Described as a “Twentieth-Century Cyberpunk”, Quadrilateral Cowboy is a bizarre combination of hacking, stealth and first-person platforming. Armed with my deck (a portable hacking device), and creator Brendon Chung over my shoulder, I climbed headfirst into the first-person hacking simulation.
To this point most games that have featured hacking have represented it largely as a series of abstracted mini-games. In Quadrilateral Cowboy when you hack you’re greeted with a command prompt and little else – in fact, Chung said he created the in-game OS from scratch. Even though I had watched a few people complete the demo prior, the first time the DOS-like window opened on my screen I felt completely and utterly helpless. At this point Chung leaned in and alerted me that I wanted to type DIR (for directory) to find out what programs were installed on my deck. Amongst the list was a program called Telnet, which Brendon said I might want to open up.
Once I had Telnet loaded I was able to hack into my surroundings, allowing me disable cameras, lasers and open locked doors, but, only for three seconds, because any increment longer would trigger the alarm. But the real trip about playing Quadrilateral Cowboy was that maneuvering through the disabled obstacles takes a back seat to the code-jockeying involved in disabling them. It’s an interesting and hilarious dynamic. The bulk of the challenge involves determining the right sequence of code and making damn sure you’re disabling the right objects at the right time, so an almost obsessive attention to detail is required to avoid setting off the alarms.
At one point toward the end of the demo there was a hallway with two cameras and a door. With Chung’s help I laid out the code to disable each camera with a delay in between, which would allow me to pass by both without alerting either. Right before I input the command I realized I’d need to unlock the door as well. And while that sounds like a small detail, Quadrilateral Cowboy is composed of these seemingly minor, important details, and making sure you catch them is the difference between an alarming run and a clean one.
Over the course of the demo level I only hacked a handful of objects, while triggering one alarm. Granted it was essentially a training stage, but there’s an exhilarating nature to the otherwise methodical proceedings, thanks in large part to making the right connections. Considering how simple and relatively straightforward the demo stage was, I shudder to think what Chung has in store for players later on. And, of course, by shudder, I mean bring it on. I’ll have my 56k modem ready.
Quadrilateral Cowboy is being developed by Blendo Games and was demoed on a PC. The game is expected to release next year.