Hacknet - Logo
Title Hacknet
Developer Team Fractal Aligator
Publisher Surprise Attack
Release Date August 12, 2015
Genre Visual Novel, Puzzle
Platform PC
Age Rating N/A
Official Website

There are many different ways people view hacking. Some believe it to be wholly criminal, others believe it to be a purely intellectual activity done only for the knowledge of how to do it, and yet another faction thinks hacking is a noble skill that should only be used for good. Hacknet is a game that centers around that last philosophy.

One thing I feel is necessary to point out right away, is that Hacknet may not be a game for everyone. The main interface for the game is exactly like that of a UNIX terminal. In fact, the same command-line instructions to used operate a UNIX system are the used to accomplish tasks in the game. While there is a graphical UI, the command line is frequently required. If you aren’t familiar with the UNIX-based operating systems or computer networking, or have no interest in learning either of them just to play a game, you may have a difficult time grasping Hacknet‘s gameplay. Personally, I have a background in computer science, so my familiarity with the command-line interface, as well as concepts such as IP addresses, ports, SSH, FTP, etc. presented a sense of familiarity when I was lost and wasn’t sure what to do next.

Hacknet - Terminal Interface | oprainfall

And that’s something that happens often. The game doesn’t really hold your hand. You receive your tasks via email from one person or another. Sometimes they are explicit in what you need to do, other times they give vague hints at your goal and you need to figure out what needs to be done on your own. The missions start out fairly simple. You get an email from a hacker who’s in trouble and he wants you to help him out. These first few tasks serve as a tutorial, easing you into the both the command-line and graphical interface of your terminal. It also serves as a way to provide you with simple hacking tools (fictional ones) that will help you gain access to certain systems. Then as the game progresses, you join up with a hacking group–consider it like a guild in an RPG–and perform jobs for them. The difficulty grows as your instructions are more vague and the computers you’re hacking into have tighter security, even going as far as having a counter-measure requiring you to complete your task within a time limit. For the most part, the missions aren’t fail-able; you just can’t move on until you do what’s required. However, the few that are have devastating consequences.

Hacknet - Contract Hub | oprainfall

There are multiple storylines in play. Your climb through the ranks at your hacking group eventually intersects with the reason you started in the first place: to find and help the hacker who reached out to you. Most of the time, when you hack into a network, you are after a single file or piece of information, however, there are a ton of other things to check out once you’re inside. You can find chat logs, emails, and other random stuff. Usually it’s inconsequential nonsense like jokes or shopping lists. Occasionally you can come across someone’s login and password for their email account or another network, and you can put that to use. You can even download other people’s x-server files which will allow you to alter the look of your desktop. None of it is important to anything, but sometimes it can give a bit of background, or at least be amusing.

Hacknet - Browsing the file system | oprainfall

I did encounter one annoying…thing. I’m not sure if I’d call it a bug, but it definitely acted like one. There was one mission that I accepted, that required a file I could only acquire during another mission I hadn’t done yet. While missions can be aborted, I wasn’t sure if you can go back to them later. However, since this was a major storyline mission, I didn’t need to hesitate since locking me out would break the game. Once I had the necessary file, I went back and restarted the mission.

The soundtrack features a wide array of EDM tracks that range from soft and soothing, to frantic and intense. The fast-paced beat doesn’t do much to keep your heartrate down when you’re up against a time limit.

Hacknet - Decryption | oprainfall

Overall, I really enjoyed Hacknet. Having a background in computers and being someone who spends the majority of their free time online made it easy to immerse myself into this world. There is still a bit to do after you finish the game, so it’s worth taking another look around. All in all, I spent around 14 hours with the game. Definitely worth the $9.99 price tag in my opinion. While the hacking in the game is over-simplified compared to the real-life stuff, it’s a lot of fun and if it’s something that interests you, check it out.

Review Score

Review copy provided by publisher.

Eric Chetkauskas
Eric has been playing video games for longer than he can remember. His interests skew toward retro games with an emphasis on Japanese RPGs like Chrono Trigger and the Dragon Quest series.