• Developing games for the 360’s XNA community must be a tricky prospect at the best of times. Do you choose to build something crazily ambitious in the hope that people will be wowed by your crazy visuals and box art? Or do you play it subtle and go for simplicity?

    Hexothermic, from David Webb / Epic Pasta falls into the XNA category of games that take a relatively simple idea and runs with it, producing something playable and rather pleasing for a bargain price.

    Hexothermic

    It’s a puzzle game involving atomic reactions. Feed a node point with a electron and if you get your timing right, and hit a red atom, watch it explode, triggering a six-way explosion that, in turn, will cause other nearby atoms to either explode (if red) or move one step closer to exploding (if blue, yellow or green with blue being the “safe” end of the scale). Don’t tax your brain too much, you won’t need a doctorate in Nuclear Physics to get your head around it, as Hexothermic is instantly playable and approachable.

    Gameplay involves moving a cursor over a likely looking node and judging what will be the best way to deploy your electron.

    Modal Nodes

    There are four modes in Hexothermic, each featuring the same core gameplay but with a slightly different slant to each . Marathon mode is played purely for the high scores. The ultimate aim is to use your pool of electrons in the best way possible to set up those high scoring chain reactions. Run out of electrons and it’s game over.

    Moving on, timed mode is a lot more challenging. This time not only do you have a fixed pool of electrons (slightly lower than in Marathon mode) but you also have a time limit on each move. Spend too long pondering which atom you’re going to blow up next, and the game is over – likewise if you use up all your electrons you’re done and dusted too. Timed mode is quite tense and frantic as, on later levels with less red atoms, you struggle to make the best use of the clock and whatever electrons you have left.

    Next up there’s Survival, which gives you 99 electrons and lets you play with those to achieve the biggest score and number of chains.

    Lastly there’s Puzzle mode which is where the game gets a little bit tougher. You’re presented with a fixed number of electrons and a pattern of atoms. You have just enough electrons to trigger the chain reaction solution, ultimately clearing the grid. One false move and your puzzling days are over. In all honesty, Puzzle Mode is by far the most satisfying and challenging of the modes once you start to see atoms dancing before your eyes, so cut your teeth on Marathon mode by all means, but utilise your time wisely in Puzzle mode if you want my advice.

    Fusion Friendly

    Hexothermic is hypnotic and playable, as a good Community title should be. The achievement-like “awards” are a very nice feature, and the game’s obviously had a lot of polish applied to it despite its outward appearance of simplicity.

    It’s a nice chillout title that should keep puzzle addicts engaged for longer than that pint mentioned at the top of the review, and like the best XNA-developed stuff it’s good to see attic developers once again able to ply their wares in public, meaning that amongst the fireplace simulators and ropey RC Plane sims, you’ll find the odd gem like Hexothermic.

    It might not have buckets of long-term appeal but then it was probably never designed to, but the awards feature gives it a shot in the arm longevity wise if you try to nail them all, and if your other half is anything like mine, one whiff of a puzzle game and you’ve lost your 360 for the evening. At the very least, dive onto the community area of the Xbox Live Marketplace and play the demo.

    Score: 6/10

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