Daniel Mullins creates games that defy categorization or description. They're basically the bane of reviewers such as myself. I can't really tell you what The Hex is about, and I can't tell you what it's trying to say or even what the gameplay is like, not without spoiling it. That said, I'm still going to do my best. If you enjoy watching me struggle, read on for my The Hex review.
Daniel Mullins Games' previous effort was Pony Island, another very strange and extremely 'meta' game. The Hex follows in its footsteps, so I can at least say with confidence that if you liked Pony Island, you are highly likely to enjoy The Hex. Both feature mystery and secret laden plotlines with deceptive, trope breaking gameplay loops.
The Hex is about six protagonists from six different games that have assembled (for various reasons) at a tavern deep in the woods on a stormy night. The bartender receives a phone call that would seem to imply there's going to be a murder that evening. What follows is a set of six chapters, each focused on one of the protagonists' backstories.
Each protagonist comes from their own genre of game, and each chapter features a chunk of gameplay that serves as the bulk of The Hex's "game." The tavern itself forms the connective tissue between the chapters, and has its own set of puzzles to solve and interesting areas to explore.
Each chapter's gameplay is sort of a stripped-down remix of some popular genre. Although each chapter could be considered its own "game," there aren't really six (seven if you count the "tavern" sections) full-blown games in The Hex. The chapter/games aren't quite "minigames," either though. Each game falls somewhere in between; almost like a boss level in WarioWare if that makes sense. Some of the games are good enough that I'd consider playing an entire, full-length, standalone title. Some, however, were more of a miss for me, and I wished they were over sooner. No doubt everyone playing The Hex will have their own opinions about which chapters fall into which category.
Various parts of The Hex blur the line between the game and the way players interact with games in the modern era of gaming. Steam reviews, modding communities, streaming, and more all make an impact.
The "murder mystery" is the central storyline that ties the chapters together, but it moves quite slowly. Especially during the first few chapters, it seems all but forgotten. Thankfully, as the story progresses, the individual characters' stories start to coalesce into a bigger picture. By the end the motivations of the cast are made quite clear.
Much like Pony Island, The Hex is packed to the gills with secrets. In my approximately 8 hour run, I unlocked less than half of the achievements. Despite being "wise" to at least a few common tricks, and feeling like I did a pretty good job of being thorough, there's still a lot of reasons to continue exploring after the credits rolled and a "chapter select" mode unlocked.