Hypnospace Outlaw review | Surf’s up

The information superhighway finally reaches its potential in the terrific puzzler-sim, Hypnospace Outlaw. Here’s our review…


I was sat at my living room table eating dinner and taking notes when I heard it. “Don’t be long, Jordan Oloman.” As soon as the mechanical voice hit my ears, I felt a hot flush of fear. Something was calling for me. After a blank contemplative stare that felt like an eternity, I went to check it out, holding my laptop in hand like a pointlessly expensive cudgel.

Alas, this was no home invader, just Hypii, my trusty virtual companion reminding me via text-to-speech that I had to get back to my post. See, I’ve been on active duty enforcing the internet in Hypnospace Outlaw.

A simulacrum of web browsing in the nineties, this nostalgic indie effort turns the player into a dial-up detective at the turn of the millennium. Y2K is fast approaching, and the netizens of this brand new social platform are up to no good, or, at the very least, they’re breaking the flimsy moral code set out by the indecisive, supposedly bipartisan overlords who seek to moderate it. Sound familiar?

As you’re treated to a mostly broken tutorial where a bug-eyed pseudo-3D mascot floats through a pixelated ether, you quickly realise passion oozes from this game’s every web-pore. The user interface receives about as much, if not more care than its tricksy puzzles. It’s so deeply charming to hear voice clips with harsh cuts at either end once more, as if the subject is speaking through an antique walkie talkie.

Regardless of the specifications behind your modern gaming rig, pages shudder and aberrate as the virtual machine tries with all its might to load them, and dodgy bloatware can flood your workspace with viruses. It’s endearing, mostly thanks to the rib-tickling writing adorning each page, fleshing out users and painting a picture of a pixelated Eden, its wide-eyed inhabitants gleefully chomping on the forbidden fruit.

You spend most of your time worming your way into fringe internet communities and unravelling them, from primitive file-sharing networks to virtual spiritual communes. One early case has you seeking out infringing images of a children’s cartoon character that netizens are homaging on their domains.

Easily the best part of the game is how it makes you question the particulars of your web policing as you deal with harassment and copyright cases resulting in complex moral quandaries. Any more notes on the incredible story would spoil the great mystery of Hypnospace, which is something that should be approached with as little prior information as possible.

Fiddly at times, Hypnospace Outlaw straddles a thin line between authenticity and frustration when you’re in the thick of it, but with a belly laugh only ever just a click away, you’ll soon start to forgive any minor gripes. Instead, memory allocated for critique will be replaced by the dangerously addictive and authentic webpage jingles. I left Hypnospace begging for a support group for those obsessed with the ‘Granny Cream’s Hot Butter Ice Cream’ rap.


HypnOS affords the player with options to customise their ugly-as-sin desktop, from virtual hamster Tamagotchis to a fully fledged brick builder. You can rearrange and pocket icons, but no doubt by the end it will be full of gaudy stickers and sticky note scribblings as you attempt to parse the puzzles.


A satiric treatment of late nineties web culture that deftly unravels the murky politics of internet control, Hypnospace Outlaw is a successful simulation of the millennium just begging to be explored.


Genre: Simulation
Format: PC (tested)
Developer: Tendershoot / Michael Lasch / ThatWhichIs Media
Publisher: No More Robots
Price: £15.49
Release: Out now

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