Hacker

Reviewed by John Sweeney

 

Issue 21

May/Jun 86

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Activision
800 XL/XE only 

64k Disk E14.95 

64k Cassette 9.95 

1 Player
Keyboard/Joystick

"It's late and you've spent the night working electronic bulletin boards with your computer. You're ready to quit but decide to call up just one more. Being tired, you accidentally call the wrong number and, before you can hang up, your computer screen turns blue. The words "Logon please" appear. What do you do now? You don't know the password. You don't even know what computer you've hacked into. But you do know you want to find out more. How? You've found your way in. Now find your way out."

That's all it says on the box. So you hurry home with your purchase and discover the instructions inside the box aren't going to help, they tell you how to load it and nothing more. You load it into your Atari and sure enough the screen goes blue and says "LOGON PLEASE:". You are definitely on your own in this one!

Phase I.
It isn't too hard to get logged on so don't be put off by this.

Phase II.
Pictures of Robots? Screen instructions of how to use the joystick? A little perseverance will eventually see you through this one. Later on when you know how to log on properly this phase will be bypassed to allow you quicker access to...

Phase III.
A map of the world? What's this about time zones? Why is that thing in the South Atlantic flashing? Why are there no instructions? Why is it beeping at me? Why are the letters MSG flashing? What does PrgUpDnIrCllMg mean? Surely something on the keyboard or the joystick will have some effect? Yes, of course, but what?

This is the main part of the game. You will soon discover that fate has given YOU the chance to save the world from the machinations of a madman. Using both the keyboard and the joystick you will travel to exotic places and deal with strange men (nice little scrolling graphics windows here). Why does that Chinaman keep saying "Ni yo shun muh kum yee mai wuh duh dong shin"?

The game throws nasty little problems at you from time to time, to distract you from your mission. And just when you think you are finally making progress despite the computer, something else will go wrong - like the spy satellite which keeps catching you no matter how much you try to dodge it, and then asks you tricky little questions (what is the main password anyway? - you mean you haven't worked it out yet? - keep trying - it is a very fair game - if you play long enough you are sure to find out).

Then, after many, many attempts, you are, at last, on your way to your final destination, having completed all your tasks. Is it really over? No chance! Just before you get there you run out of time! What have you done wrong? Is it possible at all? Yes, it is. And as a reward for completing the game - once you have solved that last little problem, of course - it will display (and print if you have a suitable printer attached) tomorrow's Washington Post headlines telling how you saved the world! (Take notice Level 9 - if you put your games on diskette you too could provide nice endings like this!)

Nice graphics, good sound effects, clever puzzles, all in all a very pleasing little game. If only they could all be as original and entertaining as this! Although there are lots of graphics and the joystick is used for movement, there is no Arcade-style action requiring fast reflexes. The problem mentioned above about running out of time is solved by logic, NOT by trying to move faster.

So, if you are bored of zapping aliens, but not yet ready to abandon your joystick entirely in order to have a more cerebral challenge, why not have a go at Hacker? I can't really say any more about it without giving too much away. A lot of the fun comes from working out how it works for yourself If I have said too much please forgive me.

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