Too Long; Didn't Play: Hacknet

Sponsored By: AaronD

Time Hacked: 402E12 ticks

Wang OIS review

This is the perfect game for anyone who can successfully tar a directory on the first try without Google. Your enjoyment of the game will be directly proportional to how close you are to being that person.

Unix Review

I didn’t touch a Windows-based computer until halfway through college. For most of my life my experience with computers was limited to an Apple IIE at my school. My parents didn’t buy a computer for the house until I was in high school, at which point we got an Macintosh LCII, on which I wrote short stories and book reports and occasionally played Pathways Into Darkness and Spectre VR.

My first job had me designing circuit boards using a unix terminal and a pool CAD license. When they upgraded us to the Windows version of the CAD package, I searched the manual to restore the command-line prompt so that I wouldn’t have to learn the new menu system. I have a folio full of circuit boards that I designed without touching a mouse.

This is a roundabout way of saying that I have a bit of a thing for command-line PC navigation. So much so that when I tried to install Ubuntu on an old laptop, I didn’t care for it because there wasn’t enough typing involved. I didn’t get this mechanical keyboard so I could click things with a mouse, after all!

So when I saw that green envelope with Hacknet in it, I was very interested indeed. Here’s a game that is built for people like me, who know to type MAN when they forget how a command works, or who remember that renaming a file means moving it to the same directory it’s currently in with a different name.

In other words, someone who likes to search for things using wildcards.

And that’s just what Hacknet is. It’s a classic Unix-like environment. You navigate the file structures with Unix commands, you execute files by typing them and appending modifiers when needed. It’s all very nifty for the computer grognards like myself who grouse whenever a modern OS tries to do my thinking for me. (No, I did not mean “frog innards”, Autocorrect. Grognard is a perfectly serviceable word. Please go away.)

The plot is your basic Hollywood movie hack plot. You play as an aspiring black-hat who must climb the ranks in the community by taking more and more complicated jobs, from stealing files to crashing servers. Every new net node is a puzzle box, loaded with files to read and occasionally software to download. But first you have to get into it. You have a number of tools at your disposal, and that number of tools grows as you progress. You start with a simple system hack executable that gives you administrative privileges on any system you target, but eventually that tool won’t be powerful enough on its own and you’ll have to run DDOS attacks from zombie nodes that you create to weaken the system defenses.

e, so once you’ve finished doing your nefarious file browsing you must remember to go delete your digital footprints.

It all feels very real in a way that I cannot quantify. Having never been a proper hacker, or even an improper one, I couldn’t tell you if simply running a program called “sscrack” will give you admin privileges on any system you jack into. Probably not, but there’s a kind of credibility that goes with an ugly interface, isn’t there? You automatically feel like a bad-arse hacker just by staring at a black and orange text interface. It’s probably the same reason why first-person shooters throw a lot of earthtones at you. Something about that aesthetic rings of authenticity in a way that your average player probably couldn’t explain because the average player probably hasn’t experienced anything remotely like first-person shooting.

Authentic or not, Hacknet brings a lot of depth and personality to the table, and it’s well worth your time if, like me, you like listening to a keyboard clack while you solve puzzles.


I will definitely be playing more Hacknet. It appeals to that part of me that likes being competent at technical things like computer programming and IT work, without the aggravation of actually having to do any computer programing or IT work.

Just like how an FPS gives you the thrill of getting shot at without the actual risk of getting shot. It’s basically Counter-Strike for people with poor hand-eye coordination but a very good memory for line commands.

diff Hacknet.sys darksouls.sys

I’d say that Hacknet falls squarely and neatly into the Dark Souls of hacking puzzle games. It explains things opaquely, and only once. You can go back and read the instructions again, if you can remember where they’re stored, but on the whole it’s best to keep a notepad handy if you have trouble remembering commands.

The game does let you use a mouse instead of just the command line, but that’s cheating isn’t it?


Sounds like the most perfect game for you, outside of a new Duke game.

garion333 wrote:

Sounds like the most perfect game for you, outside of a new Duke game.

Yeah, it's been a good year for me. I got to try Hacknet, Gearbox put Duke Nukem into the Bulletstorm remaster. I'm livin' the dream!


Grenn wrote:


Actually on an SGI it's probably Irix (their Unix Clone). It is an actual, honest to realsies file manager called FSN


Did you find the server with the clock app? This is the true test of how 1337 you are...

Also you have to wear rollerblades whilst playing for true authenticity.

Concave wrote:

Did you find the server with the clock app? This is the true test of how 1337 you are...

Got to get the clock and the honey...

The original concept of this game had multiplayer. Man that would of been pretty awesome.

Concave wrote:

Also you have to wear rollerblades whilst playing for true authenticity.

Just a second while I change my password to "GOD".

I recommend getting the DLC if you're into this kind of thing. It slowly ramps up to a melodramatic final mission that just works with the feeling this game goes for.

Side topic, but you used the image.
It's bugged me for years, but I hope I'm not the only one that thinks Renoly Santiago at the time of Hackers looks like Carlos Valdes from Flash on CW.

Hacknet now has mod tools and Steam Workshop support. There are already a few new campaigns to try out.

I received this from someone and fired it up and like it bunches, also as someone who prefers the command line (and interestingly, also ditched Ubuntu for Slackware partially for more focus on the console). To hear that it's being modded and such makes me want to jump back in right now.