“ Genre: Puzzle / Rating: E - (Everyone) / Published by: Hudson Soft USA Inc. „
From its title, you might be forgiven for thinking that Honeycomb Beat is a musical puzzle game, like Lumines. It isn't, though: Honeycomb Beat is based around a simple tile-flipping mechanic that sees you tapping - or "beating" - hexagonal tiles to swap their colour. The hook is that the tiles are connected - flip a tile and any of the tiles touching it are also flipped.
There are two game types on offer. Puzzle mode offers two hundred brain-teasers for you to solve, each level giving you a configuration of tiles and asking you to flip them all to the same colour in a limited number of moves. Evolution mode is kind've like Tetris; a pattern of hexagons advances up the screen, and flipping all the tiles in a row to the same colour makes that row disappear. If the screen fills it's game over.
Each mode has its strengths and weaknesses. Puzzle mode has plenty of levels, but the difficulty is all over the place. It builds up to some real stinkers, and then, in an effort to introduce new game elements, suddenly turns insultingly easy. A couple of puzzles later the difficulty jumps right back up to a level that won't just see you scratching your head; it's entirely possible that you'll be banging it against a wall.
Evolution mode is a nice idea, but is fundamentally flawed. In order to flip multiple tiles at once you're forced to let them build up onscreen, but obviously that pushes you dangerously close to the "game over" line. Evolution offers you multiple difficult levels, which basically translates as increasing the number of lines you have to clear in order to "win". It also ranks your performance with what must be one of the harshest criteria in gaming; it's a little discouraging to struggle through a level only to be told that your brain ranks as the size of a mitochondria.
The presentation is simple but stylish, and does pay some lip service to music-based puzzle games like Lumines. The puzzles play out on the bottom screen, while the top screen is occupied by a "visualization" like the ones that you can turn on in Windows Media Player or Winamp. Unlike those, and unlike Lumines, the visualizations here simply loop and don't react to the in-game music. That music is generally pretty good, and there's a decent selection of music, backgrounds and visualizations to unlock.
The problem here is that while Honeycomb Beat isn't a bad game, it's also not a particularly good one. Sure the basic idea works, and it's fun for a while, but it's also extremely limited. The attraction of two hundred puzzle levels starts to diminish once you realise that they all stick very closely to the same idea. The unlockables are welcome, but I can't help but feel that they were placed there by game designers make up for the fact that the fundamental structure is extremely simple.
With a little more invention this could have been a lot better, but there simply isn't enough here to keep you playing for any length of time. This is the sort of game that you'll be happy to play for a few minutes every so often, but won't demand any more of your time than that. It's difficult to criticise Honeycomb Beat too much because it achieves everything it sets out to, but only does so within it's own limited scope. And that's the real heart of the matter: it's difficult to criticise Honeycomb Beat, but it's also far too difficult to praise it.
Honeycomb Beat features intuitive touch screen gameplay and more than 200 unique puzzles to energize your mind. Solve each puzzle by touching on a Honeycomb tile, which will change the colors of the tiles around it. Line up tiles of the same color to eliminate them or create different shapes and patterns. Solve mind-bending challenges of increasing complexity in Puzzle Mode, or play through Evolution Mode where the board advances upwards and you have to eliminate lines before it's too late.