by Thomas Mikkelsen
reviewed on PC
SIMPLE BUT EFFECTIVE
In November of 2015, I played a game called Clandestine – a third-person, asymmetrical stealth infiltration game where one player assumes the role of an armed spy and the other plays the hacker helping her out. The game was plagued with poor balancing and a myriad of bugs, but the concept was brilliant. The game was later polished through patches and actually stands up pretty well today. Why am I writing about Clandestine in a review of Hacktag? Because Hacktag is basically a cute, top-down casual version of Clandestine, and yes – it’s actually a pretty good game.
When you first boot the game up, you’ll have to create a character. The humanoid animals on file range from cute to adorable, and come in both male and female versions. Outfits and accessories are also available and more are unlocked as you level your character up. In addition to that, when you start a mission, you’ll be able to assign special abilities to three slots. More abilities are also unlocked as you progress in the game, so customising your character and the experience you’ll have will lead to some variety in gameplay.
While one player plays the Agent and another plays the Hacker, only one is physically present in the level. To begin with, the Agent will have to open up a firewall console to give the Hacker access to the first part of the network. Some roadblocks can only be opened by either player, but most require either the Hacker or the Agent to deal with them. The rare checkpoint door, however, will require both to be present to unlock them. Hacking takes the form of directional QTEs a-la dancing games, but rather than following a rhythm, you simply have to punch in the full sequence of directions before the timer runs out. Simple, but effective.
Cameras can only be dealt with by the Hacker, and network scanners can only be disabled by the Agent. Antivirus sniffers jump between nodes scanning for the Hacker and security guards roam the halls on the lookout for the Agent. Gameplay therefore revolves around removing roadblocks from your partner’s path and distracting security measures so your partner can get past them. Making a phone ring to distract the guards and calling the antivirus to a particular server are examples. Each level has multiple computer terminals you’ll need to steal data from and a “Boss Computer” in which the most sensitive piece of info, and your goal, resides. Any other piece of data you can steal earns you points which level up your character and unlock more customisation for abilities and accessories.
That being said, the game’s lack of variety in puzzle and level design may harm its longevity. We found that after a two hour session with one partner, the game became fairly easy to read and as the Hacker and Agent became more synchronized, the puzzles failed to provide a challenge for experienced players. Switching out partners for less experienced ones, however, proved to be very fun as the game is perfect to teach younger players (kids) or inexperienced adults how to play. If the Hacker or Agent get caught, they’ll be taken into temporary holding from which the other player can release them within a short time frame. If time runs out, however, they’ll still get out but you’ll lose points that way. There is no violence in the game and the consequences of failure are not severe, so I’d argue this game is perfect for young kids and an excellent way to develop cooperating skills between players.
EASY-TO-LEARN SPY GAME
The game can be played online with a partner or couch co-op mode. There’s also a single player mode, but this is virtually unplayable. As communication is key, we found that couch co-op is the best way to go. Online multiplayer was also fun, but finding a partner who communicates clearly and effectively, and doesn’t veer off and start doing their own thing can be an issue if dealing with two Alphas. In the single player mode, however, the player will have to control both Hacker and Agent, which can often lead to the one you’re not paying attention to getting arrested while you’re navigating a particularly tricky puzzle. The game is clearly optimized for co-op, and that is where it shines. I would have appreciated the option to have one of the characters controlled by an AI in single-player mode – even if it was a “perfect player” whose actions were pre-scripted for each level like the one they already put into the tutorial.
If you’re looking for a fun co-op game for your kids or looking to get someone you know into gaming through a non-violent, cute, easy-to-learn spy game, Hacktag is definitely a good choice. Don’t expect it to hold the interest of experienced players looking for a challenge though. If you’re a grammarian who can’t overlook terrible typos and Google Translated text, and have a problem with the morality of corporate espionage however, you might cringe quite a lot when booting this game up. The aforementioned players who will like this game, though, surely won’t care about that sort of thing.
non-violent, cute, easy-to-learn spy game
terrible typos, virtually unplayable single-player mode