In any crime-ridden story, hackers are often depicted as a quick solution to a series of complicated problems. Sometimes in these plots they willingly cooperate with law enforcement, but often they are portrayed as social outcasts who are leading the fight against huge corporations and government agencies. In TACS Games' Radiantflux: Hyperfractal for Wii U eShop, players take on the role of an anonymous neo-hacker who is risking it all to explore the dark-web and uncover the truth about the big companies.
On boot-up you're presented with the desktop of a classic operating system known as hackOS. In order to access the dark-web and higher tiers of hacking, you must first perform a few mundane tasks. Check your email, talk on an instant messenger program with your hacker associates, and when you get bored you can even play Mine Swapper - a Minesweeper clone. Eventually, you'll stumble across a message on your operating system from a mysterious individual congratulating you for finding him, and then edging you on to discover the truth hidden inside the dark-web with the assistance of a downloadable hack tool.
From here, the hacking process begins. With a new generation of mega corporations favouring a new storage medium known as "data-fractal hyper structures", it's your job to penetrate software firewalls and hack the hyperfractals. In reality, this email you receive gives you access to what is essentially a side scrolling shoot-em-up game known as "Radiantflux: Fractal", where you'll find yourself blasting away at waves of enemies and seeing how long you can survive. In this mode, you press ZR on the GamePad to fire your "hacktool", ZL to launch your powerful "gunsphere" weapon which must be caught again in order to reload, and if you get in serious trouble you can use one of your "code-bombs" by pressing the R button to clear up space on the battlefield. This component makes up the main portion of Radiantflux: Hyperfractal.
The more you play, the more weapons you unlock along with other mildly amusing discoveries such as a paint program. The different weapons and upgrades are game changers - with the ability to improve your high score, increase power and adjust the speed of your movement. While these upgrades gradually improve, the enemy waves remain somewhat overwhelming, and this can make the game feel overly difficult when you have multiple enemy rockets on your tail and only three lives.
Visually, a lot of effort has gone into recreating a classic operating system for the game's menus. Familiar colours and menu layouts are all reminiscent of the computer systems of yesteryear, making it easy to associate the design with the theme of hacking. The sounds top it off, with appropriate beeps. The aesthetics in the hacking game "Radiantflux: Fractal" are similar to the visuals featured in Space Invaders, with large 3D backdrops made up of blocks and pixel enemies supported by a retro colour palette. The sounds in this mode are as you would expect from an entry in the shoot-em-up genre. Overall, the visuals live up to certain expectations of such a game better than the gameplay does. Unfortunately though, all the GamePad does is mirror the on-screen footage.
Similarly to films and literature focused on the subject of hacking, it's all too easy to become dismissive of what exactly is going on in Radiantflux: Hyperfractal. Although it seems to be one big parody, it becomes overwhelming taking in all the made-up words and terms that are meant to mean or represent something important within the context of the game, but in actuality add very little to the overall experience.
Radiantflux: Hyperfractal gets so caught up in the theme of hacking, the novelty of it wears off quickly. Ultimately, the extensive menu navigation and all the silly back story do nothing to benefit the main side scrolling shoot-em-up segment of the game. If more time and resources were invested in this part of the game, perhaps we may have ended up with something like Nnooo's escapeVektor for the 3DS eShop. Instead what is on offer in Radiantflux: Hyperfractal is a basic side scrolling shoot-em-up that has not been properly fleshed out and isn't half as fun to play. If you get the sudden urge to hack the mainframe anytime soon, maybe alternatives should be explored.