Time to live out those spy fantasies you've always had, but will you be a stealthy field agent or the virtual hacker? In Piece of Cake Studios' Hacktag players have the option to play as either role, buddying up with a friend or complete stranger to take on the corporate world and pinch their coveted data. Jump into an unsuspecting office kitted with cameras, locked doors, alarms, sentient computer viruses, hulking torch wielding guards, and...coffee machines? But be warned, if you or your partner in crime are captured during the mission, the player is escorted to a 'time out' type area. Whether physically locked in a cupboard or shut away in a cyberspace prison, nothing left to do but twiddle your thumbs and leave it up to your comrade to break you out before time runs out or it is back to the bureau empty handed, branded as failures.
Slippery but swanky
Now, I want to say I liked this game a lot, but out of the gate, the control is not perfect by any stretch. Characters have a fondness for sliding, and oddly my agent decided to constantly wonder south when left alone, I have no clue what that was about! In comparison, the hacker movement is a lot more restricted as part of the game, only able to follow mapped out paths up, down, right or left. However the sensitivity on this can be a little bouncy, in that once you start down one path and gently switch to another, you might suddenly zoom down a different one, straight into the outstretched claws of the virus. While not game breaking at all this is a little frustrating, especially when tempers are already fraying. There is controller support though, which is always a win, just need to squish them pesky bugs.
To ring the phone or not, that is the question
What drew me in was the concept, and it certainly does not disappoint. A game where players can choose between these different roles is cool enough, but the way they play and interact gives two very individual experiences, and more importantly, both are pivotal to the success of the mission. I am a fan of the arrow inputs and button mashing or holding to complete objectives, and that each player can only access certain points of the map with the help of their partner clearing the path. Although the hacker does seem to have a little more arsenal than the stealth agent, with the ability to mess with other machines, and making the phone ring to distract guards. But it doesn't end here, there are more modes in the works, I am hyped for “hack the boss computer”, and the team is committed to adding a new map every week!
Suit up, darling
When a game uses smooth jazz in its intro, the bar is indeed set, friends. The soundtrack to this title is brilliant, on point with the style and feel of the spy genre. And the art is very quirky, opting for an anthropomorphic cast of characters, from the playable spies to the lumbering pandas on guard duty. Brings a whole new meaning to 'cat-burglar'. Plus having an unlockable Pink Panther skin is a wonderful touch, and many other creatures to choose from as players progress. The office layouts seem mostly generic from the perspective of the field agent, with computer pods and a chill out lounge littered with security cameras and enemies, whereas the hacker is treated to a more virtual viewpoint. Something worth noting though, the developers are eager to include procedurally generated maps, which I think will add that extra re-playability factor that is currently missing.
Double the fun!
Let's face it, this is a game you will want to play with your friend. The online servers are not fully operational just yet, but the multiplayer aspect is where this game truly shines. Infiltrate this building and steal data you say, no problem. Wait, do this with the help of your friend as an overseeing hacker? This could go one of two ways, either working together seamlessly, plotting every move with sharp precision to get the job done or be a massive troll for the hilarity. I guarantee any friendship will likely do both of these things when playing the game, simply because the atmosphere grows so intense it just begs to be shattered in chaos. Many games incorporate stealth or computer hacking into their missions, but taking on these two jobs together works fantastically, and is perfect for players with differing strengths to equally achieve the end goal.
Despite a few bumps along the way, I had a great time playing this game, it is early access but the potential is there and I would definitely say worth following. If you want to keep up to date with the games progress, check out Piece of Cake Studios' website here, which also gives a link to their current roadmap of progression for the game.
Gear up, pair up, and buck up, as you slink and probably crash your way through Hacktag!
For the laughs, here is a video showing the game play in all of it's glory!
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