Have You Played… Hexcells?

Have You Played? is an endless stream of game retrospectives. One a day, every day of the year, perhaps for all time.

Okay, it’s fair to say I went on about Hexcells rather a lot in 2014. The reason? It remains the best puzzle game I’ve ever played. And I play puzzle games.

Nearly every day I play a few games of Link-A-Pix on my phone, complete a Killer Sudoku, Kakuro, Futoshiki, and Codeword, have a round of Alphabear, and if I’ve time, do a cryptic crossword. I’ve recently taken to Suguru, discovered some amazing new puzzles in a fantastic magazine called Beyond Sudoku, and have an obsession with Slitherlink. I love puzzles. And Hexcells is my favourite of all them.

Creator Matthew Brown has produced three Hexcells titles, the original, Plus, and Infinite. Each is tougher than the one before, each embellishing on the bespoke puzzles further, requiring you to work out which cells to highlight and which to eliminate using a variety of means.

On top of that, each game has extraordinarily relaxing ambient music, the second and third even allowing the music to be affected by your clicks. It creates an extraordinarily soothing experience, despite your brain being stretched pretty hard. And I promise that every puzzle has a distinct path to its solution, with no guessing ever required. It may not seem like it, but it’s true. If you feel you have to guess, it means there’s a new method you’ve not thought of yet.

Infinite came with a seeded puzzle generator that in some sense gives you millions more puzzles to play, but without Brown’s genius hand-crafted design the magic is certainly missing. However, there are around 90 of those bespoke wonders to play and replay and replay, as I have so very many times in the last couple of years. Don’t miss out on these.


  1. real says:

    Spent around 40h on the Hexcells trilogy (the third one is the ‘infinite’ one, I think it’s best to do the 2 others first, then to (never)finish the infinite :). Best puzzle game I ever played too, it’s a kind of Minesweeper on steroids. Once finished, it’s very fun to play some puzzle created by users (there’s a Reddit) and to check the community to get random code that gives challenging or interesting puzzles. 5 thumbs up.

  2. returnofjake says:

    Is every puzzle in Hexcells supposed to be solvable without ever having to use luck? I find that I always get a lot done in a row with no problems just using logic but then end up reaching one that I just have to guess a couple of hexes. Are there supposed to be situations like this or am I just missing a piece of information in those moments?

    Hexcells is great.

    • Llewyn says:

      Every single one can be completed with no guesswork whatsoever, though sometimes it’s hard to believe that even with puzzles you know you’ve solved previously.

    • phlebas says:

      You’re missing something. One of the reasons Hexcells is so great is that unlike (say) Minesweeper, in Hexcells you can always, always progress using logic alone rather than reaching a point where you have to guess.
      (There are Minesweeper implementations which avoid this flaw, but the widespread Windows one is not one of them. And none of them are as lovely and well-crafted as Hexcells anyway)

    • John Walker says:

      My keyboard looks up at me and says, “Why John? Why do you use up our precious keystrokes?”

      • jonfitt says:

        Hexcells there was no question, I never guessed a single piece.

        However, Hexcells Plus has made me question this despite people I trust telling me it’s always solvable without guessing. I have definitely hit a couple of points where I’m really convinced I’ve hit every angle and there are still two possibilities left.

        I’ll have to capture a screenshot next time it happens and you can all show me where I’m wrong.

      • returnofjake says:

        I missed the end of that paragraph, sorry! I knew I was bad at Hexcells, I can now add reading to that list.

  3. Llewyn says:

    Indeed, and I’m glad you did bang on about it so much.

    The ‘infinite’ puzzles are not so bad once you get over the completionist instinct to tackle every one it throws at you. There are some which are surprisingly challenging and have the feel of designed puzzles, but unfortunately there are a hundred formulaic ones for each of those.

    • Stugle says:

      I also bought the games on the strength of John’s recommendations and I’m enjoying them very much. Currently working my way through the second one, it’s my stand-by puzzle game. Though I did finally take a look at the Flare Path Jigsaw Club earlier this week and that might steal some time away…

  4. Pharos says:

    I’ve got over 260 hours logged in Hexcells infinite.

    Yes, I think it’s a very good game.

    • tigerfort says:

      I’ve “only” got about 180 hours in Infinite, but yes, it seems fair to say I like it.

      I find that the seeded puzzles are good for late-night relaxation – they’re complicated enough that I don’t get distracted thinking about other things, and formulaic enough that my brain gradually shuts down.

    • Chirez says:

      After 340 hours and over 6,000 boards I think I’m ready to admit I have a problem.

  5. Laurentius says:

    I love Hexcells, all three games. I love that every puzzle can be solved by clever thinking even if it may seem so at first. Thx John for introducing these great games to me.

  6. bhauck says:

    I’ve played for 45 minutes or so. I spent more time trying to remember which mouse button performed the action I was trying to do than trying to figure out what needed to be done to a hex. I’m sure the challenge grows hugely on later levels, but trying to keep my fingers straight was so frustrating for me that I’m not planning on getting there.

    • Person of Interest says:

      I think there’s a toggle in the options menu to flip the left and right mouse button functions, if you find yourself instinctively using the buttons in the opposite order.

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      particlese says:

      Whether you switch buttons or not, try sticking with it for half an hour a couple days in a row or something, and you’ll probably adapt to it.

      A similar thing happened to me with the developer’s Squarecells: It’s just enough different from Hexcells to confuse and frustrate (if you’re going for no mistakes), and I also bounced off it after about 45 minutes. Came back to it weeks later and stuck it out, and I now love it. …Just not as much as Hexcells and its follow-ups. :)

  7. Gus the Crocodile says:

    Spacechem will remain my favourite puzzle game, but Hexcells (+2) are indeed wonderful games.

    I hope everyone knows Brown released Squarecells not all that long ago?

  8. icarussc says:

    John, I just wanted to say that your constant going on about Hexcells — and that alone — prompted me to buy it. And then Plus. And then Infinite, even though I got stuck on Plus.

    Thank you, sir. Thank you.

  9. mukuste says:

    Hm, I thought I bought one or two of these very cheap in some sale or other recently, but now I can’t find them in the usual places.

    Maybe I didn’t.

  10. Ingall says:

    Finally, a Have You Played that I have actually played. I grabbed one after reading about it here, loved it and ended up getting the other two as well. Great game series.

  11. vakthoth says:

    Oh, cool! I have the first game, really enjoyed it, loved how it was what I always wished Minesweeper was. But I was sad that there was so little replay value to it. Had no idea there were sequels/expansions. Will definitely be picking those up! And a random puzzle generator in the third one… sweeeeet!

  12. Macheitu says:

    If you want more levels, but don’t like the random ones, the last version also supports user made levels. See here, some of which are quite a bit harder than the levels that come with the game itself.

  13. Hmm-Hmm. says:

    Played it, played all three of them, largely thanks to you, John.

    So thanks, John!

  14. Urthman says:

    I like Hexcells. It’s kind of satisfying to methodically work through a puzzle, but it’s my least favorite kind of puzzle game because of that word “methodically.”

    Hexcells never requires any real moment of insight or lateral thinking, that “aha!” that is for me the greatest pleasure of a good puzzle game. You just have to methodically work through the logic of each puzzle. Hexcells makes me feel competent, but never gives me any moments of feeling like a genius.

    There’s never a moment of appreciation for and connection with the puzzle designer: “I see what you did there, you rascal!”