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Our examiner, Andy Robertson, first checked Hypnospace Outlaw 22 months ago. It was re-examined by Jo Robertson and updated 3 months ago.
Play involves reading your mail to receive orders for things to find like copyright infringement, internet bullying or abusive behaviour. As you click through the different bulletin, GeoCities and MySpace-style pages you identify ways that users are breaking the law and report them for money.
You explore the pages by double-clicking icons in the retro interface. Some areas are harder to get to as they have been hidden by users. As you progress you scour deeper into the variety of weird and wonderful websites to hunt down wrongdoers, while also keeping an eye on your inbox, avoiding viruses and adware, and downloading a plethora of apps that may or may not be useful.
It's presented as parody, but as the story develops it moves into more substantial territory. You get to know the different people through their online pages as mini-dramas about their various obsessions unfold.
"We experience these people through their sad," said Colin Campbell, "desperate webpages, complete with typographical horrors, ghastly animations, and execrable grammar. They present as a carnival parade of monomaniacs, loners, idealists, and criminals. Their woeful websites are a genuinely funny joke, featuring wild conspiracy theories, bad social games, and crass attempts at online villainy. But they are also human beings with their own failings and charms. Their tales coalesce to form a deeply engaging narrative."
The result is a ferocious recreation not only of a particular era of technology, but the games users of these things continue to play in their lives today. It's a tough game to solve but the real joy is paying attention to the detail along the way and allowing that to sit alongside what the internet is today.
In the US, ESRB state: A handful of pages contain pixilated horror-style graphics, such as a blender with blood, bloody hand pointers, and a knife with animated blood splatters. One page contains footage of a first-person shooter in which blood effects appear on the camera/screen. During the course of the game, players can screen pages for “pornographic imagery” (blurred/pixelated images), though sexual themes/material appear almost entirely in text format (e.g., “Chowder Man lusts after women in horrifying detail”; “...I don't hear them going wild all night in her room”; "...not too much sex stuff”; “Are u a virgin?”). Game text contains several references to drugs (e.g., “It's what your weird weed-dealing uncle does while not meditating...”; “...Teens claim this means...that they're able or willing to purchase illegal drugs”; "...They're meeting in the bathroom soon to do a drug deal”; “...dealers and buyers of narcotics"; "sniffing drugs"). One page depicts a toilet with brown liquid and vomit stains. The word “p*ssed” appears in the game.
13+ year-olds usually have the required skill to enjoy this game. You need patience and the ability to use trial and error, lateral thinking and guesswork to solve the puzzles.
Release Date: 12/04/2019, updated in 2020
Out Now: Mac, PC, PS4, Switch and Xbox One
Content Rating: PEGI 12
Skill Rating: 13+ year-olds
Accessibility: 31 features
Components: 2D Side-On and Hand-Made
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