Indie Game Spotlight: Unhack
Welcome to Indie Game Spotlight! In this semi- regular series (pretty much whenever I get around to playing games), I’ll be spotlighting a small indie games that I come across. I’m not looking for the big ones, like Minecraft or Fez. Instead, I will be searching the vast world of the internet to find small, unheralded indie games. These type of games are usually come from a small team of passionate video game enthusiasts, that is, if there is a team at all.
Today, I will be taking a look at Unhack, a game by InvertMouse, with music by Matt from Brainfed. Unhack is a visual novel with puzzle/adventure gameplay written in HTML 5. In it, you take the role of an Unhacker working for Smack Security to eliminate the 5K Worms that infest computers across the world. Nothing, except an Unhacker can get rid of these worms. Not even wiping a hard drive can get rid of them. Luckily, the Unhacker is not left alone. In the game, you have an AI ally, Weedy. She guides you and offers plenty of tips to completing a mission, as well as proving a fun, reliable companion as you uncover the 5K Worm mysteries.
As you go about your quest, you learn more about Weedy, and the other AIs that either assist you, or try to stop you. The banter between the Unhacker and Weedy always brings a smile to my face as they constantly bicker and pick on each other. Our Unhacker is a cocky fellow as well, so he seems to enjoy making smart ass comments towards the AIs, which is usually met with the response you’d expect from them.
The game play of Unhack is simple, yet fun. You navigate a maze of sorts, by clicking marked areas of the maze. You can only move the an area that is directly connected to your marked spot. Along the way, you will have to dodge various hazards. Worms navigated the maze along a pre-determined path, certain parts of the maze have rotating obstacles, or laser beams that shoot out towards you. You have to time everything properly to make it through all of the hazards.There is no time limit, so you are free to move deliberately and take your time through the mazes.
Something that really stood out to me was the way in which new gameplay mechanics were introduced. Instead of holding your hand through a tutorial, Unhack instead throws the new mechanics at you, with only a small description of what the new mechanics do from Weedy. You really learn about them from seeing them in action. InverMouse took care to introduce the new mechanics by themselves at first, then slowly reintroducing the new mechanics as the level progressed. This results in you dodging everything by the end of the level, and never being overwhelmed. The game makes sure you learn, without ever explicitly teaching you or holding your hand.
InvertMouse was kind enough to answer a few of my questions too, so enjoy a behind the scenes look into Unhack and the mind of InvertMouse!
What led to you wanting to create games?
IM: When I was little, I would often play a game, then jump onto pencil and paper to design my own levels. Guess I was just born with that interest. I spent around ten years studying storytelling in hopes of becoming a novelist. With indie game development becoming viable, I decided to jump on board and build some story focused games.
Can you go through the creation process for creating an episode of Unhack? How long does an episode typically take?
IM: An episode takes around two weeks to make. One if I exhaust myself. Levels are designed first on paper, then roughly sketched out on wacom before being finalized. Throughout this process, I would write the episode’s script and apply it onto the level. The entire plot was structured before I began episode one. The last step is play testing and making refinements.
Was there any particular source of inspiration for Unhack or its characters?
IM: Unhack was originally going to be named “System Settings”. The game was going to take place inside an OS interface where you’re guided by AI mascots. Those were inspired by the OS-tan from Japan’s version of Windows, etc. That evolved into the Unhack we see today.
What do you hope for the future of Unhack? What happens once you finish Unhack?
IM: Once all ten episodes are finished, I hope to convert Unhack into an iPad app. I plan to add new scenes, difficulties, etc. When the project is finished, I will start building my next game.
One thing that impressed me about Unhack was the level design. How did you go about creating a level, and deciding what worked and what didn’t?
IM: It’s mostly about drawing from past failures. Play testing by other players is important, too. They will always spot things the creator fails to see.
The internet can be a nasty, mean place. How do you handle criticisms?
IM: I try to take some time off before replying to avoid getting emotional. If you respond nicely, most of the time, people will do the same. Otherwise, well, those people are unworthy of your time, anyway. I also consider that the person in question could be young. In that case, I try to let it go.
What advice would you give to aspiring game developers out there?
IM: Have fun and maintain a balanced lifestyle. Building a game is a lot of work. Being happy is the best way to stay motivated.
And the most important question today, will Weedy every try the costume mods!?
IM: Weedy said she will think about it!
InvertMouse plans to have 10 episodes of Unhack, with 6 being avaiable right now. Episode 7 is set to be released on May 18th, so go try Unhack out. It’s a fun, simple game with charm, a good story and solid gameplay mechanics. And its developed by one guy. Pretty impressive in my book.
You can try Unhack for yourself by clicking here!
A big thank you to InvertMouse for allowing me to interview him!