Impressions: Hack RUN

Hacking games remain far too few and far between, and often make the mistake of veering into far too complicated territory for the newb to enjoy. Hello, I am the newb. In fact, it’s not since Uplink that I’ve enjoyed the process. I’m not sure if that’s changed with Hack RUN [official site]. A super-simple command prompt-led hacking sim, with a nice amount of detail around the edges, and around the web. It’s been around a while, and has a bunch of sequels on iOS, but has just showed up on Steam which is where I first spotted it.

If you’re like me, when you see a URL mentioned in a fiction TV show, you’ll immediately put it into your phone to see if they’ve had the imagination to put something there. (How I Met Your Mother is by far one of the best at this.) The same applies to games, so the first time my sniffing through the email accounts of employs of the ReUsing Nature pharmaceutical company (RUN) showed a mention of a web address – the name of a band liked by one of the game’s characters, Overnite Dynamite – I put it into my browser. And ta-da! Not just a website, but a full song with video, that contains clues for the game.

It’s worth noting that the game has its own faked primitive web browser, that produced a simplified version of the same site, so the extra detail of registering the URL for real is nice. The song was a complete surprise, a huge detail for a little game, and just a 3MB install. (It seems the game has previously appeared on telephones, and the song is obviously part of publicising it, but still.)

So of course I tried out www.reusingnature.com. Very simple, and admittedly looking rather a lot like one of those dodgy holding pages, but again, nice extra. The feeling of the game’s fiction leaking into the real world is something I frequently lament being missing from gaming – not since the almost-excellent Missing by Lexis Numérique has it really worked well. It doesn’t work nearly as well here, but it remains a pleasure to be switching back and forth between fiction and reality.

The fiction is… very fictional. The notion of “hacking” is absolutely laughable – you’re getting into the email accounts and system logins of employees of this company purely by dint of their appallingly weak passwords. There’s no brute forcing, or sophisticated tech at your disposal, it’s just blatant silliness. When the first one you have to guess is “password”, that’s a simple opener. But unfortunately before halfway it doesn’t get any more complicated. It’s a little beyond the boundaries of credible.

Still, it’s fun though! And goodness, perhaps it’ll be a lesson to people who do use weak passwords like the names of friends or their birth dates.

The story gets even more far-fetched as your anonymous employer is sending you messages of delight at your l33t h4x0r sk1llz because you guessed a couple of passwords and user accounts, and then suddenly FURIOUS with you when you directly followed an instruction given to you.

After that I ran into some odd issues where I’m certain it hasn’t fed me necessary prompts to proceed (and of course all walkthroughs have copied each other, so there’s no explanation there.) And then it tailspins into absolute farce, with emails sent from “secret govt agency” to “senior RUN members”. Deary me.

And yet, I’m still enjoying myself. It’s farcical, but dumbly entertaining, letting it tell its grandly conspiratorial tale as you bash away at the prompt. Silly, but fun enough.

13 Comments

  1. Wowbagger says:

    I may be the only person that enjoyed the hacking in enter the matrix. I thought it added an extra level of authenticity and made me learn some stuff to get it right.

    • donkeyspaceman says:

      You are not alone. Enter the Matrix is still, to this day, the first thing I think of in regard to cool hacking components in games.

      • P.Funk says:

        Its too bad I never got far enough into the game to reach that stuff thanks to the rest of its awfulness.

    • gabrielonuris says:

      I’ve watched an interview once with a hacker/programmer on a gaming site, I think it was Gamespot… Well, the interviewer asked the guy which games has the best and worst hacking minigames, and he said that the one from Enter The Matrix was the closest a game ever got from actual hacking, and the one used in Alpha Protocol was the dumbest. There is a game on Steam that plays like the Enter The Matrix minigame, it’s called Hacker Evolution Untold, and it’s rather good.

  2. maninahat says:

    Reminds me of the Cristine Love games, which like to feature cute command prompt style hacking mini games. Anything more complicated is beyond the limits of my limited patience and imagination.

  3. Zunt says:

    he notion of “hacking” is absolutely laughable – you’re getting into the email accounts and system logins of employees of this company purely by dint of their appallingly weak passwords. There’s no brute forcing, or sophisticated tech at your disposal, it’s just blatant silliness. When the first one you have to guess is “password”, that’s a simple opener.

    As someone who sysadminned for some years, I can tell you that that’s actually quite accurate.

    • Darth Gangrel says:

      I’ve read a few articles where they list the most common passwords and they are appallingly simplistic, like “123456”, “password”, your first name or variations of “feces” and the like. My own passwords are often obscure videogame references plus a number sequence that I like. I’m pretty good at remembering passwords, but I do have a Notepad file with less frequently used passwords. I figure that if they can get access to it from afar, then they would be able to crack any passwords I have on different sites so no risk in listing them there.

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      kfix says:

      I agree. Also:

      The story gets even more far-fetched as your anonymous employer is sending you messages of delight at your l33t h4x0r sk1llz because you guessed a couple of passwords and user accounts, and then suddenly FURIOUS with you when you directly followed an instruction given to you.

      is, sadly, not remotely far fetched – a manager shouting at you for following an instruction is a daily occurrence in these parts.

    • phlebas says:

      Also it can be a lot more engaging and fun than a more realistic approach – it becomes an investigation puzzle rather than a ‘run the hacking tool and hope you don’t run out of time’. There’s nothing wrong with that – it’s a fun fantasy. I gather shooting moving targets from far away is actually much harder than games make out, too.

    • Ergates_Antius says:

      I used to work on a large government IT contract that handles huge volumes of sensitive (and above) data. The number of live systems with the password “1234qwer” doesn’t even bear thinking about.

  4. brulleks says:

    “The feeling of the game’s fiction leaking into the real world”

    For me, “In Memoriam” is the best example of this. A shame that the use of internet sites in games usually places a restrictive lifetime on them though. I’d love to play through this again.

  5. Xzi says:

    Not impressed. I can already hack time.