The Average Gamer

Indie Rock: 868-HACK

868-HACK screenshot 1

I have too many thoughts about 868-HACK and I have to get them out of my head so I can think about anything else. It’ll happen to you too after you play it for long enough. I’m considering petitioning to get a warning label put onto the title screen. “Too Good and Too Smart: Potential Brain Ruiner” it’ll say. That’s a good use of our time.

868-HACK is a Roguelike by Michael Brough. A Broughlike. I’m not the first to put those together. It’s not clever and I’m not proud.

It’s a game about hacking in that great nebulous way that movies in the nineties wanted us to think hacking worked because it was impossible to make the real process visually interesting. There’s a lot of mean looking monsters vomiting data all over the place and gross colour choices. The game looks like Angelina Jolie might use it to impress a bunch of huge dorks at a party by showing it off. It’s a movie reference. I’m referencing the movie Hackers. And it doesn’t really work because in the film they were impressed by her computer not the programs she was using. Whatever, jeez. [Also, she got their attention by playing WipEout at a party and then got spanked by Jonny Lee Miller – Ed.]

You move one space at a time trying to get to an exit, then any enemies around move. If you’re attacked too many times you die and start over again. That’s the kind of roguelike we’re talking about here.

What you’re trying to do is score as many points as possible running through the 8 floors of this level. You gain points by scanning walls, but the moment you do so you’ll summon a roughly equal amount of the same enemies as points you collect. To prepare yourself for these fights you can scan different walls housing useful abilities (but they also summon varying numbers of enemies) as well as syphoning resources from the environment to convert into fuel your new powers.

868-HACK screenshot 2All this makes for a game totally based on choosing to put yourself into danger for a better potential reward. There’s only a limited amount of times you can syphon from the world, and if you spend the entire game getting more abilities and ammunition, you won’t have any points at the end for the leaderboard. That said, if you spend the entire time scanning for points you’re going to die long before you ever finish the game. You have to find a good balance.

There’s a lot of mechanical depth that’s barely worth going into until you’ve built up some context from playing it, but I’m going to give it the old college try: different enemy types are stressful in differing measures.

There are four in all:

  • One which can ghost through walls
  • One which can move two spaces in a single stride
  • One which is invisible if your avatar isn’t in direct line of sight
  • One which takes more attacks to kill.

Recognising how all of these can ruin your run, along with knowing their prefered methods of approaching you, is an entire game in itself.

But then you’re also managing the environment to prevent yourself from getting swarmed, or recognising that every time you exit the level you gain a bit of health back, but you bring with you the enemies already present and are summoning more. You also have to think about your own limitations, like if something is in front of you (no matter the distance) then you can’t walk in that direction, you have to attack it; this will kill you often by making it impossible to escape some fights. Have Fun.

868-Hack is a game about options and deliberately making things difficult for yourself, so if you’re into both of those please buy it for whatever kind of iDevice you’ve got from the Apple Place. You’ll probably like it a lot. I do. I think it’s great.

Anyway. Thank you for letting me get this all off my chest. This was like a cold shower, only it’s words.

Oh, Also

I talked about Brough’s Corrypt once before on Indie Rock but now it feels apt to bring it up again because, like… scroll upward, yeah?

It’s a very good block pushing game which eventually is a very different kind of block pushing game. I think you should play it. I think you’ll like it.