hack_me Early Access Review

November 09, 2016 Written by

I’ve always been fascinated by reading about the latest hacks and vulnerabilities, so much so that I spend much of my free time competing in Capture-the-Flag tournaments and developing my own scripts, backdoors, and programs (I know, I’m a bit of a nerd).  Coding and technology aside, Hacking is really nothing more than a giant combination of logic puzzles that pit your intellect up against a machine and that of another like-minded individual.  That being said, I’ve always been a bit hesitant when it comes to “hacking” games, but I recently picked up a copy of Hacknet and found it much more exciting than I originally anticipated…

Which got me excited when I heard about hack_me. 

Currently in Early Access, hack_me is developed by Egor Magurin, in Russian and with English translations.  Recently Russian indie devs have been stepping up and releasing a lot more content with their own style and cultural insights.  Hack_me is certainly no different.  Heavily influenced by Mr. Robot (really, heavily “influenced”), hack_me follows a hacker learning the ropes by popping boxes, pawning noobs, and causing all-around chaos using a suite of scanners and other tools.  There are no flashy graphics, high octane playlists, or complicated combos. hack_me is just you and your computer, as you brave the terminal to carry out bank heists and raise money for future hacks. Hacks that I can only imagine will involve world domination and the destruction of a major corporation’s reputation and assets (again, Mr. Robot basically wrote the script for this game). 

Like many other games in this genre, there is no assumption of any prior hacking or networking knowledge. The story basically holds your hand and tells you exactly which programs to open and which commands to type… Word for word.  Unfortunately, there is no error correction or autocomplete of the commands, which means you might need to write them down. Keep in mind, they are only displayed once during the dialogue. Then they're forever gone.  If you forget a number in an IP address or a specific command, you’ll need to start the game over in order to proceed. There is no way to save.  This can make for a frustrating experience if you don’t have a great memory, and you shouldn't be expected to memorize numbers and commands after seeing them once for a matter of seconds.

The one aspect of hack_me that hurt the most is the lack of challenge, or the adrenaline rush that you might get from unlocking levels of security, as you infiltrate digital fortresses and solve puzzles.  To me, hacking isn’t about the technical skills, it isn't about stealing and compromising data. Hacking is all about overcoming your adversary’s logic and finding new ways to leverage tools and technology. This to accomplish insurmountable tasks that would otherwise seem impossible.  And as much as it pains me to say, I didn’t get the challenge I sought, perhaps because the solutions are often handed to you in the dialogue.

hack_me is just not yet a fully flushed out release…

While I understand that the game is still in Early Access, it only takes about 20-30 minutes to complete and is full of bugs, translation errors, and other issues that make it far from playable, much less enjoyable.  In the last few months (probably due to the rise in hacking related news), there has been a resurgence of gamers gravitating toward text-based hacking simulators, and with games like {hackmud} and hacknet, I just can’t recommend spending any money on hack_me even if you are a diehard fan.


The Verdict

Please understand that I wrote this review with the game still in Early Access. More content is scheduled to be released in the next few weeks, with more support and bug fixes coming in the future. Still, at this point in time, hack_me has too little substance and too short of a playthrough to warrant a purchase. That being said, I will be watching the updates and periodically check-in for some improvements. Hopefully, we'll get a more polished product by the official release.

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Mark Klink

Mark is a self-proclaimed nerd who has an undying need to take anything and everything tech related apart at the seams and break it down to the basics. His interest in video games reaches all the way back to his early days of playing Road Rash on the Sega Genesis. Games like Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater and Unreal Tournament only fueled Mark’s desire to get his hands dirty in video game design by offering in-depth level editors and a budding modding community. But alas, Mark was never a very good programmer, so when he’s not playing video games, he delves into information security and network engineering including Capture the Flag Tournaments and writing on current cyber security issues.