Thank you so much to Merge Games for providing a review code
An undercover organization is hellbent on taking out MI7 and wants to leak important classified secrets. It’s time for you to take the reigns as a professional hacker and uncover the identities of these crooks. This is your mission!
As many hacker movie plots go an organization named Thorn wants to see MI7 taken down by leaking sensitive Intel. It’s up to you as a professional hacker to find the identities of these members and throw them in prison. To protect the fact that MI7 was hacked from the public, you’ll have to nail these guys for other major crimes. Don’t worry it won’t be that hard as most of these guys are pretty shady. As you take down more and more people the story starts to elaborate and you begin to learn more about the characters you work with.
Unfortunately, the story never really takes off and, becomes something worth working to get to. The characters you work with are very stuck in conventional spy agency tropes that we see all the time. Your character never really gets to develop and there just wasn’t enough to the story to keep me entertained.
Mainlining is more of a point and click adventure then a hacking simulator. You start up the game on a laptop that uses an OS resembling Windows XP. There you’re given a quite a few different tools and menus to access and keep track of. On the left hand side you’ll have a scroll bar where you read any messages you receive from your accomplices. There’s also an inbox where characters will emails like the case report for each mission and other various messages to add to the story.
Your download folder is one of the most important mechanics, because any file you can access in this game can be downloaded. You will always have to be considering what’s important evidence so that you can keep it saved to help you track down your target.
The core component of Mainlining comes from your internet browser and your command prompt. Most cases will involve you hacking into different websites or email accounts to get access to files you need. The hacking component is a little more simplistic then you see in most hacking titles, but it provides some added depth to this title since it feels more like a point and click adventure.
Everything in the command prompt must be typed in with the keyboard just like a real computer. The keyboard and mouse do work with touch screen which is great, but they’re not perfect. Some of the buttons are fairly small so they can be hard to press. The controls in general are also a little unresponsive and could use some improvement. Using the Joy-Cons can be even more of a challenge even with the ability to speed up and slow down the cursor. Mainlining was definitely made for handheld mode, not docked mode.
Hacking usually starts with the same task. Find the name of the website or email you’re trying to get into and use the “ping” command in the command prompt. This will give you the IP address which you can then use the “IPhack” command to access. After you’ve gotten access to a system you will have a few options available to you. The most important is the “list” command which will let you see a list of saved documents. These documents will usually contain evidence that will help you piece together mysteries, but in the later missions your job will start to have more processes.
Mainlining never really gives you more abilities or a new cool gadget to jazz things up. No, the programs you get access to remain relatively basic. Sadly, the game’s idea of making more complicated missions is usually getting you to hack into multiple different systems and a few extra small puzzles. Sometimes I found the hardest part to be working around the constant clutter on your screen with their being so many files and programs to manoeuvre. The gameplay eventually starts to fall flat and it never added anything engaging enough to make me feel fulfilled by the end of it.
When you finally get the chance to arrest someone this becomes a problem in itself. Every arrest requires three pieces of evidence. You’ll need the person’s name, their location and evidence. You may think this would be easy enough, but there’s only one piece of evidence that can be used for every crime. Sometimes it can be quite unclear which piece of evidence will work. It’s a bit problematic and causes Mainlining to lack clarity. I don’t think video games should hold the player’s hand, but without properly clarifying what’s happening to the player, your game’s execution will fall flat.
I think Mainlining has some interesting ideas and is not bad as a point and click adventure. If you’re looking for a game that centers around hacking then don’t expect much depth here. Mainlining unfortunately just doesn’t execute its ideas well enough to captivate players. Sadly, after getting through a few hours Mainlining started to become very tedious. Then once a few more hours went by I was finished and left unsatisfied.
Something Mainlining really nails is it’s retro PC era graphics. The whole use of a Windows XP like software is not only nostalgic, but also looks great. The colorful retro visual design really adds some vibrancy to a title that needs it. The environment stays the same for the most part as you’re navigating through different programs and computer screens. I found this to be a fantastic design choice for the game and I think the developers really put some thought into it. Also, if you’re a fan of older computer sound effects you’ll find some of those here as well for some more added authenticity.
Besides the problem with controls I had mentioned earlier, I had no other problems with Mainlining from a technical perspective. I know some have had a problem with the game not saving, but I never had that issue occur.
As a point and click adventure Mainlining is an interesting experience bogged down by a mediocre story and repetitive mechanics. There’s some fun to be had with it and the hacking mechanics are definitely cool to use in the beginning. Unfortunately, as a game focused on hacking Mainlining just doesn’t have enough to keep players satisfied. It may be a worthwhile adventure if you need a new, unqiue point and click adventure. For those looking for something with more meaningful depth you may want to search elsewhere.
Mission complete Agent Tyler signing off
Unqiue Point & Click Adventure
Hacking Mechanics Are Somewhat Interesting
Perfect Retro Computer Visual Design
Good Use of Sound Effects
If you’re Looking for a Hacking Game With Deep Mechanics This May Not Satisfy You
Controls Can be Unresponsive
Story Never Becomes Overly Engaging
Lack of Exciting New Tools and Scenarios Causes the Gameplay to Grow Tedious
Controls Make it A Difficult Experience When Docked