a game I played with a controller in my hands while sitting on my living room couch; a game that has no characters vs. one that does; a game about spinning in a circle and a game about choosing the fate of the galaxy. Just about the only things they have in common are that a) we call them both video games and b) they have great lead female voice acting.
Yes, we live in a world in which small gamey games compete against story-filled virtual-tourism epics. Some years, I like to praise the latter and lose my mind with joy over the Assassin's Creed: Brotherhoods of the world. Some years, I find a nice hybrid like Portal 2. And some years, like 2012, I think back to what I played and I decide: I'm going with the thing that put playing it first, the thing that made me want to dive into its system of rules and have a go at it again and again.
Here, have a look at Super Hexagon and tell me you're not having fun just watching it.
Did you watch that? Are you still here? You resisted the urge to fire up the game?
Look, let's take a look at the true yardstick for video game quality, the classic GamePro ratings scale:
Graphics - No doubt about it, Super Hexagon is mesmerizing. Not only does it have good graphics full of great color combos, but I dare say it has the best possible graphics it needs or could have. It maxes out its graphics potential. It wears its clothes well. It's drop-dead gorgeous. And it spins!
Sound - Was there a better bit of voice-acting in 2012 than Jenn Frank's recitation of the shape names of the various levels of Super Hexagon? Sure: There was Jenn Frank's just-encouraging-enough "Begin" at the beginning of a new round of this stupidly hard game. There was also her sorry-you-kinda-messed-up-there-but-you-can-do-better-I'm-sure-of-it "Game over" each time you failed. Yes, yes, The Walking Dead had some amazing voice acting, too. But I'm not kidding when I say that I consider Frank's as the most successfully-implemented voice acting of the year. If you're not a GOTY voter who cares about voice acting, I submit the Super Hexagonsoundtrack, and I defy you to be unmotivated to twirl through Super Hexagon again as soon as you hear it. It hits all the right notes (do they have notes in techno? Yes?) to drive you forward, to add even more drama to a game that feels plenty dramatic as is.
Control - Yep. We've got a winner here. The press-the-screen-to-rotate-but-don't-press-too-long-or-you'll-over-rotate-the-screen are the best controls not just for a touch-screen game this year, but I think for any game this year. What other 2012 game consistently feels so good to play?
Fun Factor - Insert the most possible excited GamePro face right here. That's the one on the right:
I do appreciate that smaller games have an advantage. Tiny games have a better shot of getting it all right. Which is why... they never win big Game of the Year awards. Weird, no?
Sometimes—often—it's nice to celebrate the bigger, necessarily sloppier works of video game creators. The people who made Far Cry 3 sure did try a lot more things than Super Hexagon creator Terry Cavanagh did in his. Looking back, Advance Wars on the Game Boy Advance is a nearly perfect video game in a way that Skyrim is not on the PC in part because the scale of its makers' ambitions was smaller and therefore more capable of being turned into a real thing we could play.
I am nevertheless struck by how right Super Hexagon is in any way I could measure it. To play it, listen to it, look at it, and think about it reminds me how wonderful it is. It lingers in my memory. It summons me to play it again and again. It continues to delight. It's great to play. It's a tiny thing, sure. It's a gem.
It's my game of the year.
Also, Super Hexagon was Apple's runner-up for Game of the Year 2012. Who doesn't like telling Apple that they're kind of dumb? The best way to do that is to say that it was no runner-up, but that it's the winner!
And if I haven't convinced you yet, please just stare at this animated GIF.
Think of nothing else....
You are getting sleepy...
You will vote for Super Hexagon, fellow Kotaku editors, for Game of the Year. And you will only wake up when I snap my fingers.
The writers of Kotaku are nominating nine games for 2012 Game of the Year. The nominations will be posted throughout the first week of January. The winner of our staff vote being announced on the Monday following and that game will be our 2012 GOTY, shifting 2011 GOTY Portal 2 a little further down our imaginary trophy shelf. Read all of our 2012 nominations, as they're posted.
Monday's review: You're a small triangle navigating a maze as its walls pivot and spin toward you in predictable patterns and with increasing speed. Avoid the walls for as long as you can and compete for the longest times. It's fun, but too small, simple and hard to provide lasting pleasure. 60%.
Tuesday's review: I came back to it just for the music. It's 8-bit, but less concerned with high-pitched bleeps than dirty, throbbing beats. The music doesn't become repetitive either, despite dying and restarting dozens of times each minute, as it begins at a different place in the song after each death. There's a moment at one minute forty seconds into the track Courtesy that's all I need to beat my best time. 72%.
Wednesday's review: There's a surprising amount of nuance in the design. The lovely way your ship slightly sways in the direction you're turning, or how your sides can safely graze surfaces so you're always surfing the edge of failure. Even the female voice that announces the game's name is canny, making it feel like you're plugging yourself into an entrancing futuristic machine. 78%.
For a while, this was my best time.
Thursday's review: Super Hexagon has three controls: left arrow, right arrow, and your brain. My leaps in ability, small though they are, all feel like I'm hacking my brain rather than improving my dexterity. I've learnt to use my peripheral vision, so I can start each turn earlier. I've discovered I play better when I'm in conversation with someone at the same time, so I start chatting to whoever's nearby while I play. When my times begin to plateau, I skip up to higher difficulty levels, play those for 15 minutes, and then return back down. Everything looks slower, because I've wired my brain to run faster. When I turn away from the game now, the real world keep spinning. 84%
Friday's review: Super Hexagon is about reaching escape velocity from your own feeble reflexes. It's about defeating a never-ending, corporeal chiptune. It's a game you dance to, as much about surfing music as AudioSurf. It's a puzzle game, about memorising routines and overcoming mental blocks. It's the ludological purist's answer to Hotline Miami. It's about momentum, speed, grace under pressure. When I play it, I don't blink. When I die, I'm never frustrated. In moments when it has me in rapt attention on its dancefloor, it's the greatest game in the world. 96%.
Saturday's review: The sobering light of the morning always brings perspective. Super Hexagon is fun, focused, elegant and compulsively challenging. For some, it'll be an intense months-long relationship. For most, it'll be more like a single life in the game itself: thrilling, a worthwhile learning experience, and over quickly.
Chris, Marsh and Tom Senior discuss Darksiders 2, Little Inferno, Long Live the Queen, Super Hexagon, Far Cry 3 and much more. Features at least two rants, the Steam charts, and your questions from Twitter.
Marsh's Darksiders II review.
Tom F's Far Cry 3 review.
Long Live the Queen (borderline NSFW, or at the very least you'll get a funny look).
Jenn Frank's Allow Natural Death.
The #1reasonwhy and #1reasontobe hashtags.
Awful if true answers:
Darksiders II developers Vigil have not been closed.