Retro reboots with familiar faces are the currency of choice in today’s gaming market. Nostalgia has a powerful way of prying wallets open. Let’s go beyond specific titles and characters, though, and explore long-forgotten genres.
Code 7 – Episode 1
Developer: Goodwolf Studio
MonsterVine was supplied with Steam copy for review
Remember those weird choose your own adventure-style games that came out in the late 90s? They were filmed with cinema cameras and were pretty much mandatory with every Hewlett-Packard sold at CompUSA. Mine was about the submarine and I died a lot. Remember text adventures, too? There might be an unmoving picture on the screen if you were lucky, but otherwise there was going to be a lot of typing.
Code 7 is one of those, not so much a reboot as a throwback to an entire genre. It tells its story through poking through text commands and old files and recorded audio clips. There’s not so much a “game” in the traditional sense as a visual novel with a few bells and whistles. The player doesn’t have much agency. Instead, you get to issue commands and people do things for you, like turn on a computer, and you use a series of text commands to try to hack it.
My question to you is: How much do you like typing? Reading? Trying to puzzle things together not by buying fancy lockpicks or using a cheat, but by (horrors) taking notes and paying attention to things?
Because if that sounds incredibly appealing, Code 7 is amazing. The “hacker wakes up and things are not as they seem” trope that it opens with is, of course, mandatory. Endure it and you’ll be drawn in through the sheer amount of atmosphere. From flickering screens and text prompts to trying to remember exactly what that password was, it captures an older version of “hacker” that’s been lost in favor of shiny black trenchcoats and mirrorshades.
This is hacking in the older sense of the world. Your character will not complete an easy little minigame, then punch through a wall and surf down a railing while rocking twin assault rifles (Sorry, Deus Ex reboots) and wailing on a guitar. Progress in Code 7 comes in trying out passwords and obscure text commands, being nosy about desks and open drawers, and studying your notes.
Without giving away too much, the story is reminiscent of something like Solaris, where humanity has ventured into space and lots of strange things happen on space stations. As the player, you don’t have much agency, which gives it an interesting tension: You’re sending your companions into danger, but they’re also your lifeline to the world. It’s a symbiotic relationship, but it’s extremely novel for a game to make you feel helpless even when you’re theoretically in charge of things.
The Final Word
Ultimately, whether you enjoy Code 7 is going to come down to how much you enjoy reading, pondering, and solving puzzles, and how much you’re willing to buy into the exceptional atmosphere. If you remember when hacking was more about keeping a notebook beside the PC than spending skillpoints and punching computers, you’re going to enjoy yourself.
– MonsterVine Review Score: 4 out of 5 – Good