Overall Score 65%
Bet you thought that you'd never get homework as a Bytten reader, right? Well actually, this week there is a little bit of required reading before I get into this week's review. Unfortunately, I can't create HTML links in the review text so you can either cut and paste this URL into your browser's address bar: http://www.bytten.com/gamereview.php?id=275, or simply follow the links on the left hand side of the page to navigate to the feature on Hacker Evolution by Exosyphen Studios.
“Are there similarities between Hacker Evolution and RVL Hacker?” I hear you ask. Far more than just similarities, truth be told. In fact, RVL Hacker and Hacker Evolution are the exact same game. I honestly think that it's a little bit rich for the developers of RVL Hacker to claim that they have used the “engine” from Hacker Evolution to create their own game. If Exosyphen had created the content of this game, it might rightly be called a “mission pack”. It would seem that RVL Games have modded in a new story, levels, and a re-skin to Hacker Evolution and released it for sale under a different name.
Having said that, more of a good thing is still a good thing, and the original game starring hacker Brian Spencer was a clever title that required lateral thinking and imagination to get very far into the game. RVL hacker features the same absorbing gameplay. This time around the player's avatar is programmer Alex D. who works at a software company by day, but at night tests software vulnerabilities on various company's servers. After getting into a bit of hot water with the American NSA, he agrees to do some missions for them in exchange for his freedom. The difficulty of the levels seems to be a bit higher than in Hacker Evolution, and so I suggest that you try that game first and then move on to RVL Hacker after getting your feet wet.
Seriously though, RVL Hacker doesn't deserve a review of its own. If you have read the Hacker Evolution review (that WAS your homework, remember?) then you'll know exactly how the gameplay and features of RVL Hacker work. The scenario editor that ships with RVL Hacker is even still branded with the Hacker Evolution logo! All of the features are identical, the interface is set out the same way, the excellent text parser and intuitive input system is present and all keyboard commands carry through as well. Even the ridiculous and frustrating save game feature is still present.
If the developer could change one thing, just one feature to make RVL Hacker a better game than Hacker Evolution then it would be the way that the player's progress is saved during the course of a campaign. The way it stands, only one save can ever be present for any one profile, with newer saves overwriting old ones. The way that the game is set up, each new level the player's trace level and money carry over from the last level, but all servers are reset and re-encrypted. All well and good if you play the game along the optimal path, but it forces the player to start from scratch (even having to complete the tutorial mission again) if things end up going pear shaped in level 6 or 7. It's a ludicrous feature that will test even the most patient players, and one that frustrates me greatly.
For example, I'm stuck at level 3 at the moment. I'm not sure if it's because I've strayed too far from the optimal path through that level, or if I have completed levels 1 or 2 inefficiently. There's no real way to tell without resorting to spoilers, and I don't really enjoy doing that, nor would I guess most gamers. It's sad, because the levels that I have seen are imaginative and intriguing, and the gameplay is super! But this is old and well trodden ground. I really don't want to just rehash the same issues as I did 18 months ago, so I'll stop there.
One thing that I did notice is that there are many spelling and/or typographical errors in the mission scripts and in-level documents. This really does detract from the polish of any game. Even allowing for the fact that the creators of RVL Hacker might not speak English as their first language, there certainly are inexpensive services available that could proofread and correct the text pre-release for that extra, professional edge.
If you loved Hacker Evolution, then you will love RVL Hacker – it's a given. Not because they are similar, but because they are one and the same. If RVL Games had somehow been able to re-invent the save system, I think that in a new incarnation, the game would be worthy of a Bytten gold star. Unfortunately, it falls short for the same reasons it did last year; those being very limited replay value and an abysmal save system that results in a brutal trial and error repetition of the same levels over and over.
Keywords: rvl hacker review, rvl games reviews, rvl games games, rvl hacker scores, pc game reviews, indie game reviews, independent gaming.