Hypnospace Outlaw

As the trailer above illustrates, the basic premise for Hypnospace Outlaw is what if somebody in 1998 had invented technology to allow people to surf the Internet while they sleep. Two brothers, a programmer and a money guy, put together a company called MerchantSoft that creates a device and platform to create webpages and send emails while dreaming. This is called Hypnospace and it quickly becomes the new fad despite rumors that the new technology might not be safe. With the surge in traffic, you are tapped to act as an “Enforcer” which is bascially a content moderator. You are given categories of content which is against the terms of service and must be elliminated. You mark things for review and are given Internet bucks for correct selections.

You start pretty easy with the mission to enforce copyright violations. You go after the older generation of Goodtime Valley who have decided to stamp everything they own with popular comic strip character Gumshoe Gooper. You earn no friends as you basically break all of their JPGs because of their harmless violations of the rights of the cartoonist’s estate. During this phase you spend a lot of time getting to know the cast of characters in your jurisdiction. You also need to learn (or in my case relearn) how to navigate pre-2000s webspace.

Next on your todo list is stamping out harassment in the Teentopia section. A lot of it boils down to a feud between two teenagers named Zane and Corey. The two are merciless about mocking each other even though your detective work finds that the two are not as different as they seem. Zane is an ultra-edgy dude who draws comics making fun of Corey while Corey creates the Zane Sucks Club. It is really a pleasure to squash these squabbling fools.

You then are tasked with tracking down illegal software dedicated to extralegal commerce. Basically, a couple third-party businesses are using a banned form of currency called Capacash. These businesses have locked their paysites behind passwords or otherwise hidden their sites. In order to find them, you actually have to infect your set up with adware which creates popups that send you these sites.

After that it is on to more serious business as you must track down the source of a virus which is causing shock images. Since it is a teen who is behind it, the images are actually quite tame. Still, the virus is really annoying people on the platform and you have to track it down. You descend in the world of Tim who is a wannabe hacker who unleashes a virus in order to win back his ex-girlfriend.

You are back at it again when you must go after a bit of “malware” created to provide a speed boost to people’s surfing. It works but it is unauthorized and creates an annoying pop up. In order to track down the program’s source you have to infliltrate an unlisted section of Hypnospace created by disgruntled Sci-Fi, Fantasy, Video Games, Techie, and Comic Book fans. They are disgruntled because they have been brushed aside by MerchantSoft so that they could focus on the mainstream (forgetting that nerds and geeks were the backbone of the Internet at the time). This investigation leads to the firing of a MerchantSoft programmer who is the ringleader.

You then have to get to the really serious business of illegal downloading and uploading of music files. You need to stalk through a file sharing service called FLST. Every user has their own FLST site which works much like platforms like Napster and Kazaa. This is an underground solution for what was fomerly an official service that ran into too many legal problems. You start nailing these criminals and eventually find out that the head of MerchantSoft is engaging in a lot of this activity. Reporting Dylan Merchant pisses him off and you get fired.

Because of the continued chaos of traffic of New Year’s Eve, you are somehow rehired. Tim the Hacker is back at it again with another desperate attempt to win back Tiffany. This time he has created a virus called the Y2000 Mindcrash Attack which warns users of an imminent attack by Tim. The virus can only be shutdown if Tiffany performs a certain input into a webpage. The problem is that Tiffany seems to be nowhere around so you have to do it for her to save the rest of Hypnospace. You have to investigate more of Tim and Tiffany’s lonely corners of Hypnospace in order to solve the problem. Even when you succeed, Hypnospace still crashes which fries a lot of people’s brains leading to injury and death.

Flashforward to the “Present Day” where you are recruited to join four other members of the Hypnospace Archival Project. The project is tasked with cataloguing and saving what is left of Hypnospace. However, you are secretly tapped to instead carry out two investigations. The first is to prove that MerchantSoft knew the dangers that the technology posed. The second is to locate an admission of guilt from MerchantSoft that they caused the crash which harmed or killed people. You discover a hidden hacker collective existing on unlisted pages. They were trying to expose MerchantSoft and one of them managed to store a lot of evidence. It turns out that the year 2000 update from MerchantSoft actually caused the crisis. They cast blame on teen hacker Tim who was sent to prison for the remainder of his teens and was left with great remorse over his actions. This leads to a public confession from MerchantSoft and a proper memorial for the deceased.

The game is absolutely a fun parody of the Internet around the time complete with broken code and a lot of the goofiness of the Internet when it was truly the Wild West. They did a lot of worldbuilding by creating a lot of original content. I am especially impressed by all of the original music created for the game. You get both full songs and little commercial jingles which are all delightful (even the annoying ones). The game is entirely point and click and involves detective work and puzzle solving. It is a great game.


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