Computer Graphics Memory Disk Space Minimum 386-20 VGA 575 base + 800 EMS 3 meg Control: Mouse (required), Keyboard Sound: Adlib, Sound Blaster, Roland LAPC and SCC1, GUS Reviewed on: 486-66, 16 Meg, PAS-16 Sound, F1280+ video, OS/2 2.1
In this case an evil Wizard has trapped 4 Gods of Magic into 4 talismans and scattered them into different dungeons. Only by gathering all 4 talismans and bringing them together to the top of wizard's castle can you free the Gods. Your Fighter, Ranger, Assasin and Wizard are chosen from 16 pregenerated characters and let loose into a 6-dungeon 45-level dungeon crawl.
The game seems to borrow most of its ideas from SHADOWCASTER. Just like SC, it is a first-person perspective continous-scrolling real time game with few puzzles and no conversations. Except for shopkeepers, everyone you meet is an enemy. Unlike SC, however, it has several RPG elements such as a decent magic system with 32 spells distributed over 4 schools of magic, a good inventory system with a variety of magic weapons and armor, and attribute-based character development. A well-implemented automap shows buttons, pressure plates, trap doors, shops, etc...
Still, at its heart, Hexx is an action game. Most of the time in the game is spent on doing combat, preparing for combat or resting after combat. The combat is not as action-intensive as in true action game such as WOLFENSTEIN 3-D. Monsters don't regenerate, so once an area is cleared, it is safe to traverse it. Because of that, I spent a fair amount of time in first half of the game repeatedly traveling between a combat area and a regeneration chamber or a shop selling food and healing potions. It gets somewhat repetative; however, these strategic "home" positions are quite frequent and the traveling does not become a major chore. The game alternates between quick intense combat and slow travel or rest time healing the wounds.
Hexx is a world of many creatures. Humans, gnolls, undead, minotaurs, demons, dwarves and many others occupy the dungeons. Monsters are well animated but except for the picture, they generally lack variety. Most fall into one of two categories - hand-to-hand tough guys and weaker spellcasters. Tough guys are best handled by magic means while spell- casters are best handled by getting close and personal. None of the monsters have any special powers or weaknesses and, by the end, they all looked the same. Monster difficulty, however, is well balanced and there were only a few times when I felt my party was either undermatched or overmatched.
The interface of the game is very nice. Most actions are handled by either the left or the right mouse button and the most frequent actions are assigned keys which are easy to reach and remember (space to attack, ESC to bring up game option dialog, etc). The interface is not as nice as DUNGEON MASTERs interface (my favorite RPG interface), but it comes quite close. There are many nice touches such as a quick save into RAM save position (option sorely missing from ULTIMA 8), ability to adjust level of detail for slower computers, a thumbnail display of dungeon view for each save slot, a full screen view in which almost all of the screen was taken up by 3-d view of the dungeon, and many others.
The level layout is likewise well done. Overall the game is pretty linear with dungeon levels that must be explored in particular order. However, this does not mean that there are no branches - most of the time there were 2-4 different choices about which part of the level to explore. These branches aren't very deep and most of them quickly come to a dead end or to a door which required a key I didn't have. I never felt like I was lost in a maze of twisty little passages, all alike; nor did I feel that the game was so linear that I had no choice where to go next. The care taken in level design is pretty evident and, while Hexx doesn't have the clever layout of DUNGEON MASTER levels, it also doesn't feel like random levels of ARENA or DUNGEON HACK.
The puzzles in Hexx are too rare and simple for my taste. I consider myself a serious RPG player, so my opinion is biased - the number and difficulty of puzzles is probably well matched for Hexx's intended audience. There are definitely enough elements in the game (buttons, pressure plates, spinners, teleporters, trap doors, great variety of keys, etc...) to make more devious puzzles. Except for one place where I got stuck, solving the game required little ingenuity.
Hexx is completely bug-free and very responsive. I tried it on a 386-40 4 meg machine running OS/2 (pretty much a minimal configuration for OS/2), and it ran quite fast. Those people who may not be able to even load some of today's monster-sized games on their older 386 PC's will be able to run Hexx at reasonable speed.
Game graphics are colorful and varied. They are somewhat cartoonish and do not provide the same atmoshphere that SHADOWCASTER or EOB graphics provided. Still, they are not garish like BLAKE STONE graphics and were quite effective especially when my party was low on torches. The sound effects were merely adequate. Besides clanking of swords and whistling of spells, there were no sounds to speak of.
Overall, I recommend the game to novice players. If you feel more comfortable playing action games then an RPGs, if you liked SHADOW-CASTER, W3D or DUNGEON HACK, or if you are just waiting for next big game to come out, give HEXX a try. On the other hand, if you are bored with "more of the same" games, if you like games that take chanches and try something new instead of doing a well-implemented rehash of old ideas, skip HEXX.
For me, this game has provided a good week of mindless fun.