In a fit of excitement and foolish ambition I declared to the Kill Screen office that I would beat Super Hexagon. Our resident editor, who shares my love of Dark Souls, asked me which game I thought was harder. When I stumbled in my comparison, our publisher, whom we have been slowly indoctrinating into the Dark Souls fanclub, interrupted to point out that they both use the same principle of difficulty and the approach by which they encourage you to master it.
Most games slowly get harder as you get better with mechanics. It’s known as flow. In Uncharted it might take three body shots to kill a guard in the beginning of the game, but you get better throughout the game, so in order to keep maintain a challenge the game will require seven shots to kill a guard. Not much about the gameplay will change. It will require the same mechanic of using cover or gun accuracy. Games like this merely up the difficulty with math.
Dark Souls and Super Hexagon approach difficulty differently. In Dark Souls players fail over and over again, restarting from a much earlier point, which makes the player face difficult challenges over and over and over again until she is competent enough to pass a whole string of them. At the point of mastery, they introduce a new type of enemy or a new area which resets the learning process and requires the same kind of grueling learning process.
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Super Hexagon works in the the same way. A failure erases your progess. This repeated exposure to even the basic (but difficult) challenges brings about mastery. When you unlock a new difficulty in Super Hexagon it’s the same reset of what you have learned, like a new enemy or area in Dark Souls.
There is a basic level of mechanical knowledge that continues, but nothing like the carryover of your typical shooter. On paper it sounds like a terribly cruel learning process — and it is — but it definitely make you appreciate your accomplishments.