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EGX Rezzed 2019: Wardialler

Almost as strong as my love for adventure games is my adoration for most things to do with the 80s. Maybe it’s down to nostalgia as I grew up during the decade but there’s something about music with plenty of synth, crimped hair, Reebok high-tops which really appeals to me; and I’ve been known to attend 80s appreciation weekends once or twice a year.

Give me a video game which makes me feel as though I’m playing a part in a film from that era then and I’m a very happy gamer. Perhaps this explains why Wardialler caught my eye when I stumbled across it while wandering around the Leftfield Collection at EGX Rezzed recently. Its simple visual style of glowing green text against a black background called to mind movies such as WarGames, and I half expected a young Matthew Broderick to walk into the room and start playing a nice game on chess with the computer.

As I wrote after the last Rezzed, playing narrative games at expos can be difficult. The constant noise and crowds detract from the hard work and passion which has gone into making them and it can be hard to truly see the world the developer is trying to create. Although I therefore only played Wardialler for a short period, it was long enough to get me intrigued; but this, combined with the fact that there doesn’t seem to be much information about the project just yet, means this is going to be a preview short on detail.

The thing I really enjoy about hacking games like this is how they make you feel as though you’re falling down a rabbit hole. You start by trying to gain entry into one system, doing so in this title by connecting to a network and then entering commands to see what software a machine is running or the documents on a computer drive. You’ll then come across tidbits of information in documents which point to other systems you can access, along with an underlying mystery or conspiracy that drives the game forward.

Wardialler is a personal project by Paul Kilduff-Taylor from Mode 7 under the nervous_testpilot banner. According to a Facebook post from February, it’s going to be a ‘free accompaniment to an album of the same name’. The Eurogamer team picked it as ‘one of the best games from this year’s show’ and said: “All blinking green cursors and seemingly bottomless tangents jutting off from your investigation into your dad’s shady company, it had me hooked, jotting a few notes after five minutes and scribbling them here there and everywhere after ten.”

Speaking of those notes, the developer had left a notepad next to the keyboard on the stand along with a message asking attendees to scribble stuff down as they played the demo. They could also leave their email address if they were interested in receiving updates. What a brilliant idea: it’s a great way of seeing the path players took through your project without being too intrusive, and gives you an insight into whether the elements are coming together in the right order regardless of any branches.

Wardialler has certainly piqued my attention and I can’t wait to find out more about the project. In the meantime, I now really feel like playing a hacking game… perhaps they’ll be a Hacknet stream in the near future.

Kim View All

Video game lover, Later Levels blogger and SpecialEffect volunteer. Big fan of wannabe pirates and fine leather jackets.

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