Collected Thoughts: Hypnospace Outlaw
I spend too much time making games and not enough playing them, so I’ve decided to start writing a semi-regular piece on games that I’ve recently played. Hopefully they will force me to think about them and encourage me to play more! See previous ones here.
The year is 1999, dawn is breaking on the age of the internet meme. I’m an internet enforcer: A a virtual sheriff sent to patrol the wild west of the world wide web. I’ve just shut down a primary school teacher’s website for using copyrighted images from a 1960s fish detective cartoon. That’ll teach her. Meanwhile April, my virtual angel hamster, shits on my desktop. This is Hypnospace Outlaw, and it’s glorious.
We’ve lost something, haven’t we? Hypnospace harks back to a time where the internet was largely about self-expression: Without the slick but soul-less social media sites of today, web pages were often complete a mess but highly individual- a labor of love. The creative spirit that accompanied these times really appeals to me, and there’s an underlying sweetness to the writing and humor in
The soundtrack is a particular highlight and one that I really cannot talk about anywhere near as much as I would like for fear of spoiling surprises. The game is quite musically focused; every page has an accompanying song ranging from midi sequences to advertising jingles to nu-metal songs. Occasionally it presents me with such a cacophony of low fidelity midi sound that I’ll have to press the mute button. Authenticity! But songs by fictional washed-up 80s rock star ‘The Chowder Man’ represent this game at its absolute best.
Hypnospace is actually similar to Shadows of Doubt in what I’m trying to achieve with the core mechanics: It’s a detective game with an open world of sorts. That world is its killer feature, in that it’s fun to explore regardless of anything else, and you are incentivized to do so through the acquisition and spending of the game’s currency. It has detective style cases that unfold as the main story, but the player is otherwise given freedom. Shadows, of course, will be very different in how you explore the world, but it’s encouraging that this approach works well. Reach the end of certain cases and you’ll jump forward in time; now everything has changed. Pages have been updated, current events unfolded and new zones unlocked. It gives the game a whole other dimension, and I think without this progression the world could start to feel stale.
I don’t have many criticisms; it achieves what it sets out to do pretty damn well. I tend to play for 45 mins or less rather than hours- there’s only so much fluorescent assault my eyeballs can take after all. After a couple of cases the main objectives take on more of a puzzle-like form, and if you don’t ‘get it’ then it can leave you scouring pages rather aimlessly. The detective aspect reminds me of Her Story, but less focused- with a whole fake internet at your fingertips it’s easier to go down the wrong rabbit hole looking for something. Luckily there is a nice hint feature you can access by searching ‘hint’. It’s a great way to handle things as this game doesn’t feel like it should be trying too hard to hold back content/progression.
Hypnospace is a fantastic little game. Completely original, unique and quirky. It’s been a tough couple of weeks working on Shadows lately; progress has been frustratingly slow. Hypnospace Outlaw has cheered me right up…
April died though. I feel awful about that.