Under The Radar: Cyberpunk Games

Cyberpunk was covered extensively in film, TV, and of course video games. The games covered here will be those that you probably haven’t heard of or have simply gone under your radar.

Gemini Rue

Released in 2011 and developed by Joshua Nuernberger and published by Wadjet Eye Games, Gemini Rue is a cyberpunk point-and-click game that is a breath of fresh air, after the decline of the genre.

You control Azriel Odin a former assassin that has switched sides and is now working for the police. Landing on the planet Barracus, he is looking for his brother, who has been kidnapped and taken to a facility Center 7, which is at an unknown location in the galaxy. Taking inspiration from Cowboy Bebop and Blade Runner, the game manages to find its own style and tell its own story without ripping off. The game features good puzzles, without the use of “moon logic” and features brief simple action sections. The music and voice acting are satisfactory, for this small indie game, and the game even manages to have a philosophical dialog without it being ham-fisted. Gemini Rue might be a small and charming game, but it will tell a strong mature story and offer an enjoyable experience.

Technobabylon

Another game published by Wadjet Eye Games and developed by Technocrat Games developed in AGS and released in 2015. Technobabylon is set in the cyberpunk city of Newton and has you investigating a series of murders. The game lets you control three characters, Latha Sesame the hacker that escapes the explosion in her building, and CEL (Centralized Emergency Logistics) agents Charles Regis and his partner Max Lao, investigating a series of murders by someone named Mindjack.

Technobabylon has a strong story and a good engaging world, but the game still finds time for brief moments of humor. The game has many details put in its worldbuilding to make it believable and plausible. Almost everything in the game is explained, how each device works, the political situation in the world, characters’ motivation, and other small details. Puzzles are mostly simple, but there are a few that will offer a challenge, but the game offers more than one way to solve certain puzzles. There are also moral choices that will impact the rest of the game. The graphics are 2D pixel art, and each scene is unique and scenes in the Trance (cyberspace) are designed with the 80s/90s style of cyberspace in mind. Technobabylon is a bit longer than other Wadjet Eye Games, but it will keep you occupied until the end.

Binary Domain

Binary Domain is a third-person shooter released in 2012, published and developed by Sega (Devil’s Details for the PC release). The game is set in Tokyo in 2080, in a world where global warming has worldwide flooding, leaving much of the world uninhabitable. Because of all of this robots are used as the main labor force. The story follows Dan Marshall and his squad is being sent to bring order to the robotic community as they infiltrate the community and want to make humans redundant. The game features the so-called “The Consequence System” which will decide how your teammates will view and trust you in the story. The ending is impacted, based on the level of trust between your teammates. Binary Domain also had a cool feature, which lets you talk to your teammates and give them orders (by using your mic) or you can use the in-game menu. You can also choose your own teammates when the teams split up. The game also has procedural damage, which means that some robots will adapt to the damage taken, and you must find other weak spots to beat them. The enemies are quite diverse, and they come with their own weapons and tactics. Also, the boss fights are quite frequent and offer a good challenge. The weapon selection is good and can be upgraded using nanomachines and weapon upgrades which can be bought from shops. You can also use nanomachines to upgrade your skills and find the play style that best suits you.

Binary Domain is a good third-person shooter with tactical elements, which features an unexpectedly good story, and the action will certainly keep you on the edge.

Blade Runner

Developed by Westwood Studios and published by Virgin Interactive in 1997, Blade Runner is a pretty faithful recreation of the movie. Just like in the movie, you play Ray McCoy a cop whose mission is to terminate “replicants”. Several of the characters from the movie make an appearance, but Rick Deckard does not appear in a speaking role. He is referred and even seen on a couple of occasions and his actions from the movie are mentioned.

Blade Runner is an adventure game, but it does not feature classic inventory puzzles and requires you to pay attention and have good reflexes, but this makes the game more atmospheric. In the game, you can use the Voight-Kampff usually at a predetermined point in the game, although on occasion the game gives you an option of administrating the test. If the test is positive, you have the option of killing them, arresting them, or letting them go. The game begins shortly after the film, and McCoy is tasked with investigating with the group of replicants suspected of killing animals. As the story progresses, McCoy is framed for the murder of the civilian and from there on the story gets more intense. The game has multiple endings, which are based on the actions and decisions you made during the story. If you manage to get the game working, you will certainly not be disappointed.

Perihelion

Perihelion was developed for Amiga and released in Europe, this obscure game has a very good atmosphere, an ominous soundtrack, and a cool setting. Inspired by Frank Herbert’s Dune series, Perihelion is set in a world devastated by wars, where cyborgs, psionic cultists, and genetically engineered mutants, are all ruled by Imperial Clones.

The story tells the tale of a powerful god named “The Unborn”, who wants to breach reality and cause along with the planet. To combat this the Emperor summons six prophesied heroes kept in stasis just for this occasion. Perihelion is a first-person dungeon crawler with some tactical element, fairly short lasting only 8-10 hours, but it focuses mostly on the story. There are no random encounters, which is good because the battles are slow and kinda underwhelming. While the atmosphere is superb and the story is interesting, you will spend most of your time roaming cities and dungeons and figuring out what is the next move. The other problem is the interface, and things like crafting your own spells become frustrating due to its poor execution and design.

Perihelion is declared abandonware by its designer Edvard Toth, who also put together a game and an emulator for anyone to download, but it can be also found on several abandonware sites.

Hacker

Developed by Activision and released in 1985, Hacker is truly a unique game. The game was presented by Jim Levy by pretending that something was wrong while attempting to connect online company headquarters to demonstrate the game. After several attempts, he logged into a mysterious non-Activision server, before saying “That, ladies and gentleman, is the game”. You assume the role of the Hacker, who accidentally acquires access to a non-public system. It turns out that you hacked into Magma Ltd. and you eventually gain control of the robot which travels around the globe, via deep underground tunnels. Not long after, the player is informed that shredded parts of a secret document containing Magma Ltd.’s plans for world domination are stolen. You are instructed to retrieve the documents by bargaining with spies around the world. The documents must be retrieved in order to U.S government from thwarting its plans. From here on in you must retrieve the documents and deliver them to Washington D.C. The robot tunnel system is large and unmarked and relies on trial and error.

The game was originally released without any information on how to play, thus giving you the experience of actually hacking the system and adding to the immersion. Also, the game lacks a save game function, and if you fail you must start again from the beginning. Hacker was Activision’s third best-selling Commodore 64 game. Try this game if you have the patience or if you want to play one of the first hacking games.

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