Hypnospace Outlaw is a trip, figuratively and literally. It's a trip down memory lane, paying homage to the Internet of a bygone era. It's also a hypnotic, sometimes confusing, but ultimately rewarding puzzle game that challenges your thinking from start to finish.
Hypnospace Outlaw is a point-and-click puzzle game developed by Tendershoot, Michael Lasch, and ThatWhichIs Media. Set in 1999, the game takes place entirely within a fictitious and whimsical Internet world called the Hypnospace. In this setting, people wear a HypnOS headband while sleeping. During their rest, they can navigate the Internet in their mind. If you're like me and lay in your bed on your phone for an hour before sleep, HypnOS sounds like a dream come true.
The Hypnospace is full of all kinds of individuals, so something is bound to go awry. That's where the player comes in. In Hypnospace Outlaw, you are an HSPD Enforcer, tasked with monitoring the Internet and taking down illegal content. There are five different laws you enforce: content infringement, harassment, illegal or profane activity, malicious software, and extralegal commerce. With your enforcer tools, you can select and take content off the Hypnospace permanently if individuals break these laws.
Players receive specific assignments which have a certain objective. These cases usually involve taking down any content that infringes Hypnospace law. You can also flag citizens for review if they accrue enough points. Once you're finished with a case, you can close it and gain some currency to decorate your desktop with cosmetic improvements.
The beginning cases are relatively easy, with the first being a matter of content infringement. Dispatch emails you and notes that someone on Hypnospace is reproducing a copyrighted cartoon character named Gooper. The solution was simple: type in Gooper's name in the search bar. From there I was able to find a webpage of a teacher who posted her students' pictures they had drawn of the cartoon character. I found it funny in a sad way that I was taking down such innocent works of art. It was a really easy puzzle, but cases like this will try your patience later on.
Cases become increasingly complex and require you to do some very thorough searches through Hypnospace Outlaw's numerous webpages. I enjoyed looking over all these pages with their cheesy 90s aesthetic. I think we can all relate in some way. The Teentopia community is a blast from the past. It's an amalgamation of teenagers' webpages with cringe-worthy material like edgy comics and terrible fan-fiction. Most, if not all pages on the Hypnospace have a song accompanying them, too. I got some real MySpace vibes from the webpages. You could end up reading everything in the game and it would be just as fun as doing the actual puzzles.
With a plethora of other communities related to topics like patriotism, religion, and transcendental spiel, puzzles require you scour the web. Some necessitate that you to dig deep. If you gloss over certain webpages without actually paying attention, you can get lost very fast. The dispatch emails outlining your enforcer duties give you a head start, but HypnoSpace Outlaw doesn't hold your hand. The search function of the Hypnospace Explorer app is only so good. You have to be exact with your wording and pray that the term you're searching for actually exists. Sometimes I would spend hours on a single case looking for the content I needed to take down, which could be really draining.
Once you do finally find the solution, there is an immense feeling of gratification. If nothing else, Hypnospace Outlaw is a game that makes you feel smart. Even after a long puzzle, I didn't mind too much because I got to explore strange webpages and listen to music that was either intentionally awful or very well-made.
Hypnospace Outlaw contains a lot of interesting elements that aren't necessarily integral to gameplay but contribute to the overall experience. Your desktop for the HypnOS can be customized with different backgrounds, stickers, and pets. Customizing my desktop reminds me of the days when you could add little virtual pets (that very well may have been viruses) and custom mouse cursors on your computer. Players can spend currency from solving cases and buy packs of stickers or other such nonsense as well. Some cases required me to spend in-game money to progress the story. I can't say for certain if there are different ways you can solve puzzles without spending money, but if so I suggest you don't go crazy with it.
There is a deeper story to Hypnospace Outlaw, too. While the gist of it is that you're an HSPD enforcer, there are things going on behind the scenes with HypnOS inventors MerchantSoft. As you solve more cases most of the story's exposition is mostly through emails. Things don't really fall together or get too intriguing until you near the end. Without going too deep into spoilers, a lot of the story involves the Y2K panic and there is also a significant time jump. I think that if you're a story buff you're not going to get as much enjoyment as other games, but the individualized web pages more than make up for this.
My one main problem with the story is that it doesn't have a rewarding end. Despite the implications of the text-based narrative, the ending just sort of plays out and doesn't have the weight it should have. As I was reviewing the game the developers told me they would add a credits sequence, so that might provide more closure. Still, I think the developers could have given us unlimited currency to customize our page as we see fit or something else to give us a pat on the back. Granted, I think the plot is more of a device to encourage exploration of the Hypnospace than anything else, so my critique might seem nitpicky.
My time with Hypnospace Outlaw was an enjoyable one. It took me around 10 hours to complete the main story. I got stuck on some puzzles, so it could take a few hours less or more depending on the player. I think that Hypnospace Outlaw would appeal to both point-and-click fans and 90s internet users. There's some truly hilarious stuff in here, and it's a blast from the past. If you're looking for a complex and very entertaining game to challenge your wits, you can't go wrong with Hypnospace Outlaw.
TechRaptor reviewed Hypnospace Outlaw on Steam with a code provided by the publisher.
- Unique and Funny Webpages
- Clever Point-and-Click Puzzles
- Excellent And Diverse Soundtrack
- Interesting Story
- Puzzles Can Get Tiring and Tedious
- Hit-Or-Miss Search Function
- Leads to An Unrewarding Ending