Having only barely known about "hacking" games, I decided to give it a shot, as this game was on sale for 2€. I found myself having mixed feelings about it, and writing a lot, so bear it with me. (skip to the last paragraph, above the PS, if in a hurry)
Right off, you notice that the game doesn't support 16:9 or 16:10 resolutions and the text is small and hard to see, and nothing can be done about that. Still, I was intrigued and started playing. The intro of the story lacks a bit of depth and background, but you get the idea. The game is mainly played in a command-line console, with some other monitor screens that are the same throughout the game. Although the atmosphere is right (the music, though not brilliant, helps) the presentation is limited and repetitive, there's not much to see. Essentially, the gameplay is that of a slow paced puzzler where in each "level" you have to figure out the best way to complete the objectives (gain access to computers/systems, steal files/money, upload viruses/trojans, etc etc) by taking down security measures (passwords, encryption) in various nodes/computers in that screen, and also finding "hidden" ones. Each action raises your trace level; if it gets to 100% you get traced and loose. You’ll have to delete “footprints” of your activities and pay your ISP to reset your IP, etc, to manage that and avoid getting traced. It is very non-linear, you can never be sure what the best way to proceed is, and there are non-essential things you can do, which may or may not be to your advantage: for instance, you may find a link to new servers that have money to steal, but they can also have nothing of interest and only serve to increase your trace level. Also, you'll have to figure out if you'll risk spending money to upgrade your rig or save it to decrease the trace level when needed, which is always a tough choice. That said, progressing through the level and finding out what to do is mostly interesting, and the "exploration" involved actually makes you feel like you are "unwrapping" what happened, and helps telling the story and getting the plot forward.
In the first two missions you have lots of help, which is nice if you start off without any knowledge about the series and/or command lines in general. In the third mission you’re more on your own, and that’s interesting. Then, I realized that your trace level sometimes carries from mission to mission (which was not explained), and you may find yourself in a situation where you raised it too high or didn’t get enough money on previous levels to have “room to breathe” to complete the next one. If that’s the case, all you can do is start from the very beginning of the game (!) which is extremely frustrating. There is no multiple save game slots, just the one! And there is no saving in the middle of a mission either! The fourth mission I found VERY difficult because of this. Then, on the fifth one, EVEN MORE DIFFICULT, I finally managed to proceed, but disregarding some “instructions” that were provided which supposedly I should have followed to get to the next level, which was a little confusing!! But apparently, there's (always?) more than one way to get past the level(s?). So, one can safely say the game is challenging and difficult.
All this would still be ok, but the ending, let's just say, is just very abrupt, anti-climatic and unsatisfying. It's really a pity, I mean it wouldn't hurt to write some more lines of text and close the story properly...
In short, the game has some fun if you like the hacking/command-line thing, but it is very a challenging game. Maybe that's part of the point of the game, but with the poor presentation, being repetitive, having a very bad ending, and sometimes being extremely punishing by making you start from the very beginning, I fear that unless you are very passionate about IT/hacking and also like very hard puzzles, it will more likely frustrate you than provide you with fun.
(PS: comparing with the original game (Hacker Evolution), though, this one is better. Not going much into it, the previous one is even more punishing with some game-breaking flaws in the mechanics, imo. After finishing this one and playing a little of the first one, I find myself surprisingly cheering for this one. So, all things considered, if you want to try one, I recommend trying this one rather than the original.)
Posted: December 10th, 2013