There seems to be quite a surge in hacking and hacking-themed games on Steam. Rather than create separate topics for each hacking game I (we?) play, I thought it might be better to collect a bunch of short reviews and discussion in one place.
What’s the difference between a hacking game and a hacking-themed game, you ask?
Like Rogue purists will differentiate between proper Berlin Interpretation Roguelikes and Roguelites (see: Rogue-likes and Rogue-lites), I differentiate between Hacking and “Hacklite” games.
I haven’t yet formulated a definitive set of criteria for True Hacking Games™, though. Right now I feel that, at the very least, a proper hacking game must require that:
(a) your main form of interaction be via an in-game computer using some kind of command line interface; or
(b) you write actual programs in an in-game programming language. EXAPUNKS comes to mind as a solid example of a hacking game. Else Heart.Break() is another.
A hill that I will die on is that a game which is merely hacking-themed is usually just a set of mini-games with a hacker aesthetic. As you beat the minigames, you move the story forward.
My favourite hacker and hacking-themed games are essentially adventure or mystery games, but where you “hack” to find clues or solve puzzles and reveal the next part of the story.
How far would you go to save your daughter? As an infamous hacker-for-hire you have the skills to steal almost any secret. But when your daughter is taken, will you be able to use these skills to uncover a dark conspiracy that goes further than you could ever imagine?
Greyhat is what I would call a hacking-themed game. You interact with the game’s world through a fictitious computer interface and the control scheme is designed to make you feel like a hacker, but without requiring that you do any kind of programming or type commands into a text interface.
At its core, Greyhat is a puzzle game with a hacker aesthetic, and in which your character is a well-known hacker.
The story is engaging, albeit somewhat predictable, and it has a satisfying ending. The writing is good, and the music and sound design is solid.