Ah, ye olde text adventure. A loveable relic of an era of gaming long gone. Until now. Enter Code 7, a sci-fi/horror episodic “next generation text adventure” that lovingly recreates the nostalgia of the genre while simultaneously updating it for the contemporary gamer. With two episodes already released and another three on the way, Code 7 has set itself up to be one of the “must play” titles of 2017.
Since they’re fundamentally interactive novels, text adventures pretty much live or die based on their stories, so that’s the best place to start when reviewing Code 7. It’s good. Really good. Influenced by the likes of System Shock and Portal, the narrative centers around a mysterious research station going dark thanks to its A.I. deciding humans are just a nuisance. It may not be the most original narrative in the sci-fi world - we’ve dealt with rogue A.I.’s since 2001: A Space Odyssey - but it’s well told, expertly paced, and has more than a few interesting twists and turns we haven’t seen before. It’s also brought to life through high quality voice acting and some excellent design choices, most of which tie directly into gameplay.
You play the role of Alex, a talented hacker, and through the game’s first-person perspective, unravel the story at the same time as him and his colleagues. As you’d expect from a text adventure, everything is done via keyboard commands, but additional gameplay features specifically focused around the theme of hacking make Code 7 more than just an exercise in nostalgia. The entire game takes place in the fictional LupOS operating system, which is basically a nicer looking version of MS-DOS. Everything, from dialogue and narrative decisions to exploration, inventory management, and puzzle solving requires doing exactly what a hacker does: parsing command lines correctly, using abbreviations to save time, and learning to touch type like you’ve never touch typed before.
Make no mistake: Code 7 is hard, and you had better be prepared for that. The puzzles aren’t necessarily overly complex or require absurd leaps of logic – on the contrary, common sense often prevails – but the in-game OS (and by extension the game itself) is completely unforgiving. Make a typo? “Command not recognised.” Forget where something is located within the OS? Expect to look through every sub-directory. Can’t type fast enough to save that character in peril? Too bad, they’re dead.
The upside to this is that there are some incredibly tense moments in the game. I can’t remember the last time a game – let alone a text-based one – had my heart racing, my brow sweating, and made me curse out loud at my own mistakes. The downside is Code 7 can be incredibly frustrating at times. Some puzzles will require numerous attempts, often because of one small slip-up. It’s immersive, sure, but it’s also irritating. Thankfully, Code 7 does allow you to learn from your mistakes with a very forgiving checkpoint system, which mediates some of the frustration as you piece together solutions with each successive attempt.
Code 7 really makes you feel like a hacker with truly immersive gameplay and grabs your attention from the get-go with an intriguing narrative. This isn’t just every sci-fi title’s hacking minigame bloated out into five hour-long episodes. It’s an engaging, entertaining story and a unique twist on an age old genre of game, and one that I’m eagerly looking forward to continuing.
Code 7 (Reviewed on Windows)
This game is great, with minimal or no negatives.
Code 7 really makes you feel like a hacker with truly immersive gameplay and grabs your attention from the get-go with an intriguing narrative.