If you like the wargame/board game strategy of Neuroshima Hex, but want to quietly challenge your brain as you play, the new Neuroshima Hex Puzzle app should be right up your alley. Even better, the universal app is on sale for just US$0.99 this weekend (a 66 percent discount).
The game is a close cousin to the original Neuroshima Hex iOS game (also on sale this weekend for $2.99 (40 percent off), and we recommend the puzzle version for people who have already gotten lots of enjoyment out of the multiplayer version and want to spend some time learning about how to play better and thinking about why they often lose. Keep reading for more details.
Gameplay in Neuroshima Hex Puzzle is identical to the original Neuroshima Hex app except that these aren't meant as player vs. player struggles. Instead, this is Neuroshima Hex for the Sudoku set. In 100 different scenarios (aka puzzles), you are given a limited number of tiles and a goal. Each of the 100 puzzles (called Hex-aches) comes with a short introduction that sets up the goal, and without any time pressure, you have to figure out how to achieve this goal.
Since the rules are similar to the other app, here's how the game works (again): You control hex-shaped army units that you use to attack your opponent's base (also a hex). You draw three hex tiles (sensing a thread, here?) each turn and must discard one. You then play your tiles onto the board and get one turn of attacks to make sure that your HQ has more hit points left than your opponent's. I haven't figured out if there is only one right answer for each puzzle, but there certainly are lots of wrong ones.
There is no AI in the app, no luck, no nothing, except 100 puzzles (well, 90 really, since the first 10 are learning levels). It's kind of annoying that all of the 10 tutorial levels require you to tap through the same set of simple introductory steps each time, and that you can't advance beyond the tutorial levels until you've solved all 10. Grr.
There is an in-game rulebook ported over from the regular app, and the updated information mode is also here (thankfully, especially if you're learning the game). The best part is that you can get information on everything before you have to discard your tile, so you can make the best choice without needing to retry the level – if you're good.
These aren't the only things that were brought over from the original game. In that version, you need to watch all the battle animations. We wish there was a way to turn that off in the other app, but here, it just seems rude. If you've lost the level, you still need to waste time watching your armies fail. No fun. As one reviewer in iTunes says:
Please spare us from every level's poorly written introduction text, which is full of grammatical errors and annoying snark. Worst of all, it's never very relevant to the puzzle. And why so much talk about kitchens and cleaners? The jokes are tepid at best.
The poorly written introductions combined with the annoying holdovers make this game feel like a cash-in or rehash. This idea has potential, but it needs the treatment and polish given to a full game.
Still, once you're into the game, it's quite enjoyable, if you can get past the idiosyncrasies. Most important, the puzzles are actually challenging and work well for what they are meant to do: challenge your Neuroshima Hex playing skills. There is also Game Center support with 11 achievements to unlock, but they are just awards for solving each of the sets of 10 puzzles (the 11th is the "Puzzle God" award for solving everything). If you want a link that'll take all the challenge out of the game, click for a walk-through/cheat of all 100 levels.
Like its bigger brother, the Puzzle game features the official Neuroshima Hex armies and artwork from the board game. Neuroshima Hex Puzzle is a universal app (Version 1.0 reviewed here) and plays equally well on the iPhone or iPad. The button layout is a bit different in the two versions, but this is pure window dressing. Everything operates the same way.
While these sorts of sales are nice, it seems like almost every board game app (and many others) eventually go through a price dip like this, making it almost silly to get a game when it first comes out. Why pay more? Sure, these apps are a lot cheaper than the corresponding physical board games (and you don't get these sorts of puzzles there), but money is frequently tight these days, and it can often make sense to wait. If you're this kind of gamer, this weekend might be the time to bite. The developers claim that "In Neuroshima Hex Puzzle no one cares to hear you scream." This might be true, but anyone who paid full price for these apps the other day may be a bit vocal right about now.