Text adventure for a new generation
What Cypher Got Right
- + Great setting for a cyberpunk adventure
- + Classic text adventure despite art & audio
- + Story is full throttle the entire time
- + Digital feeleies are a nice touch
What Cypher Got Wrong
- - Extremely strict with commands
- - No ability to cmd + tab from game
Strewn across your desk you see a half-drunk cup of coffee, a few copies of New Super Mario Bros. 2 and a download code for Cypher from Cabrera Brothers.
Get set for adventure!
That's right folks, the text adventure is back with a vengeance in this cyberpunk, Blade Runner inspired release known as Cypher. Utilising a great setting and pacing that never lets up, the creators have developed a thrilling "game" to experience, but it isn't without a few problems.
Check out the official trailer!
Cypher has a strong story that takes reference from many sci-fi classics such as Blade Runner and The Terminator, so much so that the game's splash screen has the same font as Blade Runner and you visit a nightclub called Tech Noir which will be familiar to any Terminator fan. Players fill the shoes of a data smuggler in a dystopian Japan who is in the middle of a deal gone wrong. By the end of the adventure you'll find that almost everyone wants you dead, and of course there is some government espionage thrown in there for good measure. If you're a fan of any sci-fi or cyberpunk media then you'll feel right at home, despite some minor clichés.
Right from those opening moments the story hits the ground running, never stopping to take a breath as it pounds you with twists and turns at every corner. It also happens that death is lingering every second you spend in the game, so make sure you save every few seconds to avoid the fatal mistake of having to start the game from scratch.
What I don't like about Cypher is the strict rules it enforces on commands, and the inconsistencies of these rules."
Classical text adventure games featured nothing more than a story and some text. Veterans of the genre will probably turn their nose up at the thought of artwork and audio being added into the mix with Cypher. I'm happy to report that its inclusion actually enhances the experience; moments like entering Tech Noir are met with some cheesy dance music and a nice visual that really makes things pop and feel exciting. There's no cutscenes, just a little extra depth to the story as it unfolds.
What I don't like about Cypher is the strict rules it enforces on commands, and the inconsistencies of these rules. During the opening scenes if I type "grab keycard" it won't complete the action, if I write "grab blue keycard" everything is fine. A few moments later if I type "wipe keycard" it works, and then when I type "use keycard" it tells me I'm wrong again. It happens quite often and it is certainly frustrating indeed.
The inclusion of digital feelies; printable mementoes such as flyers for a machine from the game that harbour important instructions needed to complete sections of the game, are a nice touch that really plays to the nostalgic aspects of text adventures. However I'm willing to suggest that a large number of gamers don't have a printer handy (I certainly don't) and that becomes a problem when I couldn't alt+tab out of my game to read these handy notes. Granted this could be an issue with the Mac version of the game, but it still hampered my experience with the game.
The Final Verdict
It may have a few issues but Cypher delivers the goods where it counts. A thrilling story that borrows from some well established sci-fi franchises, a demanding pace that never lets up and a more accessible text adventure for the masses. It's not perfect, and it won't be for everyone, but it certainly is rather intriguing.
By Stephen Heller