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Genre: Puzzle & Trivia
Min OS X: 10.4    CPU: G4 @ 1000 MHz    RAM: 512 MB

Hacker Evolution: Untold
May 19, 2009 | Franklin Pride

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Don't have to save resources
Sometimes I wonder why there was never a sequel to Uplink. Its approach to hacking and unique plot were both way ahead of its time. Not that other games haven't tried to be the next Uplink, of course. There have been puzzle games, action games, strategy games, and even MMOs based around the same theme. One of these games, Hacker Evolution, has gained quite a bit of success. Its sequel, Hacker Evolution: Untold (HE:U), is what we're looking at today.

HE:U is an extremely simplistic puzzle game. It's essentially a number-juggler using hacking as its theme. You're given control of a text console and given a small group of commands: decrypt, crack, upgrade, killtrace, cat, ls, exec, and scan. Each command has a fixed "trace" cost to be used and you lose when you reach a trace level of 100%. Now, due to the fact that every server you see has something to do with the current level's puzzle, you never really have to think. You can simply ignore the clues for the most part and hack into everything that's possible to hack. If you see money, get it in the fastest way possible. If you see something labeled security or network, jump into that over something else of equal difficulty. The plot can easily be ignored.

Most of the servers are found by listing the files on the servers you've gotten into and reading them. The network locations are always out in the open and easy to find. Once you've found them, you scan the servers and add them to your list. From there, you figure out which ones can be decrypted and cracked with your current number of bounce links and go for the one you think you need the most. After you get past the first few levels and get some upgrades, though, you don't have to worry. You can crack everything without even needing a bounce. This is ridiculous, as it doesn't make sense to get the same amount of trace for something that ends within .5 seconds of getting traced and 15 seconds of being traced. Unlike Uplink, it doesn't really make any sense.

The first interface problem you'll notice is that you have to type every address by hand at least once. You can use a button to auto-complete the locations and files after you type them in the first time, but they do tend to be pretty convoluted server names. It gets annoying really fast. It wouldn't be so bad if you could hold down the backspace key to back up fast. However, for whatever reason, you have to hit the backspace key once for every letter in the name. Neither of these are game-breakers, but they're certainly something that could be avoided with the addition of a text-select or a simple addition to the backspace.

When you get the hang of playing with the numbers, you'll blaze through the campaign in just a few hours. It's quite short and can go even shorter if you memorize the locations of the money servers and use them to upgrade early. However, if you don't mind the simplicity of HE:U, you can always download the level packs that players are releasing for the game as time goes on. You can't really call them mods, as the engine doesn't allow for any changes to the rules to the game. This stifles a lot of the potential creativity of the additions and ends up leading to a lot of campaigns that feel like clones.

Hacker Evolution: Untold does look and sound relatively good, though. The flat green of the interface is like Uplink's blue in that you can't really change it without downloading extra files. That isn't a bad thing, but it isn't that good, either. Even if it was just the same interface with the colors filled in with different shades, that'd give the player a little choice in interface. Not everyone like green, after all. However, it is a cohesive style, and it does look good regardless.

The sounds are everything you'd expect from a hacking game. You have the techno playing in the background, the passionless female voice talking to you, the classic beeps and boops of the interface, and pretty much every other classic hacking sound. There's nothing out of place and nothing that takes away from the experience. It's just such a shame the game wasn't allowed to expand a little more.

Overall, Hacker Evolution: Untold is like a dumbed down Uplink. You don't have to worry about traces after you complete a task, you don't ever have to cover your tracks, and you don't have to search for clues to solve the plot. Essentially, you're railroaded along a really simple puzzle game where the plot doesn't have anything to do with the gameplay. You just do what you always do only with new servers. Unless you're a die-hard fan of hacking games, I'd suggest you spend the $25 elsewhere.

• Hacking games are rare
• Easy to learn
• Level-creation community

• Easy to master
• Interface annoyances
• Hacking theme doesn't match gameplay

Hacker Evolution: Untold
Developer: exosyphen studios
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