Developer: Team Fractal Alligator | Publisher: Surprise Attack Games || Outlook: Good
Writing previews for games are a bit of a challenge. Previews serve as a way to give the readers an introduction to a game they may anticipate, and hopeful readers look for positive impressions before they have access themselves. I tend to typically give preview builds the benefit of the doubt and stay hopeful that the final product will potentially deliver. In this case, Hacknet definitely holds an interesting and unique potential.
Hacknet simulates a hacking environment, not unlike something you may see in exaggerated form on a TV show. Through a number of commands you’ll solve what is essentially multi-layered puzzles that will force you to master a routine while solving the unique mission at hand. The preview build provided to me allowed for approximately 40 minutes of gameplay, which included a Tutorial, a “test mission,” and an actual mission.
The gameplay serves as a backdrop and a storytelling device to a mystery involving the death of a hacker named Bit. The preview build didn’t delve too deeply into the actual meat of the story, but mostly just alludes to some of the characters you are potentially going to have more interaction with later. The simulated hacking environment uses real UNIX commands, so if you have experience with command line actions you’ll be able to pick up on most of what is happening pretty quickly. The forced memorization of commands has the potential to be daunting if you aren’t comfortable with that sort of interaction with a computer, however. One of the highlights of the game is its lack of hand-holding, so it appears that you’ll need a notepad or a good memory to execute the time-based puzzles correctly. Ideally, you’ll be learning most of the commands as you go along, so the puzzles will probably become more advanced and require greater care to execute perfectly. Hacknet aligns itself with “Papers, Please,” challenging different parts of your brain than what you may normally be accustomed to for games.
What got me really digging the puzzles was the sleek/futuristic user interface coupled with the music. The music was contextually designed and matched the mood of what was going on appropriately. The music really played a key part in turning up the tension when the first hacking challenge took place. They didn’t want to give too much away so the game abruptly turns off once you hit a certain point in the puzzle/mission. As an aside, they included a functional clicker mini-game, which implies there are possibly other mini-games that might be added to create variety.
The preview build left me with a generally positive impression, and I’m looking forward to what the complete game will offer. Hacknet will be $10 when it releases in August.
Information from the press release is as follows:
Hacknet is an immersive, terminal-based hacking simulator for PC. Dive down a rabbit hoIe as you follow the instructions of a recently deceased hacker, whose death may not have been the accident the media reports. Using old school command prompts and real hacking processes, you’ll solve the mystery with minimal hand-holding and a rich world full of secrets to explore.
Bit, a hacker responsible for creating the most invasive security system on the planet, is dead. When he fails to reconnect to his system for 14 days, his failsafe kicks in, sending instructions in automated emails to a lone user. As that user, it’s up to you to unravel the mystery and ensure that Hacknet-OS doesn’t fall into the wrong hands.
Exploring the volatile nature of personal privacy, the prevalence of corporate greed, and the hidden powers of hackers on the internet, Hacknet delivers a true hacking simulation, while offering a support system that allows total beginners get a grasp of the real-world applications and commands found throughout the game.
Hacknet will launch on PC via Steam and the Humble Store on August 12, 2015.
A preview build of Hacknet was provided to Squackle.