Quadrilateral Cowboy review impressions
I really like Hackers. The movie, Hackers. But as TOTALLY RAD as the hacking sequences always looked, I knew they probably had nothing to do with actual hacking.
Neither do most games that feature hacking, from the 90s to today. Oh, sure, there are lots of fun hacking minigames out there, but none of them get at the actual idea of talking a computer into doing something you want it to.
But Quadrilateral Cowboy, for all of its beautifully stylized 80s-fantastic graphics and cute box-people, actually sort of does. Inside a puzzle-heist shell, it's a game about being a cool little hacker -- making you, the player -- actually type realistic-ish commands into an interface to do it.
I know just enough C# to be dangerous with it, so I can't comment on how close the game is to any kind of reality. But, completing a job in a skyscraper, masterfully commanding all of the cameras, lasers and other security measures to do my bidding so I can get in, get what I needed and get out, undetected, I FELT like a badass hacker. A hacker spy? It felt like something akin to actual skill mastery, rather than a complete abstraction.
This is all thanks to the game's brilliant, elegant design and smart interface. Each stage is a multipart 3D puzzle, giving you and your fabulous early-80s "deck" plenty of obstacles to contend with. Typing commands is deceptively simple, and you start out nice and easy.
In one early stage, I had to learn the "wait" command in order to turn a camera off, rush into a space and grab a crucial red suitcase, and time it just right to slip right through another 3-second window of camera down time. In another, I had to juggle a series of lasers as a cool password-generating device passed through a bendy tube.
It all builds logically from these simple parts, forcing you to manage your time, your commands, and your deck efficiently. Want to be the most badass little spy this side of 1980? You're going to have to figure out your situation, form a plan fast and type even faster.
The funky aesthetic supports that feeling beautifully, with VHS tapes and clunky computer parts and chunky consoles meshing with Blendo's signature cute cardboard people and classy music. The puzzles would be clever, wonderful creations even without the window dressing. But Blendo has created a world -- full of clever little details and texture -- that's fun to poke around in even when I'm not on a heist.
So, yes, this is probably the best game about hacking that's ever been made, but also one of the best about computers and heists and the lovable heft of old technology. Quadrilateral Cowboy is fantastic -- even if you can't tell Zero Cool from Sub Zero, or you've never poked around in a command line terminal in your life. Give it a shot.
Disclaimer: personal friends of mine worked on the game's official trailer.