Greyhat – A Digital Detective Adventure has two important messages for all of you out there: use strong passwords to protect your personal data and – for God’s sake – don’t write your passwords down somewhere! Hackers are just waiting for this opportunity to steal your data and make your life miserable. In Greyhat, the first title by Malaysian studio Limited Games, we slip into the role of such a data thief and experience a story full of intrigue, crimes, and mysterious events.
We experience the game completely from the first-person perspective, strictly speaking, we only see the desktop of our computer. Similar to the smartphone in Simulacra, the PC is the linchpin of everything that happens in Greyhat: We communicate via a chat program, scroll through digital photo albums, or use a browser to access websites on the Internet. With the help of IP addresses, we hack into third-party PCs in order to find important documents, to interrupt processes, or to do other mischiefs.
Greyhat tells a surprisingly complex story. After a successful hack, our daughter is kidnapped in revenge. Plagued by guilt, we go on a painful 10-year search and come across more or less dodgy personalities with crude nicknames (“UnyunRings”), which in return for successful hacks provide us with further information on the whereabouts of our daughter. Even if some dialogues get out of hand, the story remains exciting until the end and ensures a very good thriller experience with exciting twists and a fantastic finale.
In the course of the 9-10 hours of story, we encounter exciting situations again and again. Sometimes we defuse an atomic bomb, solve a cold murder case, or steal a reckless brewing company’s secret recipe. Basically, every hack feels like the puzzles in a digital escape room. To get the information we need, we read emails, crack passwords, and decipher messages. Even if some puzzles are repeated in their structure, it is astonishing how much variety there is. Each of the 19 hacks stuck in our memories.
The level of difficulty of the tasks varies back and forth between rock hard, super logical, too easy, and just completely insane. However, the majority of puzzles can be solved with a good combination of skills and often require creative approaches and unusual means. Greyhat is one of those games where we strongly recommend that you have a pen and paper ready to note down important information. Every now and then Greyhat puts us under time pressure or requires quick reactions in mini-games. Even if this is a welcome change to all the reading, you can see here that the strengths of the game are more in quiet moments.
Greyhat is a well thought out game: both the stringency of the story and the logic puzzles are a real delight. It is just an incredibly satisfying feeling to finally find the solution after several brain teasers and puzzles – and even if it doesn’t have much to do with real hacking, you somehow just feel like a master hacker. However, not all game mechanics convinced us completely. Before every hack, for example, we have to play the same mini-game, in which we recognize patterns in the code as quickly as possible and then type in keywords. It’s not really fun and quickly becomes monotonous – luckily this function can be automated in the game’s options. This would have been great too for the design decision where we “type” dialogues in the game. To talk with other characters, we hit the keyboard like crazy, but the words appear automatically in the chat. Allegedly, the choice of keys should also determine the “tone” of the words – but that didn’t really work for us. However, these smaller mistakes in game design cannot significantly tarnish the very good overall impression.
All in all, Greyhat turned out to be an extremely exciting and well-made detective game. If you like “found footage” gameplay with good storytelling and really crisp puzzles, you can’t do wrong with this game. And now, we quickly change the password for this computer before it is too late…4%§…aghGJG… 1?#…
Greyhat – A Digital Detective Adventure is available for PC an Steam. This review is based on a free review copy provided by the developers.