Hot off puzzle city builders Dorfromantik and Pano’rama, I’ve been really feeling biome based games. ArchiHexago takes biome building and pops it into an interesting match-3 casual puzzle setting. It has some really great ideas but doesn’t quite push them far enough to make this an essential purchase for everyone. Those that enjoy the casual, relaxed and cosier side of gaming will get more out of it though.
Each level in ArchiHexago is an island of hexagons and as you move from island to island, more clutter is placed on the island to build your biomes around. Each move randomly generates a selection of 2-4 tiles to place down and they will be any of combination of three types of terrain chosen for the level to complete. You need to satisfy the rules for each terrain (or biome) to clear them off the island and keep the game going. Misfire and you’ll get stuck with tiles you cannot remove and so eventually you’ll hit a game over state.
There are six tile types across the game. Forest and grasslands can be joined together in groups of 5 or 7 respectively – they just need to be touching somehow to be cleared. Lakes must snake along and only have one side touching. If more than one side of a lake touches another it turns into a swamp that can only be removed through a special action. Beach tiles can only be cleared when three or more beach tiles are touching the edge of the island, so you’ll be wanting arrange tiles nicely to clear leftover beach tiles from other moves. Lastly desert tiles have to be surrounded by other tiles to eliminate them. It’s the beach and desert tiles that bring all the difficulty to ArchiHexago as you are never sure what tiles you’ll get next and often a few wrong moves with the desert tiles can cut off a large chunk of your island. That said, desert and beach only come up in the final third of the game and so I was beasting my way through the first two thirds without a care in the world, nowhere near a game over. It was a shame that as soon as I had to really think about my tile placement, the game ended.
Special actions can be earned to help you out further but completing missions. These are often clearing larger forests and grasslands than standard or making a lake that runs from the campfire central tile to the sea. Complete a mission and you earn a special action point which can be used to delete a tile (great for swamps and deserts), swap out a bad next tile, or bizarrely save your progress to resume it later. The save and resume is such a strange decision – it urked me that I just lost all my progress if I didn’t clear a mission to be able to save my score first. Once the game is completed, by getting 100 points to open the next island, you can try a custom island but they are just variants of everything you’ve already seen so its not quite the user generated level designer I’d hoped for.
Whilst ArchiHexago was enjoyable, it suffers from two issues. The first is the lack of difficulty right up until the end. I think for this reason, the casual and cosy audience will get much more out of the game than other audiences. The second issue was the fiddly controls. To rotate a tile around, you use the mouse wheel but then it starts to change what tile you are rotating from and it gets messy. The only time I hit a game over was due to a tile moving as a laid it down and it happened way too often. This would be fine if there was an undo button but alas, there is not. So heed caution and have steady hands.
ArchiHexago is nice and relaxed puzzle game, with some great ideas, but it doesn’t really push them in any meaningful way and so feels a bit empty by the time you’ve reached the end.
Review copy provided by publisher. Out now on Steam.
Some great mechanics are let down slightly by not being explored fully. Nice game for a casual clear up though.
Biome rules make for an interesting premise.
Relaxed puzzle solving - it has a calm mood to it.
Fiddly controls when rotating tiles.
Lack of challenge for a good 80% of the game - I didn't have to think until the very end.
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