Hack ‘n’ Slash Review: Hack the Planet

October 1st, 2014 -

If you’ve played video games within the past twenty years, chances are you’ve played a hack and slash title. To put it simply, a game where you push a button or a combination of buttons, and continue to do so to hit enemies until they die. If you still don’t know what I’m talking about, think God of War, Dynasty Warriors, Devil May Cry, Madworld, and plenty others. So with a game titled Hack ‘n’ Slash, you have a pretty good idea of what the game will play like – except then you see Double Fine made it, and you know you’re wrong.

I don’t remember whether I voted for this or not during Amnesia Fortnight 2012, but clearly I hadn’t paid enough attention to the pitch. Upon playing the prototype though, I knew this was going to be something special. If there is one thing I should know by now, it’s that Double Fine never develops generic games, and that was my mistake. So what makes Hack ‘n’ Slash so original? Well, the hacking you’ll be doing involves the code of the game itself. That’s not to say you’re going to be writing commands throughout the game like the upcoming Quadrilateral Cowboy from Blendo, but you will be seeing a lot of screens that may remind you of debug sections of games you could have seen in the past.

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While the game comes off as a charming Zelda clone at first, you soon “break” your sword upon using it for the first time. However, the break is for the best, as it reveals the true nature of your weapon. No longer are you limited to hitting things with a sharp edge in hopes of getting reactions – you can now change the properties of the world around you after swinging your sword (assuming you connect with a port). Need health? Make that bush yield hearts. Is that enemy terrorizing you? Make him docile. Still want him to attack? Make him an ally! These are just a few things you get to do at the very beginning of the game. As you progress, the amount in which you are involved with the world becomes crazy in-depth. And the hacking doesn’t stop at merely allowing you to move on – you can break the game by the choices you make in hacking – luckily this has been accounted for and you can restart a section due to any mistakes you may have made (it’s like making a save in Fallout prior to causing a ton of chaos you don’t really want to play with).

A fun fact about the hacking is that it isn’t an arbitrary interface to make you feel like you’re hacking the game – it’s the actual code. Do you enjoy coding? Cool, the 1.0 release came with the source code, so you can feel free to make mods to your heart’s content. Have you never coded in your life? That’s fine too, the game makes it fairly simple to pick up without feeling forced. I’ve taken many coding classes and always end up getting lost near the end, because it just doesn’t make sense to me. While the coding gets much more complex as you progress, it never becomes impossible. In fact, it feels like a nostalgia trip to old point and click puzzle games. You have all the tools needed, it’s just a matter of figuring out what you need to break/change to progress (just like coding outside of Hack ‘n’ Slash).

If you haven’t been sold on the concept yet, just look at how adorable it is. My wife knows nothing about code, but as she saw me playing, she commented on just how cute it looks. The world is an absolute joy to explore with the bright colors, as well as the eventual game dev designs you’ll see as you get further along. Also, the music is fantastic. Paul O’Rourke has a knack for making the perfect soundtracks for Double Fine, and Hack ‘n’ Slash is no exception. It’s mysterious, it’s upbeat, it makes me want to dance, but it also feels very digital at the same time. If you were to say I want to listen to some fantasy music, but add in an 80s/90s feel, this is it.

Games like this make me realize just how lucky we are to enjoy this medium of entertainment. When you play a video game, you don’t just get something visual like TV or a movie; you don’t just get a story like a book; you don’t just get something to listen to; you get all of that together AND it’s interactive. You play a game and you get a new CD, you get exposed to eye-candy, and get involved in a story (good or bad). Hack ‘n’ Slash is also more than you bargain for – instead of a mindless button masher, you will be solving puzzles and learning how to code, whether you want to or not. The game is a hell of an experience, but I shouldn’t have expected any less coming from the talented minds at Double Fine.

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Pros

  • Unique Gameplay
  • Coding Made Fun
  • Overall Aesthetic

Cons

  • Difficulty Spikes
  • Trial and Error Puzzles

Hack ‘n’ Slash was created and published by Double Fine Productions. V1.0 was made available on the PC for $15 as of September 9th, 2014. The copy reviewed was provided for us. If you’d like to see more of Hack ‘n’ Slash, check out the official site and pick up the game here.

 

Here at FFoP we use a rating method that you may be unfamiliar with, so allow us to clarify. When we review a game, we see what sort of BRA fits. Buy, Rent, or Acquire is the rating we give out – we’ve boiled it down for simplicity. A Buy is worth the full retail value; a Rent is something you may want to try before you buy, or grab at a discount; an Acquire is something you can play, but we’d suggest borrowing it from someone, grabbing it in a game bundle, or some other means. If you want further clarification, please feel free to get in touch.

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