There are few things that scratch the same itch as a bad movie, and there is no bad movie that I go back to as often as 1995’s Hackers (The Craft is a close second). Hackers is not an exceptionally accurate depiction of what it takes to crack into a system, but it was enough to get my younger self-interested in the subject. Soon enough I was going through my family’s home computer with a fine-tooth comb learning as much as I could about how it ticked. Hacknet: Labyrinths brings me back there, to sleepless nights in front of a crappy gateway, reading everything I could on software architecture, networking, and even phone phreaking.
Hacknet Labyrinths is the first piece of downloadable content for 2015’s Hacknet, a game that I absolutely adored. If you’re unfamiliar with the base game, I’ll explain. Hacknet was a terminal hacking simulator that utilized legitimate Linux commands, an amazing soundtrack, and visual effects inspired by the multitudes of brainless ways Hollywood tends to depict hacking. The juxtaposition of the legitimate code right beside ridiculous visual effects always amused me intensely. The story was simple—finding justice for a dead hacker—and the gameplay revolved around the thrill of breaking into new systems undetected and the quiet voyeurism as you poked through their files. Also, the ending was perfect. I won’t spoil anything here, but whenever I go about the final mission in Hacknet, I still get chills.
The DLC isn’t terribly different. There is a heavier reliance on story, as you won’t be flying solo anymore. Labyrinths finds you as a member of an elite conclave of hackers going on jobs to steal information and new tools to help you complete your dark works. You’ll always be in contact with your compatriots through the chat system, which replaces your old e-mail account throughout the DLC. During some jobs, you’ll find their assistance necessary, and eventually their personalities will start to shine through the colourful screennames.
If you’re worried that you might not be able to ‘hack it’ in a game like this, I would advise you not to worry. Hacknet does an excellent job of teaching the basics, even if you’ve never used a command line—or you don’t even know what that means. The rest is about exploration. You explore the limits of your tools and you explore the systems you break into searching for information, more tools, and the hottest new themes to customize your terminal view.
The missions in Labyrinths typically require more thought and time than they did in the base game. You may feel like you’ve hit a wall at points during your hacking adventures. This can lead to some frustration, but no obstacle is insurmountable, and you typically need to better utilize all of the tools at your disposal. I found these challenges deeply satisfying and loved every moment I spent slowly getting to know the people I was hacking through their irc chats and e-mails, then doling out justice as I saw fit.
What it all comes down to is this; Hacknet: Labyrinths is more Hacknet, with all the greatness and downfalls of that. You’ll still be exploring the vastness of the net, utilizing real Linux commands in the most accurate depiction of hacking to date while grooving to some sweet synth tracks and super cool visuals. You’ll get some new tools, but they won’t really change the way you go about playing the game. Dumping a system’s memory and analyzing it is useful, but it was rarely my first course of action.
I loved Hacknet: Labyrinths, but I loved the original game. The game cuts to the very heart of me and reflects so much of my younger days in the best way possible. It’s certainly not for everyone, but the people who are going to like it are really going to love it. If it sounds like something you might be interested in, you should give it a try. If it sounds like it may not be your cup of tea, you’re better off avoiding it. I can only hope that this game inspires kids in the same way a terrible movie inspired me as a kid. Hack the planet.