Today’s Jam Game Showcase may stretch the definition of “fan game”, but still deserves to be showcased nonetheless. It was developed as part of Double Fine’s Amnesia Fortnight Game Jam. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the idea of a Game Jam, it basically asks participants to build a low tech video game in a very short period of time. You may be familiar with many Game Jam projects that have made their way onto the front page of Newgrounds.com and other similar sites.
The Amnesia Fortnight Game Jam, however, used to be internal to Double Fine only. The low tech prototype games made there were then sold via a Humble Bundle. However, the Jam has recently been opened up to the public, and one lucky game has been chosen to be fully developed. That game is Hack ‘N’ Slash by Brandon Dillon.
Hack ‘N’ Slash is an interesting take on the classic Legend of Zelda action/adventure formula. You play as an elf girl in a fantasy land which basically abides by the rules of a video game. Unfortunately, you don’t have any traditional weapons or items to help you on your quest. All you have are hacking tools.
For example, you don’t have save points in Hack ‘N’ Slash. You have save states. You can return the game to a previous state whenever you like, perfectly rewinding time, enemy locations, your inventory, and so forth.
Of course, that’s just basic stuff. Soon you’ll receive the ability to introduce lag into the game, which makes everything run slower, as if you slowed down time itself. Similarly, you can take advantage of glitched textures and walls in order to find secret passages that otherwise wouldn’t be accessible. There are special messages scattered about the world written in languages that you need to decrypt, like files. Then, there is your weapon of choice: your hacking terminal.
Instead of using a sword or shield you throw your hacking terminal at enemies and obstacles like Dig Dug throwing his pump at an unsuspecting Pooka. When you make contact with an enemy, the game freezes in time and a command window opens. Here, you can alter an enemy’s basic properties. For example, if you want to kill the enemy, simply reduce its “current health” property to zero. Of course, you can be much more creative than that. For example, if you encounter a stationary enemy that just throws fireballs, you can hack it to deal damage to other enemies instead of you. You can then choose to increase its fireball size and speed to make it explode in a rain of fiery hell that decimates all the enemies around you.
There are many puzzles that are solved via smart use of the hacking terminal. For example, one puzzle tasks you with running across a castle in three seconds, and you are nowhere near fast enough to do so. However, you can move three mirrors which reflect your terminal into a circle, allowing you to hit yourself with it and hack your own speed!
Here is what Dillon said about the project itself: "The puzzle dungeons will be designed to teach you progressively more sophisticated hacking, cheating and reverse-engineering tools. And they won't be toys. They'll actually be used to hack the running game." By the end you’ll be rewriting the way the very game works, right down to its story and basic parameters.
"I've always loved games with lots of secrets in them," Dillon said in Hack 'N' Slash's official announcement, speaking about his inspiration for the game. "When I first discovered a hex editor in an emulator, it dawned on me that I could be a kind of digital treasure hunter - no game could keep even its deepest secrets from me if I adventured long enough in its code and memory."
Hack ‘N’ Slash is being developed by Double Fine and will be funded by Indie Fund. It is planned for release on PC, Mac, and Linux early in 2014. Hopefully the final version will have less Justin Bieber in the ending.