I like to keep an eye out for indie titles that try something different. Usually, this is due to a game's art style, or due to having some interesting gameplay mechanics. Right away I was attracted to Code 7, with its text-heavy style and interesting hacking gameplay. The first two episodes, Allocation and Threading, serve as the starting point for this episodic hacking game. Is Code 7 worth breaking in to, or should you shut this system down?
Over the course of these two episodes, you'll play as Alex, a hacker who finds himself trapped as a brain inside of a biomechanical computer. Worse, there's an AI named S.O.L.I. looking to make its way to Earth and upload a virus that will drive all machines into a destructive rage. Only able to communicate to the outside world through other computers, Alex will have to team up with both his good friend Sam and a reporter named Zoya that is looking for her next big scoop. This unlikely band makes it their goal to stop S.O.L.I. and save Earth.
It wasn't long before I was completely captivated by Code 7's plot. Strong writing and characters help carry the game far. Trying to figure out what's going on at a mysterious Mars colony for the rich, or learning the fate of some unlucky scientists in an isolated base on Titan, never ceased to entertain me. This is all backed up by some good voice acting, with each actor giving a good deal of emotion to the game. The only real downer in this comes from the voice of main villain S.O.L.I. himself, who sounds like a confused man with a super thick Russian accent rather than the confident AI you would expect. Thankfully he's only really around for a small part of both episodes.
Like many other episodic story-driven games, choices play an important part in the story. There's some of the normal "choose who lives or dies" stuff here, along with more subtle choices you may not even realize that you've made until after the credits. The thing is, none of these choices really matter for these two episodes. While I'm interested to see how they will for future episodes, and I did spend time mulling over what to pick, you don't have many variations here.
What really made the first two episode of Code 7 stand out for me, however, was the smart use of hacking gameplay. Since you're playing as a computer, you can't really move the character you're helping around directly. Instead, you'll need to make suggestions on where your partner should go via typing instructions from a map screen. Every action you take in the game is handled in this way. You'll enter a room and get a list of what's in it. Want to interact with the bookshelf? Just type that out. It's a system that works far better than I would have expected, and it does a great job genuinely making me feel like I'm at a computer helping out someone else rather than controlling them directly.
You'll be doing more than wandering around inspecting things, of course, as you try to keep your companions alive while unraveling the mystery of S.O.L.I.. You'll have to do some hacking to advance in the game, and this is done through a pair of simple systems: brute force hacks and man in the middle attacks. Brute force hacks require you to learn about who owns the computer you're hacking, talking to their friends, reading through their e-mails, and anything else that can get you some basic information. When you get enough you can begin to just dump as many passwords attempts as your info allows, hopefully getting the correct one in the process. Man in the middle attacks work more like puzzles, laying out a bunch of computers. Your goal is to find a path to the computer with the information you want, have that information hit the MIM attack along the path, and avoid you or the information getting hit by firewalls along the way. As the game advances you get new tricks to do this, like laying out traps for the firewalls to freeze them. They're not complicated, but they're a great deal of fun.
While the hacking systems are the main gameplay element, you'll still be navigating through plenty of other puzzles. One intense early game puzzle sees you racing around to various computers to try to find a way to shut off a robot threatening to kill Sam. Another sees Zoya sneaking through a laboratory and you having you use an ability to turn cameras clockwise to keep her from being seen. No matter what I was doing, I found the actions easy to perform with the typing controls and the scenarios to be equally intense. There are also a few stealth segments that you'll run across. All you'll have to do is tell Sam/Zoya when to move and keep them out of the cone of visions enemies clearly display. It's simplistic sure, but I enjoyed it well enough and never felt annoyed by the occasional mandatory stealth segment.
All of this comes across with little more than text and a map made of lines and dots to represent people, plus some character portraits for the most important characters. Despite this, Code 7 does a fantastic job making use of these elements and drawing me into the game world. I could easily picture each action going on despite the lack of actual visuals doing so. It seems weird that I can remember scenes from Code 7 better than a AAA game that spends millions trying to get these scenes across, but some serious work is done here to make sure each scene is memorable.
I've always had a real problem just sitting down and playing something, as I easily get distracted and wander off to check the internet, talk to my friends, and generally be totally unable to focus. Code 7 did something I genuinely didn't think I was capable of anymore: it glued me to the screen for its five-hour run time and wouldn't let me go. I loved nearly every moment of my time with these first two episodes, and I will be waiting for future episodes a level of uncontainable excitement that I haven't felt for any other episodic series I've played.
Code 7's first two episodes are an almost absurd success, combining powerful story telling with creative gameplay into one of the most exciting episodic game launches I've ever seen.(Review Policy)
- Fantastic Story that Drew Me In
- Great Characters
- Smart and Unique Gameplay
- Wonderful Use of Visuals
- Meaty Run Time for Episodic Game
- Main Villian has Poor Voice Acting