This puzzle game has more beat than bite.
Remember the old Tiger Electronics handheld game Lights Out (or more recently, the Puzzle Panel mini-game in Super Mario 64 DS and New Super Mario Bros.)? Honeycomb Beat takes the same concept, but rather than a square grid, the game is played on a hexagonal grid. Thus, the "Honeycomb" reference is obvious, but the meaning behind the "Beat" part of the name is two-fold. The game features catchy light beat electronic dance music, but "Beat" is also the name given to the action of tapping a tile on the screen. However, the game does not involve tapping to any particular rhythm.
Playing the game is incredibly simple. Tapping on (beating) a hexagon tile flips that tile and all tiles touching it. It is a simple concept with the potential to generate some dastardly puzzles. Later stages change things up slightly with the introduction of "vector" tiles, which change all tiles in the direction indicated by an arrow. Some tiles require multiple beats before they will flip, and another tile type will only flip itself. In some stages, a limited number of these special attributes can actually be assigned to an arbitrary tile by dragging them from an inventory. The game includes two modes, Puzzle Mode and Evolution Mode. Even though both modes use the same control, the style of play is diametrically opposite.
The goal of Puzzle Mode is to light up all tiles on the grid within a limited number of moves. The game will even let the player take more moves than the optimal number, but the stage won’t be cleared with an "Excellent" rating. There is no time limit, so players can take as much time as they’d like and as many retries as they need to clear each puzzle. There are 200 hundred puzzles in all. Unfortunately, the first third are basically designed to introduce players to different tile types and strategies and thus are throwaways. Fortunately, difficulty does increase significantly in later stages with some especially tricky designs that will stump players.
Unlocking stages happens in a distinctive non-linear fashion, so players don’t have to play each stage in numerical order. The stages are laid out on a hexagonal grid like the game itself, and clearing a stage opens up all surrounding stages on the grid. Each ten stages cleared unlock a new background, visualization, or background music selection. The visualizations can be likened to some of the visualizations in Winamp that change in time with the music. They reside on the top screen and don’t affect gameplay in any way, but they are pretty nifty to watch. Incidentally, my DS’s battery level was starting to get low when I first played the game and the battery indicator light actually changed color with the bass beats of the game. This effect wasn’t intentionally programmed, but it would have been interesting if it had been.
Evolution Mode changes the pace completely, instead opting for gameplay similar to Tetris (or more accurately, Polarium’s Marathon mode). Rows of tiles climb up the screen and rows must be changed to the same color to make them disappear before they reach the top of the screen. Speed continuously increases and a given number of lines must be cleared in order to complete the stage. Since lines are staggered, clearing every other line would spell disaster since the remaining lines would not touch each other. Unlike in Puzzle Mode, the franticness forces players to tap tiles as quickly as possible in order to clear lines and gives little time for strategy. However, players are encouraged to attempt multiple-line combos. After the round is completed, the game will ascertain the player’s "brain level," likening it to mitochondria, jellyfish, and other creatures depending on the max line combo completed. The game emphasizes that this rating is "just for fun."
Ultimately, Honeycomb Beat’s greatest asset and biggest shortfall is its inherent simplicity. The game is great to pick up and play anytime, but players may bore quickly depending on how much time they want to spend contemplating the puzzles. While its shiny presentation helps pass the time, its lack of interesting game modes does not.