Hyp­nospace Out­law

Po­lice a weird retro­fu­tur­is­tic in­ter­net

PC GAMER (US) - - CONTENTS - Andy Kelly

I’ve never played any­thing like it, and it’s com­pletely un­pre­dictable

Set within a fic­tional op­er­at­ing sys­tem called Hyp­nOS, Hyp­nospace Out­law is, ini­tially at least, a game about polic­ing a fu­tur­is­tic in­ter­net. But in this fu­ture, the ’90s web aes­thetic never went away. Browse this faux-web’s many odd pages, and you’ll see three­frame gifs, tiled back­grounds, low-res photos, gar­ish text, and un­der con­struc­tion signs. You’re an en­forcer for Hyp­nospace, a cor­po­ra­tion that runs this retro­fu­tur­is­tic in­ter­net, and you’re paid for find­ing con­tent that breaks the rules and cen­sor­ing it. You get an early taste of this when the copy­right holder for a car­toon de­tec­tive (and also a fish) wants you to search the web for peo­ple us­ing the char­ac­ter with­out per­mis­sion. And when you find a page full of cute kids’ draw­ings of the char­ac­ter, you in­form Hyp­nospace, and see them re­placed by a big red X and CON­TENT RE­MOVED in all caps. Fan art is not al­lowed on Hyp­nospace, even if you’re a sweet lit­tle kid. It’s bru­tal.

The hu­mor is darkly hi­lar­i­ous, and I love how the game mixes con­tem­po­rary is­sues such as in­ter­net cen­sor­ship with a nos­tal­gic art style. Even though I do feel bad about delet­ing these kids’ draw­ings, I get a buzz out of us­ing the ham­mer icon to smash away at rule-break­ing images and watch­ing my bank bal­ance tick up as a re­ward. You have to be sure a piece of con­tent is break­ing one of Hyp­nospace’s laws, though, oth­er­wise you’re pun­ished for wast­ing re­sources on false claims.

Crimes in­clude tar­geted harassment and sites of­fer­ing pay­ment with a cur­rency other than Hyp­noCoin. You re­ceive mis­sions by email, and you’re given a ‘re­gion’ of the in­ter­net to po­lice for each one, nar­row­ing things down. You’re given a set num­ber of il­le­gal items to re­move, but the more you find be­yond that, the more money you’ll earn. Site au­thors will also re­act to their cen­sor­ship when you come back later, mak­ing you feel bad about what you’re do­ing.

SEARCH HIS­TORY

Later tasks are more chal­leng­ing, forc­ing you to use a search engine to try and dig out ob­scure pages to find a piece of il­le­gal con­tent you’ve been asked to delete. Some peo­ple, in­clud­ing a bully called Zane, whose web­site claims he’s ‘sexy both on­line and off’, knows Hyp­nospace is af­ter him, and goes to great lengths to hide his crimes. But this makes you feel like a de­tec­tive, un­cov­er­ing his se­crets by cross-ref­er­enc­ing and fo­cus­ing in on key­words. It’s sat­is­fy­ing find­ing a hid­den page and smit­ing its con­tent. I also had fun just surf­ing the web. It’s so dense with weird mu­sic, sur­real art, odd­ball hu­mor, apps, wall­pa­pers and sound files you can tin­ker with. I spent some of my earn­ings on a vir­tual ham­ster with wings, who flew around my desk­top cov­er­ing it in turds, then died be­cause I didn’t feed him. Now there’s a tomb­stone in the cor­ner of my screen that I feel bad about ev­ery time I click back to my desk­top. Ev­ery pixel of the game is full of per­son­al­ity. And you can make your own retro-style web pages with an editor bun­dled with the game.

I get the feel­ing there’s more to Hyp­nospaceOut­law, though. The ‘out­law’ in the ti­tle sug­gests you won’t be polic­ing the in­ter­net for the whole game, and I love the idea of be­com­ing a rebel and bring­ing Hyp­nospace down from the in­side—if in­deed that’s the di­rec­tion the game goes in. I hon­estly don’t know, and that’s what’s ex­cit­ing about this game. I’ve never played any­thing like it, and it’s com­pletely un­pre­dictable. It’s stylish, funny, clever and the vir­tual OS is a lot of fun to play around with. And if you re­mem­ber hav­ing your own GeoCi­ties page back in the day, then you’ll get an ex­tra kick out of it.

Dig­i­tal desk­top pets are more has­sle than they’re worth.

The art is bril­liantly nos­tal­gic.

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