Uplink, a re-creation of a decade-old hacking game, has been brought to the iPad by Introversion Software and is now available from the app store. A mostly text-based affair, Uplink’s minimalistic interface still manages to create more tension and excitement than most games we’ve come across.
- Old-school presentation, mostly text-based
- Soundtrack uses both ambient music and upbeat techno to set the mood properly
- Controls are intuitive and responsive
- Doesn’t push you through any sort of progression; play at your own pace however you like
- Would have liked a more modern interface
- Some control issues due to crowded lines of text
- Not always clear what you need to do to complete mission, confusion can limit enjoyment
In the game, you take on the role of hacker extraordinaire, putting your skills to use in completing various missions of the nefarious variety. Breaking into company computer systems is your specialty and covering your tracks is a necessity if you’d like to maintain your clandestine lifestyle. Missions are available via the Uplink Corporation message board, and you can choose to take as many or as few as you like, provided you meet the proper credentials. The missions include altering documents, copying classified info, deleting data, and more. You are under a fairly strict time limit, as the security systems of the companies that you are hacking will initiate traces to figure out who you are. You’ll need nerves of steel to get in, get out, and remove any evidence of your existence within the system before you’re discovered. Parsing e-mails, managing memory banks, purchasing new software, prioritizing programs, and keeping an eye on your bank account are just a few of the tasks you’ll need to balance while handling your business. Success means a big payday, which you can parlay into better gear via an in-game store. Failure will result in Uplink letting you twist in the wind, knocking you back down the ranking system you worked so tirelessly to ascend.
Graphically, you’ll spend most of your time staring at pop-up menus and text amidst a blue-on-black theme on an old-school terminal mockup, which is a little disappointing given the strides we’ve made in technology since the game’s original release. It would have been cool to take control of a flashy rig, but we’re cool with the adherence to tradition. The layout is fairly intuitive and moving swiftly within the interface comes easily once you work through the tutorial and get your feet wet with a couple of missions. E-mails and mission info are in the lower right, with pop-up windows above to view bank accounts, profile info, computer specs, and the like. Your access to software comes from the lower left corner. Using your hacker tools on computer files is as easy as dragging the program name onto the file. Running programs appear at the screen top, giving you a simple way to send more resources to one program or another. Your world map with relay nodes is also at the screen top, giving you a graphical interface to route your signal all over the world, making it more difficult for the trace to find you and buying you a few precious moments. After a short time, navigating this world should be as simple as navigating your own rig. The soundtrack vacillates between soothing ambient music and upbeat techno, a popular addition to any hacker film and an expected inclusion here. Controls are tap-based, as your whole experience is funneled through a computer interface. We experienced good responsiveness and only occasionally mis-tapped due to the close proximity of the text lines.
Replay value is great, as you choose which missions to try and how often you want to interact. There is no pressure to follow any progression and the game is truly what you make of it. Success allows you to enhance your ranking and take on more challenging jobs, so chose wisely and make the most of your opportunities to boost your status. An iPad-only offering for $4.99, Uplink is a 4-Dimple thriller.