Hacking in games is growing exceedingly common. More and more games include it or focus on it, and use some sort of classic game to represent the act. From Pipe Dream and Mastermind, to shooters and tactical strategy, there is a wide variety of ways hacking is represented in games. Upcoming hacking game Networm by ManicMinerUK is using Tempest as the model for its gameplay segments.

Starting off you're greeted with a nice green and black menu system, reminiscent of an old CRT monitor, where you'll purchase upgrades, equip tools and viruses, and ultimately launch your runs on various targets. The targets you can access increase as you complete runs, so while you start with only a few options, they will quickly add up. Each run offers different challenges to overcome, with different kinds of ICE to get past and prepare for in the Tempest-inspired hacking sections.

When you run, you enter a wireframe tunnel which you spin around in to avoid walls of ICE, or break through with your arsenal if you have the appropriate type of weapon installed on your console. You generate one of the two currencies in the game, credibility, by passing close to the ICE walls without getting hit, and based on how fast you complete the run. It's a welcome incentive to taking risks, and the controls are tight enough that you'll get confident in your ability to react quickly enough to maximize your cred.

At the end of your run, you reach the main server and get to leave with loot. This includes the other currency which is cash, new programs for you to install on your console, or miscellaneous information. The information can be sold afterwards either for credibility or money, depending on if you decide to make the info public or sell it back to where you acquired it from. It's a clever touch, though the decision is never really tough, you'll go for whichever you're lacking the most of since both are very useful. What is interesting is that the amount of loot you can take with you is limited by the amount of memory you have available on your console, so you have to balance your software loadout with your ability to grab more loot after the run.

The currencies each have their own uses. Money itself is used to buy new consoles or upgrade your existing one. These upgrades affect how fast you can move, how frequently you can fire, or how much memory you have for software and loot. Credibility is used to download new software from the hacker BBS you have access to. Thematically I really do like the idea of being able to get better software based on how stylish your hacking is, and I think the game is genuinely stronger for having the two currencies.

The hacking sections are easy to play, yet sufficiently challenging. Even the tutorial can get the best of you if you get too sloppy, and since the game rewards you for risk taking, you may find yourself messing up a few times. It's unfortunate that the tutorial messages still pop up if you restart the level, and I hope that in the final version that won't be the case. Backdropping the action musically, the demo I played had a high-tempo electronic soundtrack to go with the action sections, though the developer is looking to replace it for the release.

I was genuinely surprised by how much fun I had with Networm. Choosing to have the action segments be reminiscent of Tempest was a great decision, and by rewarding risky play the game manages to still be challenging enough for however you choose to play. Currently fund raising on Indiegogo, Networm has the potential to be a lot of fun with some classic gameplay as well as a big enough upgrade system to keep the gameplay fresh.