Time stands still for no one. Especially not Doom clones.
Way back in 1995 Hexen made its debut on the PC, and it offered a refreshing update to the then-popular Doom engine. Players were set loose in a system of central hubs that made exploring levels more challenging, were given the ability to use spells and fly, and could choose among three distinct characters to play. Now in 1997, Hexen in all its glory has made its way to the Saturn, and unfortunately, its age shows.
Hexen's first and most obvious shortcoming is its graphics. Every object on the screen is badly pixelated, and the floors and walls have a sloppy look to them. The digital masons may not have hastily slapped this world together, but they may as well have. While it's true that the Saturn version of Hexen is on par graphically with the PC original, that was then and this is now. Unless you've been living the monastic life the last two years, these graphics probably won't cut it for you. (By contrast, even the original Doom evolved to some extent for the N64 and PlayStation. The Saturn version of Doom, however, suffers the same graphical problems as Hexen.) Despite its comparatively weak graphics, Hexen for the Saturn still does a good job of creating a spooky atmosphere. The musical soundtrack is superb, and ambient effects like owls hooting and leaves blowing off trees greatly contribute to its ominous mood. But the look of the game is only the first of the problems.
If Hexen's poor graphics don't bother you, the gameplay will. Plagued by sloppy control, each character's movements feel sluggish at best. Exploring levels requires a lot of ledge jumping, and it's often difficult to jump precisely enough to land in the desired place. This is frustrating to say the least. But it gets worse. Dyed-in-the-blood shooting fans will also find that this Hexen lacks the firepower required for intense action. And what's worse, while you have plenty of magical items at your disposal, you won't find a whole lot of enemies to shoot.
On the plus side, the game features seemingly countless secret passages (don't forget to break the windows), and exploring a level poses more of a challenge than Doom or Quake ever did. As in the PC version, this version of Hexen serves up a wide variety of spells, weapons, and enemies (plus a few nice surprises, like power-ups that allow you to fly).
Despite these glaring deficiencies, Hexen nonetheless offers enough enhancements over the standard shooter to warrant a rental, especially for fans of role-playing games who thirst for real-time action. For those players, Hexen may be worth a look. But for the rest, the Saturn version of Hexen is a classic game of too little and too late.