Nintendo's consoles have always been the ideal format for puzzle games. I bought my very first handheld, the original Game Boy, solely on the strength of Tetris. For those younger gamers out there, the Game Boy was basically somewhere around the size of a house brick with one d-pad, two action buttons and a single, non-touch-sensitive, greyscale screen, and yet I was glued to it solidly every spare minute I had for months at a time. Since getting hooked by Tetris, I've owned every Nintendo hendheld, and accumulated an impressive collection of puzzle games, including several variations on Tetris, and many other original puzzle titles. Why am I telling you all this? Because I want to make it clear that I'm a big handheld fan, and a massive puzzle game enthusiast. And I want to make this clear because I want you to know that I've got some idea what I'm talking about when I tell you that Honeycomb Beat, this latest Hudson Soft-developed offering from Rising Star games, is a poor puzzle title.
On the face of it, it seems like a decent concept. Described as a 'music-driven puzzle game', this looks to all intents and purposes like a variation on the TV show Blockbusters, with play taking place on a grid constructed from hexagonal shaped pieces. Clicking on one piece flips it to a different colour, along with all the other pieces that it's touching, and it's on this mechanic that the gameplay hinges. The idea is to flip all the tiles so that they end up white, either in complete horizontal lines in Evolution mode, or across the entire grid in Puzzle mode. To make things a little more complex, icons called 'Vector Labels' appear on certain pieces, or can be dragged and dropped onto them, and these affect how clicking on one panel influences the pieces around it. So Horizontal Vectors flip all the pieces either side of the one you click on in a horizontal line, while non-Vectors prevent any adjacent panels from being flipped.
Sound a little complicated? That's because it is. The main problem with Honeycomb Beat is that to excel at it, you need to be the kind of person who looks at a move on a Chess board and can simultaneously visualise 50 potential moves ahead. If, like me, you're not that kind of person, then Honeycomb Beat, in constantly moving Evolution mode where the panels scroll up towards a penalty line at the top of the screen, quickly devolves from studiously trying to make sense of the two-coloured hexagonal grid to a matter of simply randomly tapping panels as fast as you can in the hope that you'll hit on the solution by sheer luck. Now I'm NOT someone with the brain level of a 'Mitochondria' (as the game rated me when I failed to excel for the umpteenth successive time) but unlike other, superior puzzle games that offer multiple colours, different shapes or even a combination of both to help you figure out what's going on, in Honeycomb Beat a screen full of hexagons of just two colours quickly becomes little more than a screensaver when the pressure gets high.
No doubt there will be people out there who pick up this game, bond with it, and find that it fills many, many hours of their otherwise dull lives, but for most, unless you used to watch contestants playing the Gold Run on Blockbusters and think 'if only I could play around with a screen full of hexagons like that, my life would be complete' then I would steer well clear of this. Maybe I'm missing something. Maybe if I put enough hours into this game it eventually would 'energize my mind' as the blurb on the back of the box promises, but frankly, life's too short to find out. Now I'm off to dust off my most recent copy of Tetris and play a real arcade puzzle game for a while...