I was born in ’77, so I grew up in the 1980s as cyberpunk was becoming an important, highly-regarded literary genre. William Gibson’s seminal Neuromancer, in which many of cyberpunk’s foundations were laid, became an instant classic and by the beginning of the 90s had become a favourite book of mine, not to mention my entry point into a world of all powerful corporations, rogue AI and desperate, street-smart hackers. As a vision of the future, it was as intoxicating as it was terrifying in its inevitability.
With its retro-futuristic aesthetic, Cyber Protocol is a dayglo, neon-drenched cyberpunk game of hacking powerful systems and trying – yet often failing – to get out alive. Played out over 100 stages in the main mode, your square avatar moves through a maze of intrusion countermeasures, collecting data bits and avoiding deadly traps. Looking like the cybernetic offspring of Pac-Man and the similarly retro-futurist Rez, Cyber Protocol is a compellingly addictive maze game/puzzler. You move your square in one direction at a time, stopping when hitting a wall, moving in a different direction when going through a bumper and being destroyed when pausing too long in a detonating space or when hitting a lethal obstacle.
There’s a great animated intro – with the 80s-esque colour scheme that’s used throughout – before you’re given the choice of modes to play. It’s here that the soundtrack first grabs your attention; it’s absolutely fantastic and a big part of Cyber Protocol’s appeal.
Red Deer Games know you’ll enjoy the music too; the wonderful synthwave tracks are available to listen to in a separate music player, accessible from the main menu. It’s a brilliant touch – one that a lot of games could do with.
Aside from the brilliant audiovisual aesthetic, the gameplay itself is simple, with added complexity coming in the form of the traps you’ll encounter. Though there’s a lot of different types of countermeasures you’ll encounter in your hacking adventure, they’re introduced gradually so it never feels overwhelming or confusing.
Though it’s a challenging game, it’s also one that generally feels fair too; you’ll always know why you failed in your hacking attempt – it’s always your fault. The only issue I have is with the checkpoints, which can feel far too spaced out in each maze when there’s so much to overcome, only to reach a point you have already got to and can’t progress through.
It’s a small niggle in an otherwise very well produced, thoughtfully packaged game. There’s definitely the sense that the developers have a deep love for – and understanding of – the retro/cyberpunk aesthetic. The soundtrack alone is phenomenal, but the visuals and gameplay do thankfully measure up too. Cyber Protocol is a brilliant arcade-style experience; a vision of the future from the past, available to download in the present. Great stuff!
Many thanks to Red Deer Games for providing the Cyber Protocol code for review.
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