The Worlds Most Frustrating Punctuation Mark! – Hyphen
There are many games out there that are created to present the player with incredibly hard challenges from the beginning, whether to enrage the player, or just to give challenge that is lacked in a lot of the big titles. Hyphen by Farspace Studios is no different, ramping up the difficulty from the beginning, and making sure you know you messed up. It is a puzzle game, with no desire to give you any hints to the location of the exit, or any help navigating the maze it throws you into.
In Hyphen you play as a spinning neon version of what one can only assume is the punctuation mark of the same name, and tells you to find your way through a maze and to the exit. This will sometimes require activating switches, using power-ups, but will always require excellent timing, and also dedication if you wish to beat the par time set. This is easier on some levels than others, and sometimes it can feel like the difficulty is variable, as some levels ranked “medium” were actually easier to complete than some “easy” ones. Nonetheless, if you are a completionist, you will spend a lot of time with this.
The aesthetic of Hyphen is excellent, between the visual and audio design, the game feels very fluid and good to play. The minimalistic neon style that the developers went for could either be a design choice, or artistic limitation, but either way it fits the game well, not distracting the player from the objective, and making the paths available clear. In a game like this, having a lot going on at once can really ramp up the difficulty, by distracting players, including having an overpowering soundtrack. This is something Hyphen does not do, sticking with an electronic style, that isn’t too full on. Most games like this have certain tracks for certain levels, and if it’s a difficult one, you can grow to hate that one track. However, in Hyphen the music is played continuously throughout all the levels, and while there may not be many tracks, it helps the game to flow, and stops you from getting sick of any one individual song.
There are a few things that hurt the gameplay, for example, in one of the levels, quite early on, there is a re-sizing power-up that needs to be used in order to navigate the next section of the level. However, we found that if you use this to become smaller, and then completely restart the level, you begin in this smaller state. This means that the re-sizing power-up actually increases you to full size at this point, meaning the level actually becomes impossible to complete. This is easily fixed by simply exiting to the main menu and going into the level again, but it is still an issue nonetheless.
Another big issue that we found in a few levels was the lack of an undo button for checkpoints. There were some situations in which we used a checkpoint, and it was actually impossible to progress from there. However, this meant we had to restart the entire level in order to continue, losing us all of the progress that we had made. We should also point out that this game is playable on keyboard, but it is so much easier on a controller, so if possible, we would completely recommend using a controller instead.
Hyphen isn’t a revolutionary game, it isn’t going to change the games industry, but it is a solid puzzle game, and with 36 levels plus 2 unlockable mini games, it will certainly keep you entertained for a good few hours. We wouldn’t recommend playing this game if you don’t enjoy difficult puzzle games, but if that is your thing, then it is worth trying out.