Have you ever wondered what it would be like to travel into cyberspace as an elite hacker and take over highly defended computer networks all while hearing the voice of Duke Nukem himself, Jon St. John? Well, then Darknet might be just the puzzle/strategy game you have been looking for. In Darknet you play an elite hacker who takes on hacking jobs in return for bitcoins and reputation in the cyber community. To complete a job you will have to hack your way through the game’s puzzles within a given time limit.
The puzzles in Darknet offer a fun and interesting dual-layered dynamic which you don’t see too often in games. The main puzzle you are trying to solve is made up of multiple other puzzles that you will need to complete to make the puzzle, as a whole, possible to finish. This element really adds a wonderful element of strategy to the game, because the number of puzzles that you do before you attempt completing the main puzzle is entirely up to you and your skill level.
Each puzzles consists of many different nodes of various types and difficulty, with the goal being to hack the root node and download its data. In order to hack a node you will have to infect its core with a virus, but if your virus runs into an antivirus or firewall it will be attacked and destroyed before it can reach the core, this make it very important to choose which nodes you think you can successfully hack with the amount of viruses you currently have. You can unlock additional viruses by spending money you get from hacking nodes, the nodes worth the most money, however, are much harder to hack than the one’s that are worth very little.
In addition to being able to buy additional viruses, you can also buy hydras, which will attack any unshielded nodes connected to an already hacked node that you infect with it, giving you a quick way to take out multiple nodes and earn some extra cash. You can also buy worms and exploits but both of these options come off as unnecessary and will rarely need to be purchased.
One of the things I didn’t expect to enjoy as much as I did when starting Darknet was how the game looks. I figured it was more of a novelty VR game that was on the platform as more of a gimmick rather than actually benefiting from it, but I could not have been more wrong. The view from the cyberspace perspective is a joy to experience. Looking out and seeing nodes everywhere around me was something I would forget how much I enjoyed until I put my PSVR headset back on, only to be amazed again. The turning aspect was a little unpleasant, fading to black and then reappearing, but the style is typical in VR games today so I don’t hold it against it too much.
While the puzzles in Darknet are difficult, the games real challenge comes from the wonderful inclusion of a timer in every puzzle. The puzzles, difficult as they are, can be completed fairly easily if given enough time to unlock as many viruses as possible. This is where the timer comes in. Players will have to decide which puzzles they will be able to complete in the time they have. Do they go for the harder, sentinel nodes, that contain huge sums of money but can be very time consuming, or do they whittle away at the root node’s defense and try their luck at taking it out with fewer viruses. If you do not complete the puzzle in the allotted time you will receive no pay for the task and your skill rating will decrease, giving you lower paying jobs. You can, however, continue to complete the puzzle after the time runs out which is a great feature as it gives you the option to learn from your mistakes and improve in the game.
One of the more frustrating problems I had with the game was the tracking of my PlayStation controller. I don’t think I completed a single puzzle without having to readjust where the camera thought my controller was. While this wasn’t a problem that ever led me to not being able to complete a puzzle, it was definitely something that took away from the game’s overall experience
While Darknet does have a few problems, most of them tend to be more inconveniences rather than a detriment to the gameplay. The dual-layered approach to puzzles is unique and satisfying, while the games enjoyable viewpoint and challenging use of time limits come together to polish off a wonderful puzzle game.