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Huebrix (Windows Phone) review: Deceptively simple, without being repetitive

The clever puzzle game Huebrix is chock full of challenging brain teasers.

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Nate Ralph
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Nate Ralph

Associate Editor

Associate Editor Nate Ralph is an aspiring wordsmith, covering mobile software and hardware for CNET Reviews. His hobbies include dismantling gadgets, waxing poetic about obscure ASCII games, and wandering through airports.

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Huebrix is my favorite sort of puzzle game. There are no sums to calculate, or random bits to slide and match ad nauseam until you're too frustrated or bored to keep at it. Just you and a deceptively simple shtick that gets increasingly complex with every single level that's tossed your way. At $1.99 on the Windows Phone store it should also be an easy sell, provided you're into brain teasers.

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8.0

Huebrix (Windows Phone)

The Good

Huebrix offers hundreds of short, clever little puzzles that can soak up a few minutes or an entire afternoon, without relying on repetitive gameplay.

The Bad

The music can be a little grating, and should you manage to complete every single puzzle the game has to offer, there's not much reason to come back.

The Bottom Line

In Huebrix for Windows Phone, 2 bucks gets you over 400 clever puzzles in a minimalistic, well-polished game.

You have to fill the box

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Things start off fairly simple, but they won't stay that way for long. Screenshots by Nate Ralph/CNET

The Huebrix experience is summed up in its very first level. There's a numbered blue square sitting in a white box. As you drag the square, you'll notice two things: you're recoloring all of the white tiles in the box blue, and that number on the square is counting down. Once it hits zero, you're awarded a gold, silver, or bronze medal depending on how long you took to figure things out, and then sent along to the next level.

Simple, right? In the next level you're given a slightly bigger box, which requires dragging your shape out a bit -- anyone who's played the classic game Snake will be right at home here. The next level tosses a second color into the mix, so you'll learn to weave the two around each other. A few levels later gray blocks pop up that impede your progress, so you'll learn to navigate around them. Eventually you'll juggle four colors and gray blocks at the same time -- no sweat.

A Technicolor onion

And then things start to get a little tricky. You'll run into roadblocks that can only be crossed by a certain color, or symbols that force your little color stream to flow in a particular direction, or tiles that'll stop you in your tracks altogether; hit those last. And then you'll run across numbered plus and minus symbols, which increase and decrease your overall tile count, throwing that proverbial wrench into the works. And all the while a little timer is running in the top right corner of the screen, keeping tabs on how long it's taking you to solve a particular puzzle, and showing you what a competent time would look like. Better still are the cheeky notes of condolence or dismissal when you post a particularly bad time.

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There is no lose, there is only snark. Screenshots by Nate Ralph/CNET

It's all very lovely, in its own way. As you drag your little color snakes into their final resting places, they coalesce into solid forms before slithering offscreen in a slick little animation. And here's the best part: after 30 puzzles spent learning by doing, you'll leave the starter area and reach the actual Huebrix experience.

There are 400 levels beyond the first thirty, in increasing order of difficulty. But don't let that stop you: you can play them in any order you'd like, knocking out a few of the quicker puzzles while you're on the bus, and tackling the behemoths when you've got a bit more time to kill -- some of the game's final puzzles can take well over 20 minutes.

An uphill slog

I won't say that Huebrix gets repetitive, though there's no way I'd be able to check each and every puzzle to make sure particular elements were being reused. The game's music track can be a little grating -- it sits somewhere between game show and police drama, nervous tension wrapped up in a peppy package but playing incessantly. And then there's the heart of the matter: does anyone really want to grind through over 400 of these little challenges?

I do. And I want to get gold medals, too -- I'm a bit of completionist that way. Games like Threes are fine and all -- Threes is fantastic, actually, and you should check it out . But it's built around mastering a particular system and then getting really good at surviving for longer and longer periods of time. A worthy challenge to be sure, but sometimes I want that proverbial end of the tunnel to shoot for. Huebrix offers that. And while it's an especially long tunnel, it only requires patience, and not luck or awesome feats of dexterity. Better still, the only penalty for taking a really, really long time to solve a puzzle is a bit of snark -- you're always welcome to try again.

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There's plenty of variety in the puzzles, but a level editor would still have been a nice touch. Screenshots by Nate Ralph/CNET

Huebrix is available on iOS and Android, though there are differences among every version. The iOS variant gets a level editor, but you'll end up paying extra in in-app purchases to unlock all of the game's levels. That's a bit of deal breaker for me, as having all of these puzzles right up front is kind of the point. The Android version lacks a level editor, but the levels are all unlocked: you'll just be paying for hints. Windows Phone owners don't need no stinkin' hints, which is great because they aren't available anyway. It's all rather confusing, but from a bang-per-buck perspective it would seem that Windows Phone users win out here. A level editor would've been sweet, though.

Conclusion

I'd argue that Huebrix deserves to be plopped onto that puzzle-game pedestal alongside games like Threes and Cut the Rope 2 . Sure, it doesn't have anywhere near the level of charm and polish as those two popular titles, and its minimalist graphics aren't going to win any awards.

But that's OK! What it lacks in pizzazz it more than makes up for in pure, concentrated entertainment value, building upon a simple premise to deliver hours of brain-teasing fun. For two bucks! If you've got a Windows Phone and like the occasional puzzle, give Huebrix a go. And if you're looking for a few more good options, check out some more great Windows Phone games.

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8.0

Huebrix (Windows Phone)

Score Breakdown

Features 8Interface 8Performance 8