Six Super Hexagon tips from one of the best players in the world
Terry Cavanagh’s iOS hit Super Hexagon has much in common with the design principles of the classic arcade era, but a cache of three lives is not one of them. If you flinch, if you hesitate, if you over-rotate, if you panic and stymie your rotation with a rogue input from the spectating thumb, you crash into a wall. Game over.
New players find Super Hexagon ornery because its fail condition is so concise, so unswervingly absolute. This is a game that answers our lip-quivering appeals with a blank stare and an unqualified “No”. But this directness is also why it takes about 2.9 seconds to figure out what the game expects of you.
So how does one not crash? That’s the secret to high scores, after all. Not crashing equals not sucking.
I’ve played the game obsessively enough to – at the time of writing, at least – be in the global top five in all six of the game’s difficulty tiers. On the game’s introductory mode, I’m currently fourth place out of roughly 36,000 players. I don’t say that to thump my chest, but merely to purchase a bit of credibility in your eyes before I assure you that there are ways to systematically improve your game. The following tips aren’t shortcuts to a high score, but hopefully they’ll help you on your way.
Master the single-press rotation
This is the most important fundamental of setting high scores in Super Hexagon. Since you have such a narrow window of time to rotate into position to hit a gap safely, you can’t chew up time by inching your way toward an opening with multiple individual taps. Only use a single press to rotate into position and focus on learning the timing of when to let go so you’re aligned with the gap the second you release your thumb. In the harder modes, there’s no time to correct. By way of analogy, think of the way that skilled bartenders pour a bottle of spirit into a cocktail. They don’t splash little drips into the cup but instead flip the bottle and pour steadily, snapping the bottle away at just the proper moment. Their muscle memory knows exactly how long to pour to match the volume of spirit required. Single-press rotation distances in Super Hexagon must become second nature if you want to post high scores.
Study the gauntlet patterns
One of the things that makes Super Hexagon stressful when you first pick it up is the fact that all the patterns flying at you seem utterly random. But after playing a short while, you realise that each mode only has about five or six general varieties – gauntlets, I call them – that repeat. Think of it as a short iTunes playlist on shuffle-repeat. There’s a process any time you’re starting a new mode of figuring out what your thumbs need to do to help you navigate each gauntlet. Mentally break each mode down into those gauntlets and work on getting comfortable with passing each one reliably. Once each one becomes second nature, a long run simply becomes a matter of chaining together as many gauntlets as possible, recognising each new one as it rushes toward you. In this respect, playing Super Hexagon is like reading: you don’t read each individual letter in each word, you just take in the pattern of letters and your mind processes them in chunks. So it is with Super Hexagon’s gauntlets. The best players have simply grown so familiar with the vocabulary of the game’s obstacles that they can speed-read them and react accordingly.
Pay attention to rotation direction
A Super Hexagon player named James Lantz posted a joke on Twitter recently in which Derek Zoolander blames his low Super Hexagon scores on the fact that he isn’t an “ambi-turner”. It’s funny because it’s true: only ambi-turners will survive. Because the walls approach so quickly, the direction you choose to rotate can frequently be a matter of life and death. In the initial modes, there are many gauntlets in which you can rotate either direction and safely reach the next gap, such as the series of 180-degree rotations that frequently occur in the early stages of Hexagon Mode. But in numerous gauntlets, there is only a single direction you can rotate and still get to the next gap in time. This facet of Super Hexagon will remind many of playing Tetris on the faster levels, where the limited amount of time before a piece landed on the pile meant you had to rotate it in the direction that required the fewest button presses.