|Dev: Double Fine|
|Pub: Double Fine|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p|
by Angelo M. D'Argenio
E3 2014 allowed us to see Hack N Slash, a product of Double Fines Amnesia Fortnight Game Jam, grow up from a simple sprite based prototype into a fully realized game, and let me tell you it’s awesome. This game isn’t just an interesting action adventure title; it’s also a tutorial on the basics of coding and hacking other games. It’s funny, quirky, and broken, and it’s totally unapologetic about it. Hack N Slash is a game where you get to feel like a digital god, all because you know how to futz around with some variables.
Your biggest tool in this game is your sword… kind of. At the very beginning of the game you break your sword and reveal that it’s actually a USB stick. You can stick this USB stick into things in the game world… and while that sounds dirty, what it really does is allow you to alter the game code of whatever you are interfacing with.
The game does a good job of easing you into the hacking experience. The first thing you need to do is escape a jail cell, and that’s relatively simple to do by changing the door’s “unlocked” variable to true. However, things slowly start to get even more complicated from there. For example, you soon find blocks that you can only move a certain number of times. You have to hack them and change the amount of pushes you have left to be able to move them at all. Then the game asks you to start being a little clever with your hacking. For example, you’ll encounter a block puzzle that requires you to pull blocks, but there is no pull button. So you go into the block menu and set the amount of spaces the blocks move to a negative value, causing it to move toward you as you push it… i.e. pull it!
As the game goes on your hacking options get more and more complicated. You will be able to change enemy behavior to make them more or less aggressive. You can reduce their health to zero, or increase their health to a million and change their allegiance to friendly so that they follow you around and help. Or you can fiddle around a bit with even more variables. For example, you can make a flying enemy incredibly aggressive toward you but make him do negative damage, and voila! Now you have your very angry bird that attacks you at every chance it gets and regenerates your health as it does!
Unfortunately, having so much control around the universe presents some problems. For example, you can, in fact, alter the parameters of enemies and dungeons and puzzles such that some pretty bad stuff happens. You can make puzzles unsolvable, enemies unbeatable, or worse, you can actually crash the game. When you alter parameters in this game, you aren’t simply changing something that looks like the game’s code. You are actually changing the game code itself. So you’ll encounter freezes, and blue screens of death, and all sorts of stuff.
Luckily, the game gets around this in an interesting way, by allowing you to save your state. Every time you hack an object or enter a new area, the game state is saved. At any time you can use a magical amulet to go “back in time” to undo anything you did, just in case it causes catastrophic failure. This also means that there is no real “game over” in the game either. If you ever hit 0 life, just rewind the state of the game and try again. In fact, many of the standard action adventure elements are kind of only window dressing in Hack N Slash. Before the game gets very far your health meter balloons upward to near juggernaut status, which doesn’t even matter much since you can make every enemy drop full health restores. The game is less about solving Legend of Zelda style puzzles and a lot more about screwing with the game code in interesting ways. Heck, even when you don’t have your hacking sword, you will get new items, like a hat that lets you see hit boxes and lines of sight, and the ability to walk through walls by removing collision boundaries.
Unfortunately, we only got to see the first 15 or so minutes of the game, but the developers said that there was a lot more interesting things to do. They said when you get to the final stages of the game, you are altering more than just simple variables. You’ll actually be going in deep and hacking the game code to the extent that you are changing the whole layout of the dungeon you are in.
Hack N Slash was an incredibly fun game and one of the most innovative experiences that E3 had to offer, and you can actually experience the game right now. An incomplete version of the game is currently available on Steam for early access. So if you want to get your hack on, head on over to the Steam marketplace and download it today.
Angelo M. D'Argenio
Date: July 22, 2014