Pros: Great stress reliever!
Cons: Not everyone will like the spooky theme
At first glance, this appears to be the sort of game that's calculated to give media watchdog groups fits. Creepy settings, demonic monsters, a kill-or-be-killed premise -- even the very name Hexen invokes the idea of witchcraft and the occult. But please, it's just a game, a bit of harmless make-believe. This writer (who is a Christian) found absolutely nothing threatening or "satanic" about it at all.
Although there's no number next to this game's title, Hexen is actually the sequel to a PC game called Heretic. While fun to play, Heretic was little more than a kill-everything-that-moves game. Hexen takes this basic theme and embellishes it, as detailed below.
In Hexen, you can choose between being a warrior (excellent fighter, poor magic-user), a wizard (poor fighter, excellent magic-user) or a cleric (good at both fighting and magic-using, but not excellent). I personally favor clerics, mainly because they eventually get the best super-weapon.
The object of the game is to travel through numerous areas -- ruins, dungeons, catacombs and the like -- to ultimately reach Korax, the evil overlord, and defeat him. On the way, you have to deal with everything Korax throws at you, mainly his never-ending gang of followers. Flaming imps, two-headed ettins and poison-spewing chaos serpents are some of the more charming adversaries you will face.
This game isn't just about killing monsters, though. Half of the fun is looking for objects that are scattered about the landscape, such as vials of healing potion (you'll need a LOT of these), armor boosts, ammunition for your wand/staff/whatever, and if you're really lucky, a magical artifact. There are many of the latter, but my favorite of these is the Porkulator -- a pig-shaped object which, when thrown at an enemy, turns it into a harmless swine. Even better, if a whole gang of nasties has you cornered, toss a Porkulator in their faces and zap them all into a herd of bacon on the hoof!
There are also puzzles to be solved before you can advance in some areas. In one instance, you have to repair an enormous clock by locating its missing gears, otherwise you're stuck. These puzzles can be frustrating at times, but if you can't figure them out, there are plenty of Hexen web sites out there that offer walkthroughs of the game, not to mention cheat-codes for the Playstation and other versions.
While I like this game a lot, I'm withholding one star in consideration of those who (despite what I said earlier) may be put off by the overall theme. I certainly would not recommend it for very young children, as some of the monsters might conceivably give them nightmares, particularly Korax himself. Most older children ought to be able to handle it, though.
The thing I enjoy most about this game is that it provides a perfect emotional outlet for me after I've had one of _those_ days. Job-related stress - horrible traffic jams - mean, snarly customers - whatever it is that puts me in a bad mood, I just turn on the Playstation when I get home, boot up the Hexen disk, and gleefully destroy virtual effigies of the day's trouble. Hey, there's that "ogre" who cut me off on the freeway this morning! Quick, where's my Porkulator?!