Hacker II

Reviewed by John Sweeney


Issue 30

Nov/Dec 87

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Hacker II starts just like Hacker. You are presented with a blank screen headed:


Never fear, it is even easier than Hacker to get logged on. In fact whatever you do you will be logged on and then interrupted by a message from the Director of Special Agents in the CIA, asking for your help to combat international terrorism by obtaining a copy of the 'Doomsday Paper' from a Siberian Military Complex!

Fortunately you don't need to travel to Siberia yourself – they have managed to infiltrate the complex with three MRUs (Mobile Remote Units –remote control robots really) which you can use from the comfort of your own home computer.

After a couple of screens of introductory information you are presented with the display you will use for the rest of the game. This consists of four small screens arranged in a square and taking up most of the screen, and a control panel at the bottom. Apart from a few keyboard inputs at particular places in the game all interaction is performed by pressing the buttons on the control panel. For this purpose they provide a small hand at the bottom of the screen which can be controlled by whichever input device you prefer – keyboard, mouse, joystick depending on your machine and your mood.

The four screens can be used to display a number of different views. You can look at the current view from any of the 38 cameras placed at strategic points in the corridors and rooms of the military complex. You can look at what either of the monitors is showing as they scan through all the camera views. You can look at a video recording of what any of the cameras recorded yesterday. Or you can get a bird's eye view of your MRU and the surrounding rooms and corridors.

The game takes place in real time. As the seconds tick away on the various on-screen clocks you can see the guard making his rounds, the monitor activating the cameras, your MRU as it passes in front of a camera, and the destruction of your MRU as it is turned into scrap metal by the Annihilator!

Your MRUs start in a safe room. You can take control of one and move it out to explore, but there are lots of ways of triggering alarms – the result is always the same – the Annihilator! Once you have worked out where you are and how to control all your systems be sure and get the annihilation scene up on one of your screens so you can view your demise.

The game has a number of stages. First you must master all the controls. The introductory screens give you a little help, the 32 page manual (Multi-Function Switching Matrix Operator's Manual Volume 1) will also help a little, but mainly you have to find out for yourself! Second you need to learn how to survive outside your initial safe room, avoiding the guard, the monitors and the annihilator. Third you need to map the complex. Once you have done all that, you can get down to the serious business of trying to solve the game!

Solving the game basically requires working out how to open the vault undetected. There are codes to crack and traps to avoid, and you are not helped by the fact that your equipment is faulty and breaks down bit by bit so that you end up having to drive your droid in the dark! You will need to understand ALL the controls on your Multi-Function Switching Matrix, study the introductory screens in detail, and work out how to manage with only four displays – to start with four seems more than enough but you'll soon wish you had more. Even when you think you have finished there is a sting in the tail which will keep you busy for another hour or two.

My only slight quibble would be with the price. I usually reckon I am getting my money's worth if it works out a a pound an hour or less. Maybe I was lucky in working it all out, but Hacker II cost me well over two pounds an hour. However I thoroughly enjoyed Hacker II and have no hesitation in recommending it to all thinking games players. One of its best aspects is its sheer originality. It is so refreshing to find a game which can't easily be fitted into any existing genre.