The player assuming the role of the maestro hacker or tech-savvy infiltrator is nothing new to gamers. “Hacking” minigames bolted onto every sort of sci-fi adventure are a dime a dozen nowadays. Very few titles in recent memory, however, have dared to tell a tale of intrigue mostly or entirely from the pale light of a digital digital interface, and those that have were decidedly indie experiences — Introversion’s high-stakes hacker sim Uplink, for one, and Christine Love’s deceptively pensive Analogue: A Hate Story also springs to mind.
Although I’m no code monkey, and computer science kind of terrifies me, the prospect of pretending my not-so-dextrous fingers belong to a black ops systems wizard makes me as giddy as anyone. Now, take that faux hacker experience, pour in a few buckets of gloomy, video-distorted, abstract landscapes and a powerful dark ambient soundtrack, stir, and you can be goddamn sure you’ve grabbed my attention.
Memory of a Broken Dimension, a project by indie developer Ezra “Xra” Hanson-White, recently debuted at Tokyo Games Show and boasts mysterious command interfaces and a fractured, monochromatic, doubly mysterious virtual reality. According to Eurogamer, there’s “a computer terminal where players must input codes into an esoteric programming language to launch files sent from the future, and a first-person part – the bulk of the game – where you explore a surreal, shattered virtual reality. Here you must view things from the right perspective to get various fragments to align and form an image.”
What appears to be the game’s interactive teaser site (which is, according to Xra, “just the console from when I was doing some network tests and is placeholder for now”) sheds a pocket flashlight worth of opaque light on how the game may look and feel. We’re presented with a minimalist command interface, distorted by video glitches. Text constantly flashes back and forth from its original state to technobabble and all manner of cryptic terms: “DNA”, “GENEDUB”, “QUANTUM”, “MUTATIONS”, “RADIATION”, “ELECTROMAGNETIC”, “BYTECODE”, “HARDWEB”, “EXPLORATION”, “DISCOVERY”, “RELICS”… Eerie electronic tones and static perfectly complement the overload of subtle visual effects.
Just a little ominous.
Real-life code monkeys from the RPS community and elsewhere have plied the interface with few results. The only commands that seem to do anything of note are “REMOTE” and “VOIDSCAN”, each of which initiate a flurry of scrolling code (“SATELLITE”?) and a background chatter of increasing pitch, the combination of which made my hair stand on end. The whole thing, despite its apparent simplicity and incompleteness, is incredibly eerie, beautifully eerie, perhaps moreso than any interactive thing I’ve encountered in my time as a denizen of the internet.
If the project’s web site and trailer are any indicator, all of this glorious weirdness looks only to be amplified by the game’s mechanics — if I had to pin them down: a bizarre blend of text adventure and abstract, 3D puzzle platforming.
Alas, we still don’t have many concrete ideas about what the hell any of this is. I have a theory, though:
Xra is making something fucking awesome.