Relive computing's green-screen glory days in The Hacker for iOS

What looks like an early-80s PC emulator is actually a devilishly clever and engaging game.

In The Hacker, you must solve various mini-game-style puzzles to break into servers--all while uncovering a mysterious plot.
In The Hacker, you must solve various mini-game-style puzzles to break into servers--all while uncovering a mysterious plot. Screenshot by Rick Broida

If you're old enough to remember green-screen monitors, bulletin-board systems, and the 1983 movie classic "War Games," you need to check out The Hacker for iOS.

It's a game, yes, but also a kind of love letter to fans of DOS, text adventures, ASCII games, and old-school hacking.

The app "installs" the Glider Operating System, in all its green CRT glory, on your device. Once you get past the amusingly realistic DOS-style setup screens, you'll find yourself able to connect to the Glider network, along with its mail system, Web browser, and game emulator.

Screenshot by Rick Broida

But this isn't just some '80s-throwback OS; there's a plot that unfurls as you poke around, one that involves the Glider Corporation itself and some disgruntled ex-programmers.

Your chief goal is to hack your way into eight global servers. Don't worry, there's no actual coding required; instead, you must solve various puzzles that are actually mini-games wrapped in this "hacker" ecosystem.

To say much more would be to spoil some of the app's more interesting plot points and surprises. Suffice it to say that if you never thought you could get sucked into a game that's mostly ASCII-style text and artwork, one that makes a Commodore 64 look fancy, think again.

Indeed, the Hacker offers a unique and entertaining experience, something I definitely haven't seen on my iPhone before. The challenges aren't always perfectly balanced--some are easy, some are crazy-hard--and the in-game messages are rife with spelling mistakes (though perhaps that's intentional, or at least in keeping with the whole "hacker" motif).

Thankfully, if you get stuck on a particularly challenging puzzle, you can spend some of your accumulated "XP" (experience points) to get a solution. I think that's a nice touch, as it allows you to progress even when the going gets tough.

For a mere 99 cents, The Hacker is one iOS game not to be missed.

 

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