I’ve seen a number of people calling this a “hacking simulator”, which to me seems as absurd as calling Space Invaders a “spaceflight simulator”. It doesn’t even emulate cinematic hacking in the wonderful way that Uplink does, and which hasn’t been matched since that game’s release almost 12 years ago. 868-HACK is basically a solo board game for iOS with a vague “hacking” theme and roguelike elements – which is to say it has procedurally/randomly-generated boards. I’ve been playing this game for weeks, and honestly, it leaves me pretty cold. It’s substance with no style, which just reinforces the importance of style. The lo-fi aesthetic doesn’t bother me, but that aesthetic paired to such an intensely systems-focused game represents to me an ideological position I have a lot of problems with.
The basics are easy and relatively intuitive, but deeper stuff is obtuse to the point of seeming deliberately so. 868-HACK is even a bit obtuse about the existence of abilities/programs beyond those that start unlocked. If this obtuseness is deliberate, that seems obnoxious. If it’s not deliberate, it’s just incompetent at exposing its mechanics. 868-HACK evokes nothing more than a Euro-style board game, of the type that prizes systems with optimal ways to play rather than mechanics in keeping with a theme, or encouraging social interaction around the board. Obscuring mechanics just doesn’t seem to fit with this style of play. In any case, systems with an optimal path always seem boring to me. I’ve really tried to get into it, but figuring out optimal paths in 868-HACK just doesn’t appeal to me at all. And I don’t think there’s any great need for more games that are systems-focused, or disdainful of attention to non-systems aesthetics. 868-HACK is obviously a passion project, but it’s one that’s all about being dispassionate.