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Double Fine's Hack 'n' Slash lets you reprogram with a USB sword

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Novelty USB drives seem like a fun idea, that is until you can't fit the bally things into a single USB port. I hope the USB-powered debug sword in Double Fine's Hack 'n' Slash (opens in new tab) is a little more accommodating, otherwise it's going to be a fairly short game. So yes: this was one of the ideas whipped up in Double Fine's 2012 Amnesia Fortnight (opens in new tab) , along with Spacebase DF-9 (opens in new tab) . It was revealed in December (opens in new tab) that Hack 'n' Slash was on track for a release in the first half of 2014, and now that we're in the first half of 2014, more details of the punny hacking game have come to light.

As shown in a new demo at the recently wrapped-up Game Developers Conference, Hack 'n' Slash is a game about, well, hacking. While it looks a lot like Zelda, starring as it does a pointy-eared elf named Alice, you'll solve puzzles here by plugging in your USB shortsword rather than using it to whack enemies into clouds of dust. (There will be combat in the game too.) Slot the device into an available socket and a debug menu will appear, giving you control over a series of variables letting you change, for instance, the number of times a block can be pushed before it stubbornly refuses to budge. If an enemy's giving you trouble you could simply lower its attack damage to zero, or change its movement speed to a negative value to make it move further away from you with every step. It's the Scribblenauts of programming, essentially: a game about encouraging creativity through code, and one that will actively reward players for testing the limits/attempting to break its deceptively simple world.

In addition to that USB sword, Alice will be given a few other Zelda-esque tools. Bombs won't blow things up, but will let you hack otherwise unhackable things, providing they're caught within the bomb's blast radius. She also has the nifty Third Eye Hat at her disposal, which reveals all the hackable objects in a room. It's the kind of game that, I suspect, will be massively difficult to impose traditional game design values on, although it's worth noting that you will need to collect variables - essentially, new abilities - before you're allowed to use them.

The fascinating Hack 'n' Slash is still on track for the first half of this year, though no date has been announced yet. (Many thanks to Kotaku (opens in new tab) , who also recorded a ten-minute video of the demo that's worth checking out.)

Tom loves exploring in games, whether it’s going the wrong way in a platformer or burgling an apartment in Deus Ex. His favourite game worlds—Stalker, Dark Souls, Thief—have an atmosphere you could wallop with a blackjack. He enjoys horror, adventure, puzzle games and RPGs, and played the Japanese version of Final Fantasy VIII with a translated script he printed off from the internet. Tom has been writing about free games for PC Gamer since 2012. If he were packing for a desert island, he’d take his giant Columbo boxset and a laptop stuffed with PuzzleScript games.