Boson X – not pronounced Bosoncks, I’m assured – is a hard thing to describe without mentioning Super Hexagon, because what do you call a game that combines puzzle and rhythm and endless runner elements without referencing the head honcho, the genre creator? It plays a little like a 3D version of Super Hexagon, then: you are a Professor of Physics (complete with elbow patches) and you are stuck in a decagonal tube of space down which platforms are placed over the endless void in a procedurally-generated pattern around a general theme.
Push up, and you’ll jump in a great arc until you run out of steam or you release the button. Push left or right, and you’ll shift position one facing along the interior of the decagon whilst jumping in the same way. That’s pretty much it, as far as controls go.
But – those blue platforms. Yes. They are the key to unlocking levels, to winning. Spread throughout each level (of which there are six) are blue platforms that you can collect energy from. As you get more energy, your Professor picks up speed; get 100% energy or more and you unlock the next stage as well as entering a fast-paced inversion of the level you were just running along. The better you do, the harder the game becomes.
Naturally, you want to spend as much time as possible running on the blue platforms, because they’re rare and a single mistake could see you exploding into dust in the abyss that surrounds the levels. So you start skimming them; you time your jumps to land right on the edge as you approach and you leave your exit jump until the last fraction of a second as you leave.
Normally, you try to stay safe when you jump and hold out until the next section – and you do in almost every other game of this ilk – but those blue platforms give you something extra to master on top of just surviving. You are no longer just etching out progress, but you are eking every fraction of a percent of energy out of those platforms and taking great risks to do so.
And don’t get me started on the blind faith that you experience when you might have enough space left on the platform to push you over 100%, but not if you jump off, so you just cross your fingers and hope.
As such, I’ve fallen in love with Boson X. I’ve been playing it at first just hoping to get to the end – learning and re-learning the patterns generated by the equations of each level so I can move without thinking consciously about it, so I know that I need to jump right and not left so I can land on the blue energy platform that will be there in just under a second but isn’t yet – but now I’m trying to beat my high scores. I never try and beat high scores. I hate high scores.
Occasionally I go back to the first level to warm up and it seems so slow, so hopelessly pedestrian compared to the breathless storm of the later stages. It all seemed so difficult when I started. I’m playing for around 45 minutes a day, I think. Sometimes I stand up from the computer and my vision is still spinning from another blast down the decagon. I think I might have a problem. I don’t mind.
And the animation is charming. And the music is charming. And the rough-around-the-edges charm is charming. And the devs are charming. (I wrote to them asking for a level-skip fix after a crash broke my save game, and they fixed the bug and updated the game in response to my feedback.) And… yes.
Boson X is brilliant and entirely free on Mac, PC and Linux; it’s out soon as a paid-for app on iOS, too. You’d be a fool not to give it a try.