It often feels like co-op games are a dying breed. More and more often, we're given games with PvP or extremely competitive situations where even cooperation is made in favor of smashing someone else's team into the dirt. You can imagine my excitement when I was invited to test out Piece of Cake's new game, Hacktag, at GDC.
Before I played, I briefly sat down with the CEO and Co-CEO of Hacktag to learn about their game. To them, there wasn't really a game you could play with two people, especially a couples game. They wanted a challenging but co-op game for the both of them to enjoy (and even yell at each other about. Something I found both pretty funny and oddly adorable).
Thus was born Hacktag: A co-op game where two hackers are in charge in infiltrating organizations based on real-life corporations such as news stations and pharma companies. At a glance, everything is pretty stylized; Every agent and person in Hacktag is an anthropomorphic being based on some real-life creature. Wily cats, clever foxes and more are all represented here. You'll be able to customize your character with a variety of clothes and races too. With the alpha, I slipped into the shoes of a cat-person with some pretty nifty clothing. Our target? Some valuable data in the corporation.
Missions are divided into three types: A mass data-collection where you and your partner have to run around gathering a set amount of info, a mission type where you have to get to one major piece of info from a heavily guarded area, and finally a mission where you have to sabotage and hack your way through a series of tough challenges. You can customize special skills as well, though these are small benefits and won't greatly impede new players versus old players. For the demo, we played a data-collection type twice...for a major reason.
Hacktag is, interestingly enough, an asymmetrical co-op game. One player is the agent running through the real-world area of the corporation, ducking behind desks and quickly tapping computer screens. The other takes control of an agent hidden miles away behind a computer desk, hacking through the lines. It's a fascinating change of pace and quite enjoyable, as the two play similarly enough to not get new players lost but enough to keep things fresh between the two modes.
Bérenger Dupré (The Co-CEO) and I played through the mission, with him tapping phones to distract guards while I'd run past and disable firewalls for him. Another major feature is that there is a slight element of competition in who can gather more data. It's not enough to make you forsake your partner (as that's a game-over for both of you) but it's enough to make you pause and swipe some data before getting their door open.
The game uses hacking in a variety of minigames, where both players have to match lines, complete button sequences and rapidly tap. I was told there would be more to come in this department, so I can't imagine these getting old anytime soon. Playing through both sides, I found myself greatly enjoying the world and gameplay as I helped my partner escape out of locked rooms, distracted guards and more while he disabled firewalls and bugged out security programs.
Of course, longevity is a questionable thing and boy does Piece of Cake have you covered. Hacktag will have online and couch co-op, along with a five-hour story campaign for each of the three corporations. In addition, there will be weekly challenges to beat the studio as well as a seed/procedural-generation system where you can share levels with your friends and foes.
Perhaps the highest praise I can give this game is that, during my playtest, Bérenger took a moment to gather some data while I was being chased by an angry security system that caught me trying to sneak past it. "Ugh you JERK!" is what I said, but despite this, I still wanted to help. This wasn't a co-op game where a partner acting selfish hurts you both and provokes spite. No, it made me think of smarmy, sarcastic hackers exchanging quips and one-liners while they had a love-hate relationship from movies and television shows. Piece of Cake Studios has done something amazing with this game and I really cannot wait to play it again with a friend of mine in the near future.
Hacktag is currently on Steam Greenlight, with PS4 and Xbox One support in the future. I highly recommend you give it a go, as co-op games of this caliber should be supported and loved. Even if you exchange some harsh words with your friend who skulked with data while you nervously paced in a prison cell.
All pictures credit to Piece of Cake Studios.