: Graphic Adventure / Simulation / Misc. Players
Hypnospace Outlaw is a really unique and unusual game that has players taking on the role of a policy enforcement officer looking for policy-violating content on the game's simulated alternate-reality internet. Part Graphic Adventure, part Simulation, part Puzzle game, Hypnospace Outlaw is, more than anything, a fascinating snapshot of an alternate-reality 90s-era internet, and the main draw here is going to be exploring this simulation of a relic of a bygone era.
The presentation here is phenomenal, with players directly controlling a computer using an OS that's loosely comparable to Windows 3.1 or early Mac OS, including various apps and files that the player can “download” from the in-game internet, which itself bears all the hallmarks of the early days of dialup internet, including homemade Geocities-style webpages, web rings, “under construction” signs, and GIF-style animations galore. These pages often come with MIDI-style background music, or amateurish recorded music. It's all in atrociously bad taste... and that's kinda' perfect, given what the game is going for.
As for the gameplay itself, players will be earning “coins” by enforcing rules as determined by the corporation you work for, scouring the in-game internet for violations and reporting them. This includes reporting copyright infringement by reporting children's drawings of a popular cartoon character, harassment in the form of anyone saying anything bad about someone else, or unauthorized transactions, such as anyone using a payment system not authorized by the corporation. Does any of that sound potentially a bit dystopian to you? Well, probably don't think too hard about it, here's an animated GIF of a dancing pizza. The satire at play here is both obvious and subtle, and the game does an excellent job not only drawing the player into its world, but making you think about the role that corporations play in the world.
However, one of Hypnospace Outlaw's biggest strengths is also one of its biggest weaknesses. The simulated internet the player is tasked with exploring, while only the tiniest fraction of the size of the real internet even in its infancy, is still pretty large, and while this can make for a lot of fun stuff to see, it also means a lot of ground to explore when trying to seek out the violations you're tasked with reporting. What's more, players don't exactly have access to a search engine like Google (or I suppose Yahoo might be the period-appropriate analog), and must instead search either by following links in pages or by searching through a list of tags, and you can only access any given tag on a page that has those tags. This can lead to the feeling that you're searching for a needle in a haystack and make progression through the game needlessly frustrating.
One more thing I should mention before wrapping things up. Given the sort of game this is, you'd think that it would be ideal for use with the touchscreen, and indeed, that turns out to be true – the touchscreen is definitely the ideal way to play this game. I was a bit concerned that some of the icons would be too small to select, but that never turned out to be an issue. However, for players who want to play the game docked using a controller, I found this method of control to be perfectly acceptable as well, although the on-screen cursor can be just a smidge
sluggish at times.
In the end, Hypnospace Outlaw is a fascinating simulation of the early days of the internet, and it succeeds at doing this brilliantly... which makes it a bit easier to forgive how frustrating the puzzles in its gameplay are. My recommendation is to enjoy the game for its delightful presentation and witty satire, and if you find yourself getting stuck or frustrated don't hesitate to use the real
internet to search for a walkthrough to get the answers you're looking for. tl;dr – Hypnospace Outlaw is a Simulation of the early days of the internet that players are tasked with scouring to search for violations like copyright infringement and harassment. This game's simulation elements are exquisitely well-crafted, and the game makes for a clever satire, but its Puzzle gameplay is often frustrating due to a lack of any decent search tool. If you're not too proud to use a walkthrough on the real internet, or patient enough to scour the in-game internet to find what you're looking for, the Simulation and satire elements here are more than worth a look.