Hello, everyone! Want to see me review another game from one of my all-time favorite developers?! I telepathically heard one of you readers say a yes, so I am going to review Double Fine Productions’ newest PC indie game, Hack ‘n’ Slash! If you are not too familiar with this game, then you will need to get into your nearest time-traveling machine and head back to the year 2012. Hack ‘n’ Slash was a product of Double Fine Productions’ Amnesia Fortnight 2012, where Tim Schafer and his motley crew would make prototypes of game ideas that got the most votes from gamers who visited their website. A couple of their fully released games, like Costume Quest and Sesame Street: Once Upon a Monster, originated from these Amnesia Fortnight events. Hack ‘n’ Slash was recently released on Steam, and well, if you love the quirky mechanics and tone that you can only find in games made by the talented mind behind Stacking, Psychonaughts, and Broken Age, then you should definitely check this game out! However, you should first read my review to get to know more about it!
You play the role of a female elf character that teams up with a sprite, and you travel across a fantasy land to take down an evil wizard named Christo. This so-called evil wizard has confined everyone in the elf girl’s village to, well, stay in the village. Can this elf girl save her village and the world from the wizard? The story itself really revolves around what are the best elements of any story in a Double Fine Productions’ game, the writing. It still has Double Fine’s trademark humor, and while I don’t think it’s as charming as Costume Quest or Stacking’s style of humor, the writing has a lot of that unique charm. It might not have as much charm as the two games I listed above, but there is still a lot of that quirkiness in the gameplay.
Hack ‘n’ Slash is a top-down puzzle-adventure game in the same vein as the original Legend of Zelda. However, you don’t technically hack-and-slash in the normal way. Your sword is actually a large USB drive where you can literally hack the surroundings and environment to solve puzzles that are put in front of you. For example, you want to move a rock that can’t be moved? All you have to do is hack it so it and you can make it moveable as many times as you want. Another fun hacking element is when you get the boomerang, and can hack from a distance or around corners. Want to make yourself invisible to the guards? Why not throw the boomerang and then face the other direction and hack yourself to become evil? I mean, you could tediously go through and hack every guard to be on your side, but you can solve the puzzle anyway you want. A majority of the puzzles or areas you are in can be tackled in a lot of different ways, and you can even use items like an info recorder and a special hat to help you get an advantage in solving the challenges. You really have to think like a game designer to see how you can literally cheat the system and gain an upper hand in situations, like fighting the giant turtle boss.
The game’s 2D art style is beautiful. I am glad they went with an art style similar to Broken Age instead of doing a stereotypical 16 or 8-bit art style that a lot of indie developers are using. Again, nothing against those kinds of games, but putting in that extra bit of effort, and using an art style that games like Broken Age or the upcoming Jenny Leclue employ makes Hack ‘n’ Slash stand out more. The animations are smooth and the characters expressive. The music is catchy, and it fits the pseudo fantasy world that the game takes place in. The entire soundtrack is composed by Paul O' Rourke, who is a composer at Double Fine Productions.
Sadly, I do have a few complaints. The whole hacking-the-game-to-solve-puzzles element is very creative, but sometimes, I got really stumped on how to solve certain puzzles. Sure, your little red fairy friend can tell you something that is related to solving said puzzle, but I consistently had a hard time solving certain puzzles, which halted the pace and my enjoyment of the game. These problems really came up when you had to go into those multi-level “dungeons”, where you hack a terminal and then go through multiple floors solving one or more puzzles. I hear the Steam page for this game has a lot of helpful posters who have talked about the puzzles, but still, any gaming experience should be fluid, and not halting you because the designer put in a puzzle that could stump the few that are not very experienced in programming or math. I hear a lot of people say that you don’t need to know anything about programming to get through this game, but I feel like that isn’t quite true, since some puzzles do require some technical know-how to solve. It seems odd that you will at a somewhat regular basis solve an easy and understandable puzzle, but then get hit with one that can confuse you. It doesn’t make getting through the game easy, or have a solid difficulty progression system in place. Granted, you are literally given items that can help you solve or understand the puzzles, but still. I also ran into a few graphical glitches, and one hilarious glitch where I became invincible. Kind of feels odd to talk about glitches as a bad thing in a game all about hacking the game, but I digress.
However, did I enjoy Hack ‘n’ Slash? Yes I did! I think this is a very creative take on the puzzle-adventure genre where the developer is basically telling you to hack their game to get through the entire experience. I think if you loved their other projects like Costume Quest, Psychonaughts, Stacking, Costume Quest, Brütal Legend, and Broken Age, you should definitely check this game out. As of writing this review on September 18th, 2014, the game is $20 on Steam. I think either pick it up now if you are a fan of the developer, or wait until another one of Steam’s infamous sales pop up and get the game at a cheaper price. I can’t wait to see what else comes out of Double Fine Productions, and I am super excited for their next upcoming indie game, Massive Chalice. If you love supporting super creative developers, then you should help out Double Fine Productions and buy this game!
This game gets an 8 out of 10.