Hexcells Plus Review

Screenshot from Hexcells Plus
Hexcells Plus offers more challenging puzzles than the original

  • Reviewed by: Mark Goninon
  • Developer: Matthew Brown
  • Publisher: Matthew Brown
  • Release Date: 19 Feb 2014
  • Time played: 20.5 hours

What is it

There isn't much information out there about British indie developer Matthew Brown but since about 2014 he has been quite prolific in pumping out games, especially puzzle games.

Brown made his mark with the game I reviewed previously called Hexcells which was released in 2014. The game is like a cross of Minesweeper and Nonograms (aka Picross) except played on a hexagonal grid. The aim of the game is to clear out all the hexes on the board by marking where the blue hexes are (similar to the bomb squares in Minesweeper) and removing hexes when you're sure it's not meant to be marked as a blue hex. Clearing hexes that aren't blue hexes will provide you a number that gives you a clue as to how many blue hexes are in adjacent hexes. As you make your way through the game, it will provide you other ways of determining where the blue hexes are such as numbers on the side of the grid similar to Nonograms.

The game I'm reviewing today, Hexcells Plus, was released on Steam the same day as the original Hexcells but it serves as a "standalone expansion" to the original, offering 36 more new levels to complete and introducing new hint methods such as hexes indicating how many blue hexes are within a certain radius.

As it was with the original Hexcells, you are assessed on how effective you are at clearing levels for if you make too many mistakes you're barred access from future levels.

Hexcells Plus was well received by Steam users with a "Very Positive" rating based on 94% of the 1,199 reviews being positive.

How I got it

I managed to get the key for this game in 2016 (as part of the Hexcells Complete Pack which includes Hexcells, Hexcells Plus and Hexcells Infinite) but I can't quite remember how. Most likely I managed to get the key from either the generous Mix-Master (a friend of mine on Steam) or one of the Whirlpudlians on the Whirlpool forums (there is a thread that offers free keys).

I quite enjoyed the original Hexcells so after completing it I started on this "standalone expansion" straight after.

Screenshot from Hexcells Plus
Blue hint hexes like above show how many blue hexes are within a 2-hex radius

What I like:


Just like the original game, Hexcells Plus has a very calming, ambient soundtrack but the best part is that each time you clear or mark hexes on the board, it adds extra notes to the music you hear which means not only are you solving a puzzle, you're also creating your own soundtrack.

More puzzles for the Hexcells fans

For those who are fans of Hexcells and want more challenging puzzles to sink their teeth into, Hexcells Plus delivers. To ensure that things don't get stale though, a new mechanic was added where once you reveal a hint hex it indicates how many blue hexes are within a certain radius from it. As a result of this new mechanic, the game also introduces question mark hexes which don't even reveal if there are 0-6 hexes adjacent to them. This definitely makes the game a little trickier but perhaps a bit too tricky… more on that later.

Steam Achievements

The game has 6 Steam Achievements you can work towards but sadly has no Steam Trading Cards you can collect.

Screenshot from Hexcells Plus
This penultimate monster of a level probably accounted for 25% of my playtime.

What I dislike:

Ramping up the difficulty

While those who are good at puzzle games will welcome the increased difficulty, those who aren't as adept (like myself) will find some of the later levels frustrating and to the point where you wonder if completing the level is even possible without lots of guessing instead of applying logic (if you're curious, yes, you can solve all the puzzles without guessing). Some levels took me several attempts to complete as you can probably tell by the dramatic increase in playtime from its predecessor (i.e. 20.5 hours compared to 3.3 hours). This leads me on to another issue I had with the game...

A few levels take too long to complete

Some of the levels were quite large in that they had over 100 hexes you needed to reveal. While this isn't too much of a problem when you have easy puzzles, when you have the more difficult ones later on where you're trying your best for a perfect score, this means it can sometimes take at least 30 minutes or even an hour to solve the puzzle. What I liked about the original Hexcells is you could often complete puzzles within a few minutes, making it a good time waster between tasks; Hexcells Plus however requires a bit more dedication and respect as it's definitely not targeted towards the casual puzzle gamer. This also means that any progress you've made towards a puzzle is lost when you abandon the game. Being able to save the game would've been a welcome addition.

Limited replay value

Unlike the original Hexcells, the puzzles were quite challenging in Hexcells Plus meaning I had to replay levels quite a few times. However, just like its predecessor, puzzles are not procedurally generated meaning once you've solved the puzzle, there's no reason to return to them.

Gated content

Unfortunately, just like Hexcells, Hexcells Plus has gated content where in order to proceed to later levels you have to solve puzzles efficiently or else you'll never get a chance to experience them. I can understand this might force players to learn to play the game properly before you get to the difficult stuff but it could also mean a lot of frustration and the inability for players to experience the whole game regardless of how good they are at solving puzzles or not.

Score – 7/10 (Good)

If you found Hexcells too easy and you're up for a challenge, then Hexcells Plus is the perfect game for you. However, if you're a puzzle game novice I'd thoroughly recommend trying the original first: if you find it too difficult, avoid this game, especially if you're a perfectionist and need to solve every puzzle with no mistakes.

Is the game worth $4.50 AUD?: Yes. Especially if you enjoyed the original game and found it way too easy.

If you like this game, you might like…

[ LINK: Matthew Brown's Steam Developer Page ]