Reviewed by Thomas
- Developer: Rebelephant
- Publisher: Merge Games
- Release Date: 20/06/2019
- Price: $14.99 / £11.99
- Review code provided by Merge Games
Max Danger ran a bent matchstick over his course unshaven face. The tiny stick ignited into a burst of flame and revealed dancing shadows on the salt blown door of an abandoned warehouse. Before extinguishing the flame underfoot, he lit a fat brown cigar. He had spent the better part of a year infiltrating a crime ring operating down at the docks. He now stood in the company of a gang of vile murderers and traffickers, ready to make a bust.
“Agent, cut that out! You know you can’t vape inside a government building!”
Snapping his eyes back to attention, Agent Danger refocused on the computer terminal before him. He had spent the better part of a day tracking an email chain to various servers to bust some drug trafficking hackers.
Spies Like Us
Mainlining takes a modern approach to crime fighting. Instead of boots on the ground, your butt is in a seat at MI7’s top-of-the line cyber division. In a world where Big Brother is everywhere and has authority to snoop into the private lives of citizens for digital breadcrumbs, you play as a new agent for MI7. Each day you have a new case which requires you to hack into backdoor systems to find evidence to incriminate your target. The main perpetrators are a group of hacktivists with the goal to bring the MI7 Lions down a peg. They want to halt their prying eyes to give a sense of privacy back to the citizens. It seems these hacktivists have more than cyber crimes to hide however, and it is up to you to outsmart them and link them to other crimes to make the arrest.
The Bourne Identity
There is little hand holding in Mainlining. As a point and click adventure, the game is set up to immerse the player from the start. Even turning on the game feels like booting up a hacked computer. A scrolling chat bar with other agents and your superior which helps get you started with each case. You also have basic tools like email and a notepad. As you dive into each case you have to start putting clues together. Is there a website you can visit? Does the site have an email address you can exploit? As you start to piece together each puzzle, you will use your Mainline system to hack into your potential target’s private details. If you have ever used DOS or a command prompt, you’ll be familiar with Mainline.
The gameplay itself is a lot of fun. Playing digital detective as you investigate any and all leads was satisfying. Especially when you’re stumped for a few minutes then find something you overlooked. There is a bit of flexibility in the game where you can arrest innocent people if you’re not careful and don’t do your due diligence. Additionally, the evidence you connect to your target will determine how long they will serve time. Some cases I was able to complete in just a few minutes where others took longer.
One of the biggest flaws I found with Mainlining on Nintendo Switch was the keyboard. This game was clearly designed for PC. You have to do a fair amount of typing and the control scheme with the Joy Con doesn’t make it easy. Most of my time in the game was trying to navigate tricky controls. Playing in handheld mode is the best approach since you can use the touch screen to type.
The graphics of Mainlining is reminiscent of old DOS games which is fitting. The team did a great job mimicking the feel of various operating systems. Even the sound effects your terminal make are spot on. From the little ding after a download to the boot up screen. Great care was taken with the sound and graphics to emulate working on a computer with a little humor subtly woven in. The music was well done and added tension to each case.
From a technical aspect the game looked great on the big screen and on the Nintendo Switch display. I did run into a problem where the game would only save on case two. This meant, any time I restarted I had to play from case two. This got really annoying since I essentially had to play through its entirety in one shot. Replaying the same cases over and over was time consuming but manageable since I knew what to look for.
Mainlining had problems with the save file and control scheme which were more than annoying. That said, it still offers a very different style of game for the Nintendo Switch. That alone outweighs the flaws since you get a very unique gaming experience. Though I was bogged down with repeating certain chapters, I still had fun. Its length is short making it a tad overpriced but it’s evident a lot of care was put into making an authentic experience.
- Fresh Experience
- Thought Provoking
- Excellent Immersion
- Difficult Controls
- Short Experience
- Save Data Issues