The main premise in Quadrilateral Cowboy is hacking; you are a hacker who infiltrates and extracts for a handsome fee from whoever pays the most. You undertake various heists armed with a computer deck powered by 256k RAM, typing in commands and debugging various systems to achieve your goal. It looks old, clunky and useless but it’s the most useful tool in your arsenal. There are no enemies wielding machine guns and grenades — your only enemy is your imagination (and the occasional security turret).
There are so many lines of code you can use that it can take some time to try and program the correct ones. There’s a lot of trial and error too; each command can be separated by semi-colons so the possibilities for each line are endless. In one of the first few levels, you need to collect two red briefcases. To do so, you need to turn one of the security cameras off, go grab one of the briefcases and return the way you came. The only problem though is you can’t take your deck with you so you have to program a ‘wait’ between the two commands to deactivate the camera, grab the briefcase and deactivate the camera for a second time so you can get out.
This is an early mission, and they only get harder the further you progress. There’s a lot to learn but Quadrilateral Cowboy gives you plenty of support through the help of a detailed manual and computer help menus. You’ll end up hacking grates, alarms, lasers and more, meaning you need to really think about what you’re typing in but these guides make all the difference. As the game progresses, you’re introduced to new mechanics, such as a small robot you can manually control to get into various nooks and crannies and a rifle in a suitcase. They help to mix things up a bit and are nice additions to the standard command prompts you get accustomed to.
One of the more irritating things about Quadrilateral Cowboy is remembering to pick the deck up after using it (which is easier said than done). Whenever you need to use the deck, you’re required to lay it down, input the code and pick it up afterwards; if you leave it behind and a door or a grate shuts behind you, there is a chance you can’t go back to it, requiring a return to the beginning of the heist. There are other variables that make playthroughs annoying too; when you only have 3 seconds to turn something off, this can become testing, to say the least; you have to be fast and efficient just as much as you do a good hacker.
It may not be the most polished or crisp game you’ve seen, but it has a certain charm to its imperfections. The blocky and basic palette of the busy streets and tall buildings work, as do the cubic designs of you and your hacker buddies. The story isn’t really there, but there is exposition in the strangest of places; little stories or narrative segments that bring the fantastic work Brendan Chung has done come to life. The strange choice of music is great as well, helping to relax you after a tough heist job – ‘O Holy Night’ in French is something I never knew I wanted.
Quadrilateral Cowboy isn’t a big game in length, but it is full of new and interesting concepts that’ll have you playing for some time. Manoeuvring your character after using the deck can prove frustrating and even towards the end, you’ll still get caught out with this. There were also a few lagging issues, but nothing too affecting of my play through. All in all, Quadrilateral Cowboy is a challenging and smart puzzle game like nothing you’ll have seen before.
Smart ideas involving the deck
Design is different and appealing
Moments between heists are a delight
Lots of help on offer
Inputting codes and the follow through can be tough