Terry Cavanagh’s Super Hexagon is a delightfully simple action game, whose reputation for punishment has no doubt already reached you. Although this spiraling maze of death has extremely simply rules, it is also relentless and uncompromising.

Shortly after its release, there was a great deal of discussion about how it highlights a player’s role in the the game. In this game, as in any other, to succeed requires that the player change to adapt to it. I was inspired to give a bit of thought to exactly what was changing. This post is specifically about how my perception of the game changed to adapt to the challenge.

Individual Walls

After overcoming the sensory overload, my first perception of the playing field was of a mass of walls being thrown at me. Similar to bullet hell shooters, I saw walls as projectiles. I was unable to track more than one or two walls at a time, and I was aware of my triangle’s position on gut feel alone.

Triangle to Edge

An early boost in skill arrived by ceasing to see walls as large, homogenous obstacles, but as edges serving as targets to graze. The game suddenly became a slalom course centered on the triangle’s relationship to wall edges. At that point I was holding the triangle and one target edge in my mind at a time, looking for the next edge to graze once the first was cleared.

Triangle to Column

Another, more sustainable focus was in my relationship to the columns. I still stayed acutely aware of the triangle, but safe columns became grooves or notches that I fit into. The game shifted from negative reinforcment to positive: empty spaces became targets to hit. It almost felt as if I were being awarded points for hitting them!

Upon arriving in a clear column, I could again start to look ahead. Being a bigger target than wall edges, with this approach, I could sooner start finding the best path out of the maze.

Wall Shapes

The final stage I just started to hit was to recognize the common patterns that form the onslaught. In this mode, my awareness of the triangle is vague at best, muscle memory starts to win out over perception. If the cursor ever strays a bit too far from where I expect it to be, I start to feel edgy and I revert to one of the prior perception models.

Making my Escape

Let it be clear that my level of expertise in this game is intermediate at best. Right now, I have zero chance of beating Hexagonest, even at my better moments. With more to learn, it’s quite possible that a new view on this spinning death trap is the next key to improvement.