February 3rd, 2007, 15:23 Posted By: wraggster
We've been promised more DS content in 2007 by Nintendo, and it seems as though the rush is already underway, with Konami showing nearly a dozen titles at its Gamers' Day event alone. As the newest addicting touch-puzzler for DS, Hudson's Honeycomb Beat is a mix of simple innovation and basic touch screen usage. In what could best be described as a mix between Tetris and Othello, the game's focus centers around a combination of hexagonal tiles that make up a two-colored honeycomb. With the touch of the bottom screen, players can switch any tile on the grid from one color to the other, with the ultimate goal of completing designs, flipping tiles in combos, or making an entire horizontal line of all the same color. The catch: Any time you flip a tile all neighboring tiles will flip along with it.
Though Honeycomb Beat was shown off only in demo form, the current build gave us a good sense of things to come. The basic presentation centers around - you guessed it - a honeycomb theme, with all interface featuring a slick, hexagonal look. All interface is handled on the touch screen, with descriptions of events and game tips taking up the top screen. From the get-go Honeycomb Beat asks that you design a profile for stat-tracking, and then allows you to either immediately get into the action, or check out the simple (and surprisingly quick) tutorial mode. Tutorial sections include lessons in panel flipping, vector labels (which are basically different types of panels), and advanced flipping techniques. Each tutorial presents itself very well, with all explanation on the top screen and a user-controlled touch tutorial on the bottom screen. After about five minutes of panel-flipping we were ready to dive into the main game.
Honeycomb Beat is comprised of two different modes; puzzle, and evolution. In puzzle mode, players are required to take a specific layout of panels on the bottom screen and create patterns by flipping them from one color to the other. Some of these puzzles demand that all panels on the screen are the same color, whereas others will result in two-tone patterns or pictures. There are 20 puzzle areas, each with 10 puzzles for a total of 200 different brain-teasers. Just like in the main game, whenever a puzzle is completed the actual interface will flip new available puzzles over in a branching, honeycomb style. It's simple, but it has a really cool look as you begin to tunnel your way through each mission.
When it comes to evolution mode, Honeycomb Beat takes a note from Tetris, as players can jump into one of 10 different difficultly levels in an attempt to clear lines. A huge mass of Honeycomb will begin to rise from the bottom of the screen, and players will need to flip an entire horizontal line to clear it away. With a little trickery (and some smart planning) combos can be created by setting up multiple lines and then eliminating them all at once. Once the mass of honeycomb reaches the top of the bottom screen, it's game over. Adding to the replay value of evolution mode is a profile ranking system, which takes into account how long you lasted, how many points you achieved, and the complexity of combos to rank your performance. Like in Brain Age, you'll be assigned a "Brain Evolution" rating which you can work to raise over multiple play sessions.
So what's the point of the game? Well, aside from adding more wrinkles to your brain as you twist it in knots, Honeycomb Beat also offers a few unlockables, though they're primarily cosmetic. As you venture through puzzle and evolution modes you'll continue to unlock new panel colors, different backgrounds, more music, and different visuals for the top screen during play. It's basic, but it's still a reason to go back and kick the crap out of any shameful puzzle attempts you may have done. From the demo we were able to select from 10 different panel colors, three background themes (a space theme, a "warm" theme, and a girly "fancy" theme), six different songs titled simply "Music1-6", and digital or wave visual animations. It is all extremely basic, but every little bit helps in a puzzle game, and staring at the same two colors for hours on end is grounds for much "head-explode-ification" in our book, so it's a good addition to the package.
All in all Honeycomb Beat is a pretty entertaining experience, although it isn't an astonishingly deep endeavor. Puzzles can be extremely tricky (and not being a huge puzzle nut like Craig I was made to look like a fool on a few of the brain-teasers), and the amount of depth is decent for what we hope is a game that fits in the lower DS price range (around $20 seems about right). Konami maintains that the game is "beat-based", though from the demo we didn't see any real advantage in playing with the sound on or off, aside from having a driving tempo to flip to. The game also offers some special panels that can be brought into play at the user's digression, which consist of tiles that flip only diagonal, vertical, or horizontally when you flip them (instead of on all sides), tiles that create full lines when touched, or hold tiles that are essentially time bombs that flip after a certain number of moves (used for insane, time-released combos). From the looks of it Honeycomb Beat could be a solid puzzler for DS fans this year, as it supports some decent stat tracking, is easy to get into, and offers a great amount of difficulty throughout its 200+ puzzles.
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