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Game Info:

Hacktag
Developed By: Piece of Cake Studios
Published By: Piece of Cake Studios
Released: February 14, 2018
Available On: Windows 7, 8, and 10; macOS
Genre: Action, Adventure, Stealth, Indie
ESRB Rating: None
Number of Players: Singleplayer, Multiplayer
Price: $19.99

Thank you Piece of Cake Studios for sending us your game to review!

Intrigue is probably the most common word associated to spies. I’d also add on stealthy, sharp, fast, and resourceful. I’ve got great respect for the real deals. You know you’ve done something really right when no one is supposed to know how you do what you do and in truth nobody really does know how you do what you do. For real, we know near zilch on how our shadowed protectors and adversaries work in the modern day. Thus, we fall back on long passed historical accounts and our own imaginations. But one thing I’m sure anyone can agree on is that spywork is rarely a one man show. Spies need partners. The developers of their game Hacktag knew this and saw a major multiplayer opportunity to be snatched.

Everyone is an anthropomorphic animal in the world of Hacktag. That just means human-like animals do normal people things like wear clothes, walk on two legs, drive cars, break into corporations, hack computers. . . Oh wait. The last two aren’t normal. Well, in this game, that’s what you’re gonna be doing. You play as a freelance spy or hacker who receives jobs from business owners seeking a leg-up on their rivals. At least, that’s your usual clientele. Occasionally there may be a friend seeking a favor or a just a curious person with deep pockets. Either way, if they got the dough, your agency will go.

Every mission requires stealth, timing, and a duo. Regardless if you play with a friend or by yourself, there needs to be a stealth agent on the field and a hacker in the system. Each role is codependent on the other. The stealth agent will need to stay out of sight. They must hide behind desks and potted plants in order to get close to firewall boxes, computers, and scanners. It’s pretty classic spy stuff nixing the laser lipstick. You won’t need it anyway. You’ve got a hacker. It’s their job to avoid system detection to unlock doors, shutdown cameras, and distract guards with fake phone calls. Your usual team assignment is get in, get the goods, watch your partner’s backs, and don’t get caught. If one of you is spotted, the other can bail you out. If both of you are incarcerated though, you both will be doing time. From my perspective, this design was indeed well thought out. I know this isn’t the first espionage game out there, but I don’t think I’ve heard of another game that plays exactly like this. Most spy games focus on the field agent. Very little is paid to the hacker character, who is often an AI. Hacktag, however, puts the importance level for both roles on a pretty even keel. It’s refreshingly one-of-a-kind. My main criticism is its singleplayer. Now clearly, this game’s design had multiplayer in mind. There’s no denying it. Unfortunately, when there’s no one to play with (which was my sad case), you’ve only got singleplayer to do anything with, and Hacktag’s singleplayer felt like an afterthought feature. This fact will become more clear as I explain. In short, there were several missions where the required teamwork proved way too tight for any single person to handle.

Hacktag
Highlights:

Strong Points: One-of-a-Kind Gameplay; Great Avatar Design; Great Multiplayer Design
Weak Points: Unideal Singleplayer; Insufficient Tutorial; Complicated Controls
Moral Warnings: Unauthorized Espionage; Thievery; Sabotaging; Mild Language

Before accepting your first mission, you get to create your avatar. You can make up to six characters. After naming them and choosing their species, gender, color, and attire, you then select an assignment. Missions are color coded to indicate their difficulty. Easy missions offer unlimited continues for failure while harder levels range from limited continues to none at all. Symbols stamped overtop these missions also indicate their type. It could mean you need to hack all computers or only specific computers in a particular order. However, I felt there really wasn’t a big enough variance there to warrant a full explanation. I’ll can leave that to Hacktag’s tutorial mission should you buy it. Afterall, it did do a pretty good job . . . except for the major details it left out. I was sneaking around minding my own nosy business when an alarm system went off. I did not know this mechanic even existed nor how to respond. It apparently is deactivated by a mini-game (that I wasn’t taught either) that required both players to deactivate at the same time. I didn’t know how other special mini-games worked either. Nor did I know about the random laser traps. And here I thought spies were supposed to be well informed!

Okay, something else you need to know before embarking are the controls. Pay attention. I’m only reading this laundry list once. As the stealth agent, you’ll move around with the ‘A’, ‘D’, ‘W’, and ‘S’ keys. The hacker can also move the same way but can also move with the arrow keys. (Don’t ask why the Hacker has two movement options. I don’t know.) The act of hacking is also performed via arrow keys. Most other common actions are done with the ‘E’ key no matter if its hacking or deactivating stuff. The ‘Q’, ‘R’, and ‘F’ keys are used on occasion for various purposes. Keep those in mind. The 1, 2, 3, and 4 keys are used in multiplayer for snappy communication. In singleplayer they offer limited control of the opposite character. The stealth agent can noisily run by holding the ‘Shift’ key. Lastly, in singleplayer mode, the ‘Tab’ key and Space Bar swaps you between characters. You got all that? I’ve heard of complicated PC game controls before, but I think some considerable consolidation would have helped a lot here. Now, that’s not to say the controls are horrible. Some buttons fit pretty nicely. The familiar arrow keys are very satisfying to use while hacking. It’s the ‘E’, ‘R’, ‘F’, and ‘Q’ keys I had issues. It’s too complicated. With all the traps and guards and timed events, these missions require sharp precision. You can consider this problem doubled in singleplayer. You’re literally thinking for two. Unfortunately, accidents involving me hitting wrong buttons caused 60% of my captures. It also doesn’t help that swapping between characters takes half a second. That might not sound bad, but it’s an eternity when you’ve got guards and anti-viruses hot on your furry tail. I would much prefer controlling hacker and agent simultaneously. Yeah, I mentioned the numbered keys were meant to do that, but they’re abysmal. All they do is pull the other character toward you like a magnet regardless of who or what’s there. Want to get spotted in the laziest way possible? Push the numbered buttons. Hacktag’s controls are just a bag of good gadgetry in need of a tune-up.

Hacktag
Score Breakdown:
Higher is better
(10/10 is perfect)

Game Score - 80%
Gameplay - 16/20
Graphics - 8/10
Sound - 8/10
Stability - 5/5
Controls - 3/5

Morality Score - 86%
Violence - 8/10
Language - 7/10
Sexual Content - 10/10
Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 8/10

For presentation, Hacktag’s is commendable. The CGI characters look so smooth and plushy. I can’t help but want to squeeze them like stress balls. The artists did a great job conceiving the fox, cat, raccoon, hyena, and deer designs too. The bunny design, though, looked weird in the face to me. It wasn’t terribly disturbing, but I wouldn’t pick it anytime soon. The stylish clothing options also added plenty of variety once unlocked. As for settings, there are three office buildings you’ll visit on your missions, and each have their own decor. These areas are rendered nicely. There was a single case of disappearing security guard on the hacker cam, but it didn’t reoccur. I guess my major complaint is how the color coding for the agent and hacker wass handled. The stealth agent’s name is portrayed in blue, yet his environment is mostly yellow. For the hacker its vice versa. As a result, I was often unsure which prompt colors each character should follow when duo hacking by myself. It cost me multiple times. Goes to show why color consistency matters. As for music, Hacktag has some pleasant jazzy tunes. However, I laud the SFX most. I’ve never loved the clicking of computer keys more than when I hacked devices. Something about the sound of it coinciding with my fingers felt exciting - like I was a real hacker. The rest of the SFX were well employed too, but I found it odd there were no SFX when you crack open reward loot safes. Now, I may not work with TNT, but I’m sure a kaboom is expected. Oh well. That’s a minor complaint compared to the rest of Hacktag’s competent presentation.

Hacktag keeps itself pretty morally clean. Clothes are in good taste. Violence only amounts to slamming doors to temporarily knock out guards. Your character can cop a snarky attitude in your dialogue choices, but only if you choose to. A** and God’s name is misused a couple times but not too often. The main thing we need to address though is the content. Let’s be real here. Playing spy is fun. The thrill of the chase, slipping under the radar, making off with the badguy’s goods, it’s admittedly appealing. Unfortunately, we seldom consider its moral complications. Boiled down to its core, espionage is in most cases deceitfulness, thievery, and sabotage. Call me a cynic, but I don’t recall the Bible endorsing such behavior. Now, I’ll grant you that there were Biblical cases of espionage. You had the two spies that infiltrated Jericho for example. We as a nation also have our own federal spy network. This includes our men and women in uniform who sometimes risk their lives assuming false identities or undercover operations. However, there’s a difference between protecting law-abiding citizens and undermining another’s business for monetary gain. In Hacktag you’re basically breaking the law to help greedy people. It’s as illegal as it is malicious if you think about it. Now, it’s up to you whether it trivializes thievery too much or desensitizes your judgment. I personally don’t count Hacktag as a big threat, but I would recommend a spiritual security check . . . just in case.

Hacktag’s take on spy shenanigans is admirable. I loved how well it incorporates the two roles together, even if (in my personal opinion) it’s a tad easier to play as the hacker. The tutorial really should be expanded though. I don’t appreciate being ill-informed. Nor do I enjoy seemingly unwinnable singleplayer missions. The developers didn’t put much thought into that. That’s for sure. Still, from what I can tell, this game is at its best with your personal companion. Just remember Hacktag kind of glorifies illegal behavior. The game’s wrongful motives for your spy-work might be a no sell for you. However, if you’re okay with it and crave an inventive multiplayer experience, grab a friend and grab a mission. It takes two for undercover fun. Otherwise, you’ll be facing quite a few literal mission impossibles.

About the Author

Hannah Colvin

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Christ Centered Gamer looks at video games from two view points. We analyze games on a secular level which will break down a game based on its graphics, sound, stability and overall gaming experience. If you’re concerned about the family friendliness of a game, we have a separate moral score which looks at violence, language, sexual content, occult references and other ethical issues.

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