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DS  header logo

Honeycomb Beat

For: DS   Also on: Mobile

Is it sweeter than Tetris?

Product: Honeycomb Beat | Developer: Hudson Soft | Publisher: Rising Star Games Limited | Format: DS | Genre: Puzzle | Players: 1 | Version: Europe
Honeycomb Beat DS, thumbnail 1
For those of us with a bit of a fear of bees, Honeycomb Beat doesn't sound quite as sweet and friendly as it might to most. And for those of us who've actually fallen into a beehive and been covered in buzzing insects, it doesn't sound cute at all.

Still, being covered in bees and coming away with only one sting was a surprisingly unchallenging experience. Which isn't something you can say about Honeycomb Beat. For what appears to be a fun and pleasant music-based tile-flipping puzzler turns out to have a bit of a sting in its tail.

The game is nicely presented with an immediately customisable set of screen colours, background music and accompanying Visualiser. You're then taken through an absolutely essential tutorial to teach you the basics of the game.

Each level in the Puzzle mode features a number of hexagonal shapes joined together. You have to turn them all over until they're white, but each tile you turn will similarly affect the surrounding tiles. With the areas you need to flip overlapping, you'll find yourself turning back tiles you've already flipped to white and therein lies the puzzle – how to make them all white.

But it doesn't end there. You have to do it in a limited number of 'beats', the process of touching a tile with your stylus in order to flip it.

"So where is the music (beat) element?" you may ask. Well, there isn't one. Despite the presentation and style, this is a simple puzzle game. No more, no less. The puzzle levels unlock as you go along, offering branching difficulty paths. The difficulty spikes, though, are random and massively frustrating, even if you choose to play in a linear order of levels.

After 30 stages which involve no more than one or two 'beats' of the stylus on obvious panels to complete the puzzle, there are suddenly enormously hard, big, complex boards with several special tiles that will flip a whole row of tiles or require three or four taps before they'll turn over.

With only six or seven beats allowed in these levels before you're over par, you can be stuck on one for hours. You can always start it over if you've made the wrong move, of course, but you can't undo moves once you've made them so there's no opportunity to mess around with the board and get a feel for what to try next.

The game's other mode, meanwhile, is Evolution. Here, like many 'match three' and Tetris-style puzzlers available for the DS, the hexagonal panels creep up the screen. Your job is to flip colours to create white horizontal lines so as to make them disappear and stave off death when your honeycomb of tiles hits the top of the screen.

The problem with this mode is a very basic one – the starting speed of the inevitable move up the screen is just too fast. It's the reason why the pacing of Tetris and Meteos-style games is paramount. You simply don't get the chance to get into the swing of it with Honeycomb Beat before you're millimetres away from 'game over' and vainly stabbing at panels in a panic.

Back to brighter things, the customisation options grow exponentially with the unlocking of levels in Puzzle mode and the destruction of certain numbers of lines in Evolution. You can make some pretty backgrounds, access a wide range of music and even change the colour of the panels within the game. It may sound superficial, but it actually plays a major part in the feel of the experience, as well as your psychological response to it. A relaxing piano peace and pretty flowers will produce a very different state of mind than a frantic electronic beat with a crazy flashing visualiser in your face, for instance.

Ultimately, it's unfortunate to have to accept the game's failings outweigh its good points. The flawed difficulty progression is a key aspect, but so is the game's long-term appeal. Don't get us wrong – we couldn't put it down for four straight hours on first playing it, but there's nothing to make you want to pick the game up ever again after that.

And with masterful competitors out there such as Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords, this is one beehive we won't be falling back into.
Honeycomb Beat
Reviewer photo
Kirsten Kearney | 7 November 2007
With misplaced difficulty spikes and limited replay value, an otherwise solid puzzler is outshone by others in its genre
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