– Nick Palmisano
I confess that I’ve never really been good with computers. Never been good at science, or mathematics, or coding. Web design classes floored me with all the Cobra coding nonsense. Or was it Boa? I think it was Python. Snakes aside, the numbers always flew over my head. No matter how hard I tried, my brain just did not compute. I was never going to be a computer engineer, web designer, or programmer.
I have resigned myself to the fact that I will never enter The Matrix. That I am not, and never will be Neo, and that I have zero potential for hacking and doing badass computer stuff because I do not possess a badass brain. At least, this is what I thought, until I found Mu Complex, an indie-adventure game where you play the ultimate hacker! Matrix come at me!
Mu Complex serves up a delicious Linux terminal command line interface, which is pretty much the entire game. You’re a rogue hacker who infiltrates a shady multinational corporation hell-bent on keeping secrets from you. It’s your job to snuff them out like the tech-savvy truffle pig that you are. Everything is interacted with via the command line; you enter in commands and initialise them to achieve results. It’s all quite elementary, except when it isn’t. Mu Complex has a sickening variety of puzzles, some of them completely beyond the scope of what might constitute ‘traditional’ gaming territory.
To give you an example, one puzzle requires you to google Chicago Tribune archives from 1936 to find a specific advertisement for a television set that contains the password you need to access a computer terminal. Isn’t that amazing!? There’s myriad more situations that require extreme out of the box thinking, but a lot of the puzzles can be helped by a decent understanding of Linux commands and responses. It is thoroughly gratifying when you manage to access a terminal, or somebody’s emails; you really do feel like a boss, in every sense of the word. Getting caught out on a puzzle is just as intense, wracking your brain trying to figure out every angle, testing the most obscure theories after the most obvious. Your victory can often be found somewhere in between.
The creators of the game, Studio Cime, have gone to amazing lengths to make Mu Complex engaging, and it is without a doubt one of the most engaging indie titles I have played in some time. I should reiterate, there’s no first person bloodshed. No demons spawning from pits in the ground, or enemies swarming all over you. The entire narrative is constructed from your command line interface, and the only dialogue comes from Lya, an artificial intelligence (AI) you interact with on your adventure through the digital bowels of the corporation. Mu Complex is not a casual game.
You will not casually do anything in Mu Complex. Every command line you type, every action you initiate will be calculated, quantified, and processed. This is an adventure that demands every single one of your brain cells. Before you know it you’re taking print screens on your laptop, flipping through that book on Morse code your grandfather gave you fifteen years ago, and writing out Vigenère cyphers just to get by.
Mu Complex takes the cerebral beauty of basic Linux coding and turns it into an entertaining cyberpunk narrative, the command interface segments broken up with unique and entertaining mini games. There is a surprising amount of depth here; even the email trails have secrets and hints to offer in your journey. Replay value is low, but Mu Complex almost seems modular; currently there are two ‘episodes’ but there’s no reason that we won’t see more added in the future.
The nature of gaming is constantly evolving and changing, with developers and programmers finding new ways to push the boundaries between games and reality. Mu Complex fuses the tangible with the ethereal, shepherding you through its ghostly cyber corridors, with only your brain, and Lya, for company. I’d like to also quietly thank Google.