Do you like puzzles? Chain reactions? Have you ever wondered what would happen if you put little chunks of colorful fireworks into a particle accelerator and smashed them into each other at just under light speed, sending electrons flying with reckless abandon? Hexothermic attempts to answer all these questions.
Four different gameplay modes offer different variations on the main goal of Hexothermic: carefully constructing elaborate cascades that blast all the colorful atoms from the board. In Marathon mode, you must conquer each level while earning points for clearing the board as efficiently as possible. Timed mode forces you to think quickly as you work to detonate the atoms against the clock. Survival mode starts you with 99 electrons, so you must use them frugally to progress as far as you can. Puzzle mode is probably the most challenging gametype, requiring you plot your moves carefully to pass each individual challenge using only the alloted number of electrons. While the mechanics remain similar, each mode is conducive to a slightly different style of play.
From an aesthetic perspective, Hexothermic is a simple-yet-pleasing title, both visually and aurally. Each game board has a familiar starry background and a honeycomb structure that is dotted with five types of atoms that correspond to the visible spectrum of light: red, yellow, green, blue and purple. The further an atom is towards the colder end of the spectrum, the slower it moves and the more electrons must be added for it to burst. As each atom is bombarded by an explosion, it speeds up towards the warmer end of the color spectrum before finally blowing up as well. When you've finally reached critical mass and trigger a massive supernova, you'll be treated to a gorgeous light show and a soothing series of accompanying plucks on an acoustic guitar. As the explosions shower you with a series of starbursts, the environment has a very ethereal feel to it that makes you almost forget you were actively playing the game.
If you happen to be an achievement aficionado, there are also a number of in-game achievements (sorry, no gamer points, these are only for personal satisfaction) for various actions such as clearing a grid in a single massive explosion, scoring over 100,000 points or passing way points in each game mode.
Hexothermic is an innovative, stylish puzzle game with plenty of challenges that will occupy you for hours on end. The functionality is flawless and the presentation is first class. It could easily go in the XBL arcade, although it would probably be underappreciated there next to some of the big-name titles. If you're a fan of well-designed single-player puzzle games, this title is a valuable addition to your collection.