Whenever a highly challenging arcade game with quick runs based upon dodging obstacles comes along, every journalist and pundit in the industry declares it a new incarnation of Super Hexagon—though sadly not, as far as I have seen, accompanied by the gruesome headline that we masochists so richly deserve: "Super Hexagain."
The reason why so many leap to this comparison is obvious: Terry Cavanagh's game represents the pinnacle of the genre. But while I enjoy seeing that fact so widely recognized, it's also led to a string of frustrating disappointments because few who remember it seem to actually understand why it is so good. I've put more than 150 hours into Super Hexagon and at one point was the 27th best player in the world. I consider it a perfect work of game design, and every time its name is invoked for the purpose of describing some newly announced this or that I can see within moments that the supposed successor is a mere pretender.
Velocibox fares far better than most. Like Super Hexagon, it is an addictive game of fast, involuntary pace and geometry avoidance with short runs and instantaneous retries. It is even thematically similar, concerning itself with cubes much like Super Hexagon celebrates its flatter six-sided shape. Is Velocibox as good as Super Hexagon? Well, no, it's not. Its design is a bit more convoluted due to the scoring system and, more importantly, the ramifications of its third dimension.
Firstly, instead of merely avoiding patterned sets of obstacles, the player must also guide the avatar to run across cube pickups both as a means to progress to the next level (which pops in after every six pickups) and in order to increase the score and its multiplier. Taking too long between cubes causes the score multiplier to be lost, and so it is vital when attacking the leaderboard to aggressively pursue them. Your interest is thus divided between maneuvering to survive and taking risks in order to pick up cubes more frequently for a better score, whereas in Super Hexagon survival time simply is the score. Objectively, the design is less pure; however, some players may prefer Velocibox's approach for generating tension and fostering a more active form of competitive play.
The more essential difference is that, because the three-dimensional field extends forward into the distance, the hazards are not uniformly visible like those of Super Hexagon. By itself, this is not necessarily a bad thing; the nature of the challenge is simply different. However, it is important to consider that perhaps the most clever thing about Super Hexagon is the fixed relationship between the disorienting field rotation, the player's rate of movement, and the visibility of forthcoming labyrinth at the edges of the screen. Brilliantly, each stage throughout the game ramps up these intertwined factors until the field rotation abruptly stops in the post-game stage, limiting visibility unevenly and suddenly making aspect ratio a key factor for gameplay. In that transformative moment, Super Hexagon reveals itself to be an entirely different game than previously assumed and requires a new layer of awareness and decision making from the player. In contrast, Velocibox offers a free range of evasive movement that is disconnected from the rate of forward motion and maze discovery, and both remain static from one level to the next. It makes no attempt to explore changes to field visibility—indeed, it probably cannot because it does not share the abstraction of Super Hexagon's 2D plane. It is, ironically, limited in scope by the lack of restrictions posed by its 3D environment.
Ultimately, though, despite not being as interesting or as beautiful a work of game design as Super Hexagon, what Velocibox does accomplish is to be quite a good game, and that is certainly enough. Not everything has to be a work of absolute genius, and it may well be impossible for anything to truly match Super Hexagon because it is so thorough in exploring the possibilities of the carefully limited space that it defines for itself. Despite the clear parallels between the two, Velocibox occupies a different space, and it is to our benefit that they can coexist.
This review can also be viewed and rated on Steam.