Honeycomb Beat DS Review

The Nintendo DS is a platform made for puzzle games. The phenomenal success of the Brain Training games, the plethora of Sudoku titles and the mind-bendingly fast Meteos games all stand tribute to DS’s intuitive controls and portable in-your-pocket convenience. One of the finest games available in the DS’s bloated library is Picross, a puzzle game of such fine quality that I can barely go two days without my fix. Original, imaginative, addictive and deep puzzle games are more than a small part of the console’s financial success throughout the world. An unfortunate fact of life, however, is that not every game gets to be a Picross. Or even a Sudoku.

Honeycomb Beat is Hudson’s latest DS offering. Fortunately (and somewhat surprisingly), it doesn’t feature a cute bee or even flowers. Instead, the back of the box promises “A madly addictive, music-driven puzzle game featuring 200 unique puzzles to energize your mind!” Let’s have a little background before we go through such an ambitious statement.

The central idea behind Honeycomb Beat is to turn all the tiles in any particular puzzle to a single colour. Every time you tap on one of the hexagonal tiles (known in-game as a beat), it flips over and changes colour. In doing so, it also flips the tiles in contact with it, changing their colour as well. Two gameplay modes are available. The first, Puzzle mode, consists of a pattern of tiles to be flipped, a process which quickly becomes complicated as the scale of the puzzles rises to take in more and more tiles. Little arrows on tiles mean that flipping them will flip entire rows, in the directions indicated by the arrows. Puzzles have a limited amount of beats allowed for completion, meaning that tapping randomly rarely achieves anything. Exceeding this number of beats while completing a puzzle still completes it, but doesn’t count as a total victory. Inevitably, the puzzles can only be completed in the way intended by the designers. There aren’t many that have more than one route to completion, which is disappointing as the challenge feels too linear, and not about discovering the solution on your own. Another gripe with the puzzle mode is that the difficulty spikes from the insultingly easy to the brain-destroyingly frustrating. The learning curve is less than forgiving, though it’s possible that my pathetic brain was merely incapable of grasping the complexities of the puzzles.

The other game mode is the Evolution mode. Basically, tiles scroll up from the bottom of the screen, some flipped some not. Clearing lines causes them to disappear, and if the lines hit the top of the screen it’s game over. This mode doesn’t constrain the player to a tiny number of beats, and instead allows free-reign to clear lines and score points. Completing a level allows access to the next one – which merely moves tiles up the screen faster. Also, on completing a level, players are given brain ratings. Mine were almost consistently “jelly fish”, which was rather hurtful.

So let’s get back to that statement, shall we? The box promised a puzzle game featuring 200 unique puzzles. This is mostly true. The 200 puzzles available are indeed unique, but only technically so. Some are incredibly similar, especially at the lower levels. We were also promised a game that is “maddingly addictive”, again partially true. Initially, the challenge of working through puzzles to unlock new backgrounds and visual effects is enticing, though this soon wears off when the fact that neither are particularly exciting. The claim that the game is “music-driven” is interesting. The implication is that the music will react in some way to your actions in game, a concept that would have elevated this title above the mediocre. However, this doesn’t seem to be the case. The music simply loops when playing puzzles, and only changes to faster when you approach danger of failure. Saying that the game is therefore music-driven is not describing a new concept – this has been happening in games even since the days of Mario Brothers on the NES. The moving backdrops don’t even appear to react to the music being played, whirling about regardless of whether the music is fast or slow.

Finally, the box also promised me that my mind would be energised. Possibly. However, with the aforementioned number of superior puzzle games available for the DS, the average player would be well-advised to look elsewhere for brain-energising. Honeycomb Beat should be applauded for avoiding the obvious cute puzzle-game trap, and did prove entertaining for about an hour or so, but is otherwise a shallow and curiously soul-less experience.

Plus, all those hexagons brought back nightmares about Blockbuster. Can I have a ‘P’ please, Bob?