Have you ever wondered what it would be like to play the supporting role in a video game? If, instead of the hero, you were the person giving them advice? No? Well, that’s okay. I don’t think that many people would, and I can’t really say that I have either. But Code 7 changed that, if only just a little bit. In a world full of games that place you in control of fearless, action-seeking heroes too many times to count, Code 7 forces you to take a backseat on the front-line heroics. To finally stop asking what you can do as the hero, and instead ask what can you to help the hero. …Okay, well it’s not quite that majestic, but you get the picture.
Sure, it might sound like a weird concept for a video game. And yeah, it probably is. But it’s also a lot of fun. And, more than anything, it proves that text-based adventures still have a place in 2017’s gaming culture. So long as they’re properly handled, of course (which this one is, in case you haven’t picked up on that by now).
Normally, this is where I would talk about the beginning of the game. Where I would “demo the story” for you, if you will. I’m having a little bit of trouble doing that with Code 7, however. Why? Because it’s a text-based adventure ― and an episodic one at that. Only Episodes 0 and 1 have come out so far, and Episode 0 is dedicated entirely to setting up the story… so explaining everything to you would essentially ruin the first part of the game.
There are a few things that I can tell you without spoiling the game, though. Primarily that the story begins with you, a hacker named Alex, and your companion Sam crash-landing into a space station. And that all of that sets into motion a chain of events leading up to you and your various companions needing to stop a deadly computer virus known as Code 7 from ever finding its way onto the Earth. Oh, and you also have amnesia ― a problem which always seems to rear its ugly head at every turn. Scary (and mostly ambiguous) stuff, huh?
Run > Command Prompt
Code 7 sticks to the rules of its genre very closely in most cases. Progression through the game isn’t made by physically controlling your own character, but rather by guiding your character’s partner (which changes based on which episode you’re playing) through each area. You know how a lot of games have supporting characters who constantly tell you to check out certain areas or to do certain things? Yeah, well that’s you this time. You’re the Navi of Code 7. Fortunately for you, however, you’re more intelligent than any blue fairy. And the advice that you give is far more helpful.
If you’re familiar with text-based adventures, you should feel right at home with Code 7. Maybe even more so, considering how streamlined gameplay is. Unlike with the text-based adventures of yesteryear, Code 7 is gracious enough to provide players with an onscreen map ― an onscreen map with names of all nearby locations! Because of that, moving around is as simple as typing in the location that you’d like to go to, and hitting enter. Thanks to the map, you’ll even be able to see your partner move around on-screen. And for those of you worried that an on-screen visual such as a map could potentially defeat the purpose of a text-based adventure, you can breathe easy. While the map is a necessary part of the game, it’s largely devoid of detail. You’re still free to imagine the world around you as you wish.
Not surprisingly, most progression is made by hacking into things and bypassing security. In order to do that however, you’ll need a bit of confidential information. Okay, a lot of confidential information. Fortunately, Code 7 makes this process engaging. For the player, anyway. Rather than guiding your companions through one perilous endeavor after another, you’ll be spending most of your time telling them to ransack rooms in order to steal people’s personal info. Not wanting to break the immersion, Code 7 hides bits and pieces of personal details within various pieces of lore that you find. A piece of junk mail could have someone’s last name on it. A letter to a loved one could mention the names of family members. It’s shady to be sure, but very clever in terms of gameplay mechanics.
Code 7 also has its fair share of things that aren’t exactly what you would expect from a game like this. The best example of this would be the “Man-In-The-Middle Attacks”. Although much of Alex’s hacking can be done simply by knowing the right kind of information, certain electronic devices can only be cracked by performing a special type of hack known as a Man-In-The-Middle Attack (which basically just boils down to sending a virus from one computer to another). In order to pull this off successfully, players need to carefully move along a grid, avoiding any security programs in their way. While MitM Attacks are done in real-time, the game still uses text-based controls. This means that you’re frantically typing coordinates while trying to avoid security. It’s interesting, but very stressful.
Code 7 also has ― I kid you not ― a handful of stealth segments. I know what you’re asking. “How does stealth in a text-based adventure even work?” Better than you’d think, actually! Much like the MitM Attacks, stealth segments have you trying to get from one area to the next without getting caught. The main difference between the two comes with their setup. In MitM Attacks, you’re fine as long as the security program doesn’t touch you. With stealth sections, you need to stay completely out of security’s sight. The AI is also more sporadic in certain areas, which increases tension even further. It does run into the same issue as MitM attacks, with players needing to quickly and efficiently type in location names, but it’s all do-able, and enjoyable overall.
Code 7‘s gameplay is very solid, but what really cranks this game’s quality up a few notches is its atmosphere. I didn’t even know that text-based adventures could have an atmosphere, but boy did Code 7 sure show me. The static-ridden, minimalistic visuals of the game and and unsettling ambient soundtrack alone are enough to get you in the mood for a spooky cyberpunk adventure. And when combined with the excellent attention to detail that this game has shown time and time again, it doesn’t take playing this game for long to realize that you’re in for a treat.
Of course, there’s one last thing that I’ve failed to mention; the voice acting. Nearly every single one of Code 7‘s lines is fully voice acted by what sounds to be a very talented cast. Voice acting, especially good voice acting in any game is usually impressive in its own right. But when you take into consideration that this is an indie title ― more specifically an indie text-based adventure, where dialogue makes up most of the game ― this is an especially noteworthy feat.
Code 7th Heaven
If you would have told me that high-quality text-based adventures were alive and well earlier this month, I probably would have looked at you strangely. Thanks to this game however, I can say that my opinion is no longer the same. 2017 may be a time dominated by demand for over-the-top action and realistic graphics, but Code 7 proves that good storytelling can be just as enthralling. If narrative-focused cyberpunk horror is your jam, then you’ll have 0 regrets picking up Code 7. And if narrative-focused cyberpunk horror isn’t your jam… well, this game could very well change that.
FINAL VERDICT: 4/5
Available on: PC ; Publisher: Goodwolf Studio ; Developer: Goodwolf Studio ; Players: 1 ; Released: August 11, 2017 ; ESRB: N/A ; MSRP: $16.99
Full disclosure: This review is based on a copy of Code 7 given to Hey Poor Player by the Publisher