[Game]868-Hack by Michael Brough

I’m a hacker

I am surrounded. A Daemon is blocking my way, and a Virus is fast approaching from my left. The annoying pink Glitch shifts its way toward me, and I know for a fact a Cryptog is out there. Somewhere.

My credits and energy are low; I make do with what I have. I make my decision, then unleash a string of progs on my enemies. I am granted a brief respite; they will return. I assess my situation. I could siphon an extra 3 points, but I would risk spawning even more enemies. There’s simply too much at stake.

With one final look, I step into the portal, and emerge to a delightful victory message.

I was not expecting a high score. Top 10 in the WORLD. But it’s there, and I am so proud. Everyone will see it.

I first heard about 868-Hack when Michael Brough, the game’s creator, retweeted someone’s victory message screenshot. I could not tell what kind of game it was based on that one image, but was I immediately drawn to the art style. A half-assed google search didn’t turn up much either. When it finally came out, and I saw that it was a roguelike hacking game, I was immediately sold.

The price

Let’s just get this out of the way — it’s expensive for a mobile game(from an empirical rather than a normative point of view). I’m not going to try to justify it. You will buy it if you want to play it. I’m happy this risky price experimentation seems to have paid off for its creator. I think it was a clever move. Prices are not set in stone, and it’s certainly easier to reduce prices than to raise them.

Gameplay

I deliberately avoided all discussion on the game so I could explore the game on my own. This game feels less intimidating in scope compared to say, FTL or Binding of Isaac.

To be honest, I often left the game aside for days before going back to it again. The gameplay itself isn’t that engaging, but the leaderboard is meth. The soul of this game is in its leaderboard. It’s what pushes you to take crazy risks, and laugh like a maniac when you pull it off. It’s this constant deliberation between risk and reward which is the game.

Getting a .SCORE prog early on is pretty essential to achieving a high score. There are probably other ways which I have yet to discover, but it seems like .SCORE is the easiest and most direct. So depending on which score you’re going for, this might affect how often you “give up”. (More on that later.)

Interestingly, you can choose to unlock all the available progs without having to earn them, as well as to lock them up again. I noticed that I wasn’t using much of the newly unlocked progs anyway, so I decided to lock them back up and increase the chances of spawning progs I actually use. That led to my new high score. I’m not sure if that’s cheating.

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Leaderboard

The leaderboard is genius. Many games have them, but they’re seldom as effective. One side effect of the game’s pricey-ness is that it keeps the player pool small, and I think this really enhances the leaderboard competition. At 3715 players at time of writing, it is big enough to be competitive, but not crazy big that it will seem impossible to ascend to the highest rungs, or see your newly attained godhood stripped away in a matter of minutes.

The in-game global highscore shows only the ten highest scores; you can’t scroll down to see your ranking if you’re not in the top ten. Where in most leaderboards one would usually be proud enough to boast of being ranked 11th, in this game being 11th is practically worthless. This shifting Hall of Fame gives a concrete goal for players to strive toward.

Then there’s all that extra info embedded into it. Very early on, I looked at what progs all the top ten players had used to get such highscores, and was vindicated to see that most, if not all, of them were equipped with .SCORE.

The streak score is pretty clever too, though I haven’t really tried going for a streak high score. The streak score and the high score are often conflicting. If you’re going for streak score, you’ll probably be more cautious lest you break your streak. On the other hand if you’re going for just a single game high score, you NEED to take risks.

Sure you could play it safe, but then you’d just end up with an average score.

Conclusion

I don’t quite grok this game yet. I haven’t really discovered any real combos with the progs, though I suspect there could be clever uses for some of them. There are still parts I don’t understand. Like enemy movement in specific conditions. In a meta sense, these enemies are literally governed by rules, even if random. I want to discover them.

I still haven’t figured out why 868. Do let me know if you have.