Monday, April 1, 2002

Battle across the stars


By Steve Niles

Alien war fleets, strategy, hexagonal shapes. These are a few of my favorite things. And they all come together in the exciting Palm OS game, HexCon, from developer Jason Goldman. You can find it at HexCon is a game of skill in which you command a fleet of warships against an enemy fleet of similar spacecraft. The skill comes in the maneuvering of your ships based on chess-like movement patterns and relative strengths. It's a fun, fast-paced diversion with a far more intricately conceived method of play than your standard Palm OS game.

HexCon is the kind of game that really needs a back story. In the opening splash screen, shown in Figure A, we meet the typical sci-fi action hero--all chin, teeth, and hair.


Two intergalactic opponents face off.

We're also introduced to what we can assume is his sworn enemy--your typical bug-eyed alien. That's about all we know.

Based on his appearance, we can assume our hero might be some advanced form of human, several rungs beyond us on the evolutionary ladder. His chiseled features suggest centuries of selective/adaptive breeding, resulting in the propagation of a race of near supermen, with thick locks of golden hair, dimpled, protruding chins, and broad, sturdily built shoulders. The larger-than-normal eyes suggest a race purposed for space travel, where keen eyesight is necessary to pick out and distinguish the various pinpricks of light that dot the canvas of the universe.

But what of his foe? If we are to believe that this race of supermen are descendents of ourselves, some millennia hence, it would be reasonable to assume they've colonized the planets of our own solar system and moved beyond. Naturally, this would lead to an encroachment on other worlds, and if those worlds should be inhabited, then those meeker populations than our own must be crushed beneath the manifest destiny of our species as we spread out and take possession of the universe that is rightfully ours.

However, the time may come when we encounter a race whose will is as strong as our own. It only makes sense that these two titan species would lock horns, doing battle across the stars in powerful faster-than-light warships, fighting for ultimate supremacy over all of infinite space.

Playing the game

So anyway, from the opening screen, you can choose from One Player or Two Player, or you can resume a game you've already started. A dialogue box will then appear, asking you to select the level of difficulty: Easy, Normal, or Expert.

Next comes the Game Configuration screen. Here you select the number of ships in the respective fleets, from three to nine. Once you've done that, just hit Start Game, and you're taken to the battlefield, shown in Figure B.