Hack 'n' Slash Preview

A game called Hack 'n’ Slash sounds like the epitome of a genre-specific game. The title reminded me of when MAG was first announced and named Massive Action Game, the name states very plainly what the game is and that’s that. Then you realize this game is made by Double Fine and you do a double take and see the intricate layers under the pretty coat of paint. In Hack 'n’ Slash you don’t wield a sword, you don’t slash enemies to death, and you don’t play the game form a third-person point of view while you gain experience and grind for loot. Instead, you play what looks like a beautifully painted portrait of The Legend of Zelda, and intentional likeness, with a main character whose primary weapon is a USB stick.

That last statement has the power to turn people both on and off to this game almost immediately. Hopefully more people will be interested because from what I’ve played of Hack 'n’ Slash, the promise and premise are just aching for attention. What can one do with a giant USB stick? Well, hack into just about anything that has a USB port, of course. That means that rocks that block your path, enemies, bushes and so on call all be hacked into. Once you hack into them, which is accomplished in the form of a swing attack, a console pops up with the code for that object. Swing at a bush and you’ll see that it has a state for “on fire”, set that state to true and watch the bush burn. That same bush can be coded to give 99 hearts when it burns and so you’ll have full health in no time. Enemies can be turned off of attack state, rocks can be coded with an infinite number of pushes so they never block your path, and all the while the game is throwing silly dialogue and videogame jokes your way.

I never felt like the portion of Hack 'n’ Slash I played was overtly referential or painfully trying to eek out another “hey, this is a videogame” joke. Instead, I found the humor to be pretty funny, as is typically the case with Double Fine titles, and my worries pointed more towards gameplay than writing. What bothered me was the potential for this game to trip over itself at some point. As it’s currently a very early build I can’t blame the game for crashing to desktop or experiencing some slow down here and there. I can, however, see the potential for some serious problems when puzzles and fights become increasingly complex and deep. Don't get me wrong, throwing in parsing and modifying is an amazing way to give this game legs, it just becomes a question of having that mechanic resonate with the player rather than throw them off entirely.

I always appreciate a well-made jab at videogames, just like I enjoy a book that is satirical without being overtly cruel towards its own genre. Hack 'n’ Slash has the potential to be a fun romp around a beautifully drawn world, I just hope that the gameplay can be something that is enjoyable to those that may not understand its deeper concepts.