iPad Game Review: Neuroshima Hex Reviewed by Tom Slayton
Neuroshima Hex is an iOS (universal) adaptation of the popular board game of the same name. The game is played on a hex grid where two opposing armies attempt to bring down their opponent's HQ while protecting their own. There are four different faction decks to choose from, each with different unit types and strengths/weaknesses. This is a deep game of thoughtful strategy with highly imaginative sci-fi units. In a parallel universe where Starcraft is a boardgame, it probably looks something like this.
In Neuroshima Hex you will be dealt 1-3 tiles each turn which can be played on the game board. These tiles will be drawn from three distinct groups within your faction's deck: offensive or army units, modules that can be used to enhance your active tiles, and instant action tiles. While this sounds fairly straightforward, the complex interaction between the tiles means there is a LOT of room for individual strategies. The game ends when all the tiles have been played. This will almost always occur before either HQ is destroyed (although, I somehow managed to get blown off the map) so the winner is the one whose HQ has taken the least damage. If you?re thinking that this can quickly degrade into Flintstones boxing (where the players take turns hammering on each other without bothering to defend), you?re wrong. You are limited by the tiles you are dealt each turn, which forces you to expand your strategy beyond simple offense.
The developers have gone the extra mile to make the game as accessible as possible. The full-screen tutorial video does a nice job of explaining the interface and turn sequence, and the manual can be accessed without leaving a game. The most useful feature for new players (recently added), however, is the Information Mode. This can be enabled by hitting the i button. Once active, tapping a tile will bring up a window describing its function. Unfortunately, the game cannot be played while in this mode, rendering it a bit more cumbersome than it really needs to be. Since its initial launch, Neuroshima Hex has gotten a lot of love from its developers in the form of AI tweaks, bug fixes, graphical improvements, and help options. In addition, they also recently added support for Apple?s Game Center with all the achievement goodness you can eat. Neuroshima Hex supports up to four players on a single device; any combination of those can be human or AI. There is currently no multiplayer support via Game Center or any other online service.
The graphics of Neuroshima Hex do a great job of reproducing the boardgame art. The developers recently enhanced the game with retina display support on iPhones and iPods that support this, and enhanced the menu graphics on the iPad side. While the artwork on the tiles is not animated, the tiles themselves move during gameplay giving players a clear idea of what is occurring at any given time. All of the animation is quite subtle and is clearly designed with the ?function over form? mindset. It is smooth, however, and has a very polished feel. For example, when you place units on the board, you drag, drop, and then rotate them. This process is silky smooth, and the interface is responsive and accurate.
The sound effects in Neuroshima Hex are a nice collection of sci-fi weapon sounds. They are all mercifully short when they play and I ended up leaving the sound effects on, even after several hours. The music, unfortunately, found itself quickly benched do to its implementation. The quality of the music was good; I just found the abrupt transitions between tile placement and battle to be a bit jarring. If the low ominous soundtrack were instead to play continuously, I might find myself leaving that on, as well.
On a side note, when I tried to access music from my iPod library by starting it before launching the game, Neuroshima Hex immediately put its boot to my music's throat before enabling its own rousing soundtrack. This happened even if the in-game music had been disabled, and the only way to stop it was to enable the music from the in-game menu and then disable it again. Although, not a dealbreaker, if you were hoping to listen to your own music be prepared for disappointment.
Neuroshima Hex is a great implementation of a classic board game. Its clean interface, numerous help options, crisp graphics, and strong AI have made it a permanent fixture on the first screen of my iPad (the competition is fierce, believe me). It's only failing is the lack of online multiplayer support, something that would take it from great to instant classic. If you're like me, however, you do most of your gaming solo. With that in mind, Neuroshima Hex is an effortless recommendation for any fan of strategy board games. If you're still on the fence, however, give the lite version a try. What have you got to lose but a huge chunk of your free time?
Ratings (scale of 1 to 5): 4 An excellent implementation of a classic boardgame marred only by its lack of online multiplayer.
Graphics: - 4 - Crisp, nicely drawn game tiles, all of which are nicely drawn reproductions of the boardgame pieces. Sound: - 3 - Good use of in-game sound effects. The music is also well-done, but isn?t for everyone. No iPod support. Controls: - 5 - Great interface. Accurate and silky smooth Gameplay: - 5 - Complex yet approachable strategy boardgame with lots of room for surprise attacks and subtlety.
Playing Hints and Tips:
Try a 4-person game with no AI players. Playing against yourself will help you get to know game without cranial smoke coming from your ears due to the burning humiliation of losing on easy.