Darknet allows you to enter the seedy, underground world of black-hat internet hacking. Sounds pretty cool, right? Now keep in mind, the closest I ever get to computer hacking is successfully answering my own security questions when I forget my email password, but I did watch both seasons of Mr. Robot so I should be okay.
Once you boot up the game, you’re greeted by a menu screen where you can check out your hacking stats, game settings, upgrade options and read news stories that fill you on the game’s backstory. Once you’re ready to take down the world one website at a time, you enter the cloud. Inside the virtual cloud, you’ll be surrounded by dozens of networks that look a little like planets from a galaxy far (far) away. One of these planet-looking networks is going to be your first hack, so get excited. Inside of each network you’ll find hundreds of tiny nodes connected together in a 360 degree spider web, and inside of each of these nodes, is a puzzle. Still following? Good.
Once you choose a node, the screen opens up to a honeycomb-like grid. In the center of the grid is a bright yellow core surrounded by numerous antiviruses. Once you place your virus into the grid, it spreads out until it reaches the core, and you collect your riches, or it encounters another antivirus, which effectively kills your virus. The gameplay is simple but addictive. Once you start collecting money, you can buy more viruses and other tools, like hydras, which allow you to hack unprotected nodes in the network. You can also buy more advance tools like worms and exploits, which weaken the larger more protected nodes. Oh yeah, did I mention that each network has a time limit. If you haven’t hacked the root node and stolen all of the valuable information in the allotted time, you can say goodbye to that 25 minutes of your life, ‘cause it was all for nothing. I can tell you it was a bit frustrating for that to happen but it makes in even sweeter when you complete the hack with time limit warning blaring in your head.
Now it’s time we talk about the VR aspect of the game. Why is this game in virtual reality? I think it’s cool that it is, but it seems like it would have worked just as well in 2D, especially since they chose to implement incremental turning, which I personally don’t like. I understand that some folks need that in VR to keep them from losing their cookies, but for me, and in this game specifically, it was an immersion killer. When you need to get the section of the puzzle you’re working on in the center of the screen, you turn using the dual shock analog stick. Once you do this, the screen goes dark for a second or two (immersion: dead), and when the puzzle finally returns, it’s slightly off-center in the other direction. Maybe they’ll patch in a smooth turning option down the road, but I think it should have been an option day one.
Aside from the awkward turning, standing (or sitting) inside of the internet while black-hatting your way into shady corporations is undoubtedly pretty cool. And once you learn how to effectively use all of the tools at your disposal, this game really does make you feel like an elite hacker. This may not be that VR game that your friends ooh and aah over, but each time I strapped on the headset, the visuals never disappointed. And most importantly, the puzzles were fun, increasingly difficult and ultimately addictive. What more do want from a puzzle game?
Do you happen to have an undying love for puzzle games? Do you have an extra 15 bucks you want to get rid of. Have you always wanted to hack into your mobile phone provider and wipe out your debt? If the answer to any of those questions is “hell yes”, then what are you waiting for—buy Darknet and start hacking. My cellphone bill ain’t gonna pay itself.
It may not be the PSVR game that you show off to your friends to make them jealous, but it's a challenging and addictive puzzler that begs you to play just one more level.
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