The year is sometime in the 1980’s, possibly mid fantasised 1990’s. The world remains pixelated, and you, my friend, are the newest Hypno Enforcer. Developed by Jay Tholen, creator of the acclaimed point-and-click adventure game Dropsy, the premise of Hypnospace Outlaw is a very intruiging one:
‘Police the internet of the future via an arcane operating system. Pursue outlaws on the Hypnospace Highway. Feed adorable virtual pets!
Crawl through Cyberspace, scouring the darkest corners of the Web for scumbag users who violate Hypnospace law, one page at a time!
Blaze down the Hypnospace Highways in your Hypno Cruiser, taking down violators with impugnity!
Watch out for the following dangers: Adware, toolbars, hackers, infected GIFs and MIDI files, and investigate rumours of a rogue AI. Certainly just rumors! Certainly!’
The premise seems simple enough, and one that is often overlooked in a genre filled to the brim with hacker power fantasies and super-enhanced cyborg shooters. One of the primary reasons the Android: Netrunner game is so successful is that it allows for the players to deck-build around the identity of a diverse selection of megacorporations; and the fact that this game will allow the player to role-play as this supposed Hypno Enforcer, purger of the wickedness of the net, piques my curiosity in a great way.
Hypnospace Outlaw takes the vaporwave aesthetic (or as Tholen states, Cyberfunk), and feels very reminiscent of the rogue-like shooter, Heavy Bullets. It appears to be a very beautiful game, one that evokes a lot of retro-mania, and is something that induces a near melancholic emotion from my 80’s/90’s nostalgic-ridden heart. I’m personally a sucker for a heavy aesthetic over gameplay (just the way I am!), and from the copious amounts of pixels, to HYPPER cheesy animated GIFS, and so, so much MIDI gloriousness, I feel as if those whom wish to delve into the vaporwave corporate underbelly will enjoy it as much as I do.
Aside from the aesthetic, soundtrack and animation, the major thing that intrigues me is the Hypnospace Page Builder & Sequencer, in which Tholen states:
‘Want to create your own Cyber Spaces and Cyber Citizens? I wouldn’t know anything about that! But the tools are right here – you can create and edit your own dang human beings! Now who’s the rogue AI!? Ha ha. It’s you! You’re the one!’
I initially glossed over this concept as a mere add-on, but after reevaluating the project, I feel as if it’s perhaps one of the more interesting, and thematically poignant features, for what feels more cyberpunky than sequencing your own humans while chilling out to some MIDI files and chasing the elusive hacker on the run?
There is an issue, however, and it is that the retro aesthetic may in fact be polarising to the casual gamer. The pixels are not for everyone, and the slow, near tranquility of the video game may in fact be tiresome for some gamers. And that’s totally fair, we are a niche audience, but from my brief impressions, Jay Tholen’s Hypnospace Outlaw sounds like a promising passion project that piques my curiosity, is reminiscent of some cyberpunky games like Heavy Bullets, and a bit of Papers Please. It does send retro-vibes down my cyberpunky spine, and with only five days (as of writing) left on the Kickstarter page, you can still back the project here.
Though Kickstarter may be a bit intimidating for some, Tholen’s past success does help improve the project’s image, as does his passion and enthusiasm for the video game, which he obviously loves. The tiering rewards seem reasonable, and should be fine if you are on a budget.