Quick Look – Midnight Protocol (#JustOnePercent 91/100)

Developer: LuGus Studio
Release Date: October 13, 2021
MSRP: $14.99

I’m honestly not sure if it’s unusual or not, but for someone who’s so very much attached to her computer (and has been for most of her life), I have never really had much interest in programming. Because of this, hacking games have never held much appeal for me – sure, it’s a cool concept in the abstract, but I always figured I’d have to know something about how to talk to computers to have it not just be a big ol’ confusing mess. While I won’t say that Midnight Protocol makes hacking simple, it wasn’t nearly as overwhelming as I had feared.

You play as Data, a pretty serious hacker who has just recently – and just barely – gotten away with it. A friend sets you up on a pretty basic system, and you’re ready to jump back into the game. Since your skills might have atrophied a little while you were locked up, they give you a couple of easy tasks to get you back on your sneaky cyber-feet, as it were.

The tutorial is maybe a little slow paced for people familiar with the basic concepts involved in hacking games, but it was just about perfect for me. By default the game is turn-based (although you have the option to change that to real time once you complete the tutorial for the first time), and on each turn, you get two actions. After each turn, the system makes an effort to trace you, and you are definitely going to want to accomplish your mission and get out before it does.

Each tutorial mission teaches you something else about the game, whether that be additional types of moves you can make, different nodes you might encounter while hacking, or more complex things you may run into which are trying to stop you from doing whatever it is you’re in the system to do. I can only speak for myself, but I made a lot of mistakes, even in the earliest levels, partially because I’m impatient, and also partially because I didn’t find the mechanics to be super-intuitive.

The graphics are super simple, but it really fits the aesthetic. The story is drip-fed to you, and once you complete the tutorial, you’ll find yourself doing missions to kill time between the arrival of emails which push things forward. For me, that’s where I started to lose interest; I just wasn’t invested enough in the game play to want to have to replay side missions over and over until I got them right. The missions are short enough, and it doesn’t take terribly long to reboot a mission gone wrong, but I just wasn’t jazzed enough about what I had seen to want to keep going.

I can’t say that I disliked Midnight Protocol, and it’s a game I might someday wander back to. Unfortunately I don’t have any basis for comparison to tell if it’s a “good” hacking game or not. What I can say is that it felt straightforward enough that if I get a sudden urge to play a hacking-focused game, this is one I would likely return to rather than looking for something else to scratch the itch.

SteamDB estimates that Midnight Protocol has sold between 5,800 and 16,000 copies on Steam. It’s currently got a Very Positive Steam rating, with the players who wouldn’t recommend it mostly referencing the random nature of the probability based gameplay elements and the missions that have hard turn limits as reasons they didn’t care for it. It is ranked 1131 out of 10,967 games released in 2021.

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