Reviews by Kinetic Mouse Car


View this member's profile

Show ratings only | both reviews and ratings
View this member's reviews by tag: ADRIFT Adventuron AI AI protagonist AIF Animal protagonist Children's ChoiceScript City setting Construct 3 Custom choice-based Custom hybrid Custom parser Cyberpunk Dendry Dialog ECTOCOMP Fairy tale Fantasy Horror IFComp IFComp 2022 Inform Ink Murder mystery Mystery Mythology Quest Robot protagonist Science Fiction Simulation Slice of Life Spring Thing Strand Sub-Q Surreal TADS Teenage protagonist Texture Travel Twine Twiny Jam Vorple
...or see all reviews by this member
1-3 of 3

Overrun - en, by Janos Biro
Hack into servers. Make friends. Find answers., January 17, 2023

Overrun is a cyberpunk hacking game set in 2050. Nearly two decades prior, a virus known as the Crash Virus wiped out the internet and every database, toppling governments and nations which would be replaced by corporations. To investigate the virus, computer experts turned to an experimental brain-computer interface called a cyberdeck that allows the human mind to enter the digital world. Eventually, the Crash Virus was destroyed, though not without killing some cyberdeck users in the process.

You were one of the experts who helped in destroying the Crash Virus and are now employed at the corporation Renraku Arcology as a programmer and corporate decker. One day, your System Identification Number (SIN)- akin to a Social Security number- is erased. You have no memory as to why, only that without a SIM, you no longer exist in society. To find answers, you turn to your cyberdeck.

Janos Biro originally wrote and released this game in Portuguese but later posted an English version, both of which are available on IFDB. If it isn’t obvious, I played the latter. Overrun is based off a tabletop RPG game called Shadowrun, which details the discovery of magic in conjunction with pre-existing cybernetic technology. A quick glance at Wikipedia reveals similar themes and features in both pieces, particularly dystopian corporate undertones. The game also explains that Biro created a 1996 version of Overrun in QBASIC. It is cool when authors decide to revisit their previous works.

I was not expecting such a complex and immersive game when I sat down to play this. I figured it would be a familiar cyberpunk Twine game about defying corporations with gameplay where you are presented with three to four choices at a time to influence a storyline. While those games are also fun, Overrun brings something new to the table. It's a hacking game, or at least a "hacking" game, but one that makes you feel like a pro at computer hacking wizardry even though you fully know that you are just messing around on a Twine game.

Everything is centered around completing missions where you hack into systems to either find files, disable system functions, or shutdown the entire server. Completing missions rewards you with experience points, and payments from jobs allow you to upgrade utilities that give you extra skills in the field. You can also sell files for extra income.

Hacking is an interesting experience in Overrun. The server is represented with an in-game map depicting corridors and system nodes, within which are your avatar and icons representing IC programs that patrol for intruders. You move in up/down/left/right directions, either by clicking the screen or using your keyboard. Next to the map is a list of your utilities and your stat resources. Spending memory on your utilities gives you an edge of overcoming challenges. Just be careful not to set off any alarms.

It really feels like you are hacking into the "mainframe." That sounds cringy, but it is true. There is a somewhat steep learning curve. I was clicking things at random for a while but eventually I got the hang of all the RPG functions and features. Everything was rather easy after that. Maybe even too easy, but I have no complaints. Strategy is still required and provides a meaningful gameplay experience. This is what the menu of your cyberdeck looks like:

>>>Hacker Shop
>>>Hacker Board
>>>Hacker Bar

[Decker] [Files] [Mission]
[Saves] [Options] [Help] [Quit]

And that's not including the extensive stats at the bottom of the page. In retrospect, all this feels straightforward, but nonetheless left me overwhelmed when I first found the game. There is a learning curve that may compel players to quit before reaching that moment when you finally feel like you are making progress. For me, it was using the utilities in combat.

Mirror failed!
Pyro is containing you!
Mirror failed!
Pyro caused 8 damage to you.
Mirror failed!

The more you upgrade your utilities the more effective they are in the field. However, they start out as being in effective and flimsy until they are upgraded. Spending 6 memory on a mirror function that did not even work (see above) was frustrating, but it was all part of the learning curve. Stick with it, especially if you like RPG games.

To advance the story, you must build a rapport with the hackers in the Hacker Bar. They give you tasks and odd jobs in exchange for information or leads on your situation. The more they trust you the more exciting the quests. Later, there is a (Spoiler - click to show) big boss fight where you recruit almost all the hacker NPCs to hunt down a character who refers to herself as Alice in Wonderland. That one is a lot of fun.

My main complaint is a need for organizing ongoing objectives. There is the “Mission” section that lists active missions from the Hacker Board, but it does not include special tasks taken on from the other hackers. The annotation section in your files similarly lists the tasks you’ve completed, but not the ones currently in progress. While the hosts are automatically listed in your cyberdeck, you must remember who requested what which can be confusing if you have taken on multiple tasks. An objectives page would have been helpful.

For those interested in worldbuilding, Overrun is a great example. There is an info section called Shadowland that provides more than enough story context. More than most people would care to read, although I far prefer having too much over too little. I appreciate the author’s thoughtfulness in providing in-depth exposition for the player.

Time to dive into some (major) spoilers. (Spoiler - click to show) Turns out your SIN was erased because your physical body died. How is this possible? Well, it appears that the human brain can make a digital copy of itself as a last measure of defense when the physical body is on the brink of being killed. The person lives on as a program in their own cyberdeck, sometimes not realizing what had happened, as is the case for the protagonist. This raises all sorts of interesting implications of what it means to be a former human and a sentient being in the non-physical world.

This game does leave you with murky, answered questions. (Spoiler - click to show) There is some ambiguity about Project Morgan and why Renraku decided to terminate you as their employee. As part of your job, you were testing Morgan's program, but somehow was deemed a threat to the corporation. An “accident” was faked to cover for your death when in truth Renraku hired some shadowrunners to do the dirty work by ensuring that you were killed while hooked up to your cyberdeck. Ironically, two of those shadowrunners turn out to be at the Hacker Bar. If you ask the right questions, Morgan will tell you about this. I recommend saving before you talk to Morgan in the Hacker Bar because some dialog options only appear once.

While technically the erasure of your SIN means you are free from the influence of governments or corporations, you are still confined with the limitations of your cyberdeck program. Morgan and Jerusalem ramble about the Resonance and its path towards freedom but the game never provides any answers. The player is not free their program whereas Morgan apparently is, and she makes it sound so easy. Morgan is extremely confident that the player can be free, but ultimately the player pays dearly for thinking that.
I will discuss this in the next section about endings.

Thoughts on genre
I have never been a huge fan of the sci-fi fantasy genre. I like sci-fi 110%. I apologize if that makes me one-dimensional. I still like trying the genre's games because you never know if you will find something that does resonate with you. For example, I am a huge fan of Skybreak! It is made with ADRIFT and balances the two genres perfectly. Overrun does a decent job in combining the two genres, and I liked the emphasis on science fiction over magic while still staying true to its fantasy elements. Still, it took some time to get used to it. The last thing I think of when I see the year 5050 are dragons or magic, especially when cyberpunk themes are involved.

It occurred to me that the hacking sequences feel reminiscent of a dungeon crawl puzzle where you have a map with opponents. Play is move by move. Instead of ogres and looters you have anti-malware sentries roaming for you. Instead of a chest of gold you get classified files. From the other side of the room if you saw the game's map you would probably assume that you were looking at a dungeon map.

The major downside to Overrun is a lack of commitment to the endings. The endgame involves hacking into a server to talk to a digital program named Mirage who was tasked with helping computer experts overcome the Crash Virus. After some dialog, Mirage offers some intriguing solutions on how to end the game. Unfortunately, the execution of these endings is flimsy, leaving the player with few substantial options to conclude the lengthy gameplay.

I like to avoid dissecting every ending in my reviews to keep from spoiling everything but sometimes I simply want to discuss these outcomes, especially if I feel strongly about them. So here you go: A guide about the endings. I will stick it all under one big spoiler tag. Please avoid this section if you have not played the game yet. (Spoiler - click to show)

>>>I want to have a body.
>>>I want to cease to exist.
>>>I want to be free.
>>>I think I have enough, I don't need the Resonance.

The first three are the only ones that have endings that actually end the game. The fourth option just sends you back to your cyberdeck menu.

>>>I want to have a body.
The outcome I was looking for. It feels like the PC was not finished living when Renraku had them terminated. Why not seek a second chance? Mirage tells use to look for a person named Thomas Roxborough. But when you ask Jerusalem about finding Roxborough he says, "His research will only increase the power of megacorporations over people and the Matrix," and refuses to help you. That’s ominous. When finally find Roxborough he offers you to join the Brainscan project which seeks to build synthetic bodies for individuals who have lost their body. Then the game ends. I was hoping to see the implications of this decision.

>>>I want to cease to exist.
This results in a generic “You died” ending. Well, we did ask for it, didn’t we?

>>>I want to be free.
So, this one is a zinger. Turns out you cannot be free. I still do not quite understand what Mirage means by this; it seems like we can never get more than a cryptic explanation from anyone about your situation. But by making this request we are told that are story will end once we leave the server. Whether this means death is unclear, only that the game ends immediately after. This was a potent ending that bites the player out of nowhere, but it is also a bit disappointing since Morgan, Dodger, and the other characters are flouncing around explaining that you can be free! Free from your program! All you need is the Resonance!!! I still don’t understand what the Resonance is.

Oh well. The most answers you find, the more questions remain unanswered.

The Hacker Bar is full of interesting hacker NPCs with names like Misfill, Skinpact, and Dodger. They come from different backgrounds and have their own specialties. Not all of them can be found in the Hacker Bar when you first visit. Some show up later in the game as you build a reputation for yourself which was a nice change in pace.

Both Skinpact and Crapper will (Spoiler - click to show) challenge you to a cyberduel, but I was surprised at how easy it was to defeat them. I spent a lot of time practicing with the simulation feature and building up my utilities, only to crush my opponents after a few moves. It seems like battle is mostly reserved for system ICs.

The game uses visual effects to emulate a familiar “computer” atmosphere, particularly with thick green glowing text against a black screen. Its careful selection of font also adds to this look. It does use some scrolling text, mostly with character conversation, which was tedious but otherwise used infrequently enough to avoid dragging the player down. I liked how the game used flashing, urgent text for when you trigger an active alert while sneaking through a server.

Fun graphics are also included. Beside the server maps, the characters in the Hacker Bar each have their own character portrait, and the start of the game features imagery as it provides an overview on the history behind the story. The game even includes corporate logos for the files on corporations in the Shadowland module. That was a nice bit of atmosphere.

Final thoughts
I highly recommend this game to anyone interested in hacking themes in interactive fiction and/or if you are a fan of the Shadowrun universe. Fans of cyberpunk may also enjoy this, but it seems to cater to a specific audience. Not everyone will be interested in this game but those who are will probably be immersed by what it has to offer. It is especially fun if you are looking for a long RPG Twine game with stats and strategized combat. Overrun is ultimately a cyberpunk adventure with a strong foundation.

Was this review helpful to you?   Yes   No   Remove vote  
More Options

 | Add a comment 

Night City 2020, by Hoper
You can hide in the city. Or you can escape it. Or maybe rise above it., September 22, 2022

Disclaimer: I am not literate in French. Instead, I played the game with translation. I would highlight the entire page, right click, and select "translate selection to English," which did a decent job (I think). Does that overlook the fact that it is a game made in a foreign language? I hope not. I am not trying to distract from that. But it was a game that I wanted to play for a while, and I was excited to find a way to do so.

The premise of the story is that the protagonist previously received a job from a high-ranking executive of a large corporation with the task of ensuring the safety of a visiting nephew. But when this goes wrong the executive goes on the warpath. The protagonist is now on the run, trying to make ends meet with shady jobs.

Night City 2020 is set in a world where only people with upper-class jobs can live in the middle of the city with skyscrapers containing the best cutting-edge technology. Without a corporate job, an individual cannot even indulge the thought of stepping foot into that area of the city. If you did have such a job, it would change everything.

This is an RPG game. Stats, character customization, combat, you name it. All in a choice-based format. It also follows a choose-your-own-adventure style. The player is presented with one or more choices that are numbered: If you want to do X click to passage 4, if you want to do Y go to passage 10. This format tends to make the gameplay more generalized at the risk of the player not feeling like they can closely interact with the story. I think Night City 2020 makes up for that by allowing the player to fine-tune their character’s stats and inventory items (as is often the case with RPGs). Without these features the game would have been less engaging.

The game begins with customizing your character with cybernetic implants. Each option gives you a wide range of abilities from built-in night vision to brain-computer interface. However, each implant reduces your humanity score, a stat that affects your ability to connect with other people. This was a catchy way of starting the game.

Gameplay branches out quite a bit, depending on the job you pursue. You can investigate a gangster's missing sister, investigate the disappearance of a corporate official's daughter, or accept a mission to assassinate a former rival. Each route has unique gameplay but later, they start to merge. The game has a score system of 20 points. Not all endings reach a perfect score. Instead, the game encourages the player to try out different routes, adding replay value.

While the jobs feature different gameplay in the first half of the game, they eventually gravitate to the (Spoiler - click to show) same location: the pharmacy, where the endgame occurs. This is where the story becomes streamlined. They all center around discovering a scheme of illegal cybernetic surgery and human trafficking. How the player responds to this is tailored to the job you choose at the start of the game. The story content consists of language and violence. There was one scene with some (Spoiler - click to show) brief graphic sexual content that caught me off guard but most of the game does not include this.

There is some worldbuilding. There is an opportunity to check the news online, and the game will sometimes interject news items in certain scenes, such as when using public transportation. The Neuromat implant also sometimes provides extra information on things you encounter. I think this attention to detail helped make the city setting more interesting.

Its appearance is white background with black lines and text. Some dialog is colour-coded for convenience. The left side of the screen has a column with the player’s stats and links with reference guides, such as a glossary, that provides nifty background information without leaving the game. This was one of the first things that stood out to me.

Occasionally, there is art. I did not see the first piece of art until later in the game, so it took me by surprise. The art is basic and done in pencil or ink but does augment the player's imagination of this futuristic cyberpunk world (I guess technically it takes place in the past since it is set in 2020 instead of 2022 as I write this review. Everything in it is still futuristic). I found four total.

Design wise, there are some rough areas. I only found one broken link. When I clicked on (Spoiler - click to show) 305 it led me to a page where the only option was 85, but it was not a link. All it said was "[[85]" which required that I restore to an earlier save. I also encountered two cases where a macro error shows up instead of the link. Other than that, the game seemed consistently built.

Final thoughts
It is not a flawless piece, but it is one that can maintain the player’s interest, especially if they enjoy RPG games. Be aware, if you end up translating the game like I did with my browser, you will probably have a slight less seamless experience. There is lots of stat management with a focus on combat, and its branching gameplay encourages more than one playthrough. Overall, it is a nice addition to the cyberpunk genre.

Was this review helpful to you?   Yes   No   Remove vote  
More Options

 | Add a comment 

The Mind Electric, by Jason Dyer

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
You are contained. Or are you?, July 29, 2022

The underlying premise of the game is that there is some sort of war between two entities called Kaden and Souden, the latter of which you belong to. Apparently, you were skulking around in Kaden cyberspace but were caught and are now trapped in a cell, waiting for the Kaden to put you through a loyalty transfer program. You also know that the Souden are planning to attack. It would be ideal to escape cyberspace before that occurs.

A lot of games about cyberspace (or at least those that I have played) take place in the "real world" with the player tapping into cyberspace at regulator intervals. This one almost entirely takes place in cyberspace. The player begins in a virtual containment cell. Any efforts to move around results in "You are contained." But as you are tracing the lines on the walls, floor, and ceiling, a piece of paper appears with basic instructions are the start of your escape. This, along with other signs, shows that someone is trying to help you which adds suspense and mystery.

There is also great atmosphere with a sense of danger, such as (Spoiler - click to show) a voice in the background announcing to who-knows-who that a scan is about to occur in the sector where you are hiding. The scan seeks out intruders and if you are detected a pulse will liquefy you. In addition, in the game’s world you will find strange sights. The multi-faced cube, the spider and its doll, the factory full of machines, and the mysterious sheet of paper were ominous but kind of cool. It all paints a surreal impression.

While intriguing, this is also a challenging and technical game. I can tell you now, I had to play with hints. An example is (Spoiler - click to show) finding the correct box needed to restore the cube's voice by asking it about different boxes and seeing if the cube nods, blinks, frowns, or smiles to indicate how close you are to finding it, almost like a high-tech version of a hot-or-cold game. I could not solve this without a walkthrough although I was able to understand the puzzle afterwards and replicate it without help in later playthroughs (this game can place you in an unwinnable state, be sure to save). Discovering (Spoiler - click to show) the spider's commands was another area that I needed help with because the spider is picky about syntax. It will accept "spider, help" but not "ask spider for help." Or "spider, status" but not "ask spider about status." I would find the sphere that halted the lxprog program but failed to realize that you need the spider to erase it.

I would have liked a little more discussion on the story. Is this solely warfare in cyberspace or is it in the physical world as well? What type of entities are the Kaden and Souden? Even the ending does not clarify much. (Spoiler - click to show) The man we meet at the end explains that the war is just the Kaden and the Souden taking people from the other side and running them through loyalty transfer programs, creating a back-and-forth type of fighting. The other thing I could pick out about the story is that the man also says that the player unknowingly created the cube that helped them escape, almost as if the player found a way out through sheer willpower. Or at least that is how I interpreted what he said. Regardless, I still have lingering questions about this war and its participants, as well as the protagonist’s identity. On a similar note, the cube, which was generally lacking in the number of things you can ask it, had something to say about the Kaden and Souden. (Spoiler - click to show) Kaden apparently means "electric charge" while Souden means "electric supply." I am not entirely sure of what to make of this information but still found it interesting.

But yes, this game is moderately cryptic and challenging to complete without guidance, but the setting and story drew me in (as did the title). If you like playing games in cyberspace experiment with it. It is not a game for everyone but know that it does not take long to complete with a walkthrough in case you are curious about how it ends.

Was this review helpful to you?   Yes   No   Remove vote  
More Options

 | Add a comment 

1-3 of 3