For all of its retro charm, 868-Hack is actually an acutely modern game. It's a roguelike designed for fingers accustomed to bite-size mobile adventures, with its polished Spectrum-era visuals hiding a tiny addictive loop of risk and reward.
Its obtuse manner can be jarring, but if you're looking for a minimalist score-chasing adventure for your iOS device then there's a lot to like in this neatly packaged old school treat. Just be prepared to die. A lot.
The game sees you controlling a hacking program in a computer system. It's your job to break that system, grabbing as much data as you can before you're killed by one of the monstrous defence programs that protect the information.
It's a digital dungeon-crawler, albeit one with an intoxicating risk and reward twist. You choose which data packets to hack, and most of them are explicit about how many bad guys are going to spawn when you crack them.
Do you risk grabbing a larger packet when you know it's probably going to leave you surrounded and on the brink of death, or do you go for something less well protected that will score you fewer points but give you a greater chance of living to snatch another lot of data?
The randomly generated rooms contain all manner of nodes, so choosing the right one is a game of patience and planning. Enemies spawn as you think, though, so you'll need to take them out by swiping in their direction when they're in range of your weapons.
Swipes control your movements, too, sending your smiling face avatar scuttling along in the direction your finger traces. Tapping nodes starts your hack, but you'll need to collect keys to do that, which are scattered across the levels.Old hack
Different nodes let you use different powers as well, although you'll have to experiment with them to find out what they do.
Some allow you to slide your foes around, while others let you steal a couple of moves before the newly spawned programs start their attacks.
It's here that the game really starts to open up, and you realise that the best form of defence is a measured and well-planned attack.
There's no time limit to try and confuse you, and no limitations on how long you take to decide your next move. It makes for a studious experience, albeit with the ever-present threat of laser-wielding malware detectors.
Longer runs become a source of immense pride, and getting out of a tricky situation with the skills you've learned through trial and error feels far more like success than in most other games.Find your own way out
And that's the point. 868-Hack doesn't hold your hand or ease you into its complex world. Just becoming competent is cause for celebration, and seeing your score steadily increase is all the progression you need.
868-Hack is an intriguing little game. Even when you're brilliant at it you're not going to be playing for more than a few minutes before you die, but the intoxicating lure of the high score table, and of mastering the game's intricacies, will see you jumping straight back in for more.
It's an unashamedly tough experience, though, and some will find that difficulty far too off-putting.
For those who persevere, 868-Hack offers a unique and engaging take on some of modern gaming's current trends.