While we typically think of the internet as a place where we can surf in anonymity, the truth is that users leave a trail of digital breadcrumbs in their wake that can be stored and tracked by both governments and private entities alike. Mainlining, a newly-released point-and-click hacking sim adventure, follows this paranoia-inducing reality to its logical conclusion, casting players as a government agent snooping internet users’ personal data to solve crimes and bring them to justice.
Mainlining is inspired by real-world events, specifically the passing of the Investigatory Powers Act in the UK Parliament, which requires ISPs to store information on websites their customers connect to up for up to a year, and make that information available to a variety of government agencies. Promising commentary on such events with “dark, dry humour” and “gameplay that echoes old school point-and-click adventures,” the came casts players in the role of an agent in the reinstated MI7, a government agency with broad hacking powers under the fictional BLU Pill Act. The agency has recently been hacked themselves, and it is up to you to use your investigative skills to hunt down the cybercrime ring and their members responsible for the intrusion.
Players will have access to various tools and support that enable them to hack computers, gather evidence, and track suspects through a series of cases. Sufficient evidence must be obtained in order to guarantee the “longest custodial sentences possible” for each criminal. This means that timing is critical: “Move in too quickly and you may miss leads linking your case to much higher profile cyber-criminals. Act too slowly and your suspect may detect you and escape.”
The game features a retro-styled pixel art aesthetic and takes place entirely on the simulated desktop of the protagonist’s computer, which in the playable demo sports clever callbacks to real operating systems, namely Windows XP. Similar to a real PC, the game will require both mouse and keyboard to play, and feature a combination of command-line and GUI applications.
Developed by Britain-based Rebelephant (headed up by Dream’s Sam Read) and published by Merge Games, Mainlining is available for download now on various digital portals for Windows, Mac and Linux platforms. You can learn more about the game through its successful Kickstarter page and the developer’s blog.