RealmHacker is an interesting concept for a game. On the surface, it looks like a fairly straightforward platformer but delve a little deeper into its mechanics and you’ll find a game where you’ll be able to build and utilise stealth alongside the obvious jumping and shooting. But that’s only the elevator pitch, how does it fare in practice? We asked the App Army to find out.

Here’s what they said:

Mike Lisagor

I’m about a half-hour into Realm Hacker and I am struggling to get into it. The controls are fixed and that’s a huge problem. Also, there is no tutorial so it’s all trial and error. If the controls were more forgiving I may have more patience for this game. However, I continue to miss jumps and movements due to the controls so frustration sets in. I can not recommend this game until these things are fixed. I believe there may be a good game if it’s more playable.

Update: I went back to the game to give it another shot and was sad to discover that he can inadvertently lock yourself in a block you created. With some more polish, this game has promise.

Jojo Reis

The game is average but its controls fall short, put control support and it will become much better, you can have fun because the puzzles are very creative. It could be better but it has big problems in the control

Michael Purdy

As others have said, the controls are terrible. I had an immediate dislike of the game, and that’s rare for me. You have to remove your thumb from the screen to change direction, and that completely ruins any flow to movement. I don’t know if it is controller compatible, but I’m going to try that and come back with more thoughts

Edit: tried using a controller. Doesn’t work. Thanks to the controls, I really dislike this game.

Mark Abukoff

This game has a lot of potential. The levels and puzzles are challenging and creative, but the controls are a big problem. They were hard to see at first. And once I got past that, there was a fair amount of trial and error to figure out what they did. A simple tutorial would fix that. Then I happened to find the help menu that explained what they do. And as has been stated, you have to lift your finger from one button to use another, which adds another level of frustration. All in all, this has the potential to be a very good game, but it needs fixing.

Andrés Youlton

The game seems like the typical platformer where you need to collect keys to open the door and pass through to the next level. But it has some twists, such as you can create new blocks, creating many options to finish a level, which makes it interesting. But the controls are mediocre at best, missing jumps or shots all the time. I do like that you can buy upgrades and avatars, so completing every level at 100% has a motive. The game has potential, but it does need some work, especially in the controls, as it makes it very frustrating. Note aside, it does heat up the phone and drains the battery quite a lot for a game with this kind of graphics.

Makara Nou

First of all, there should be a tutorial of some sort. For example, I don’t know how “building” works. I find the controller to be okay. I get stuck in some stages as the game is getting more and more difficult. But I guess that’s what makes the game enjoyable.

Dries Pretorius

RealmHacker is a strange beast, for starters, it is a pixel style graphics but it won’t work on systems with less than 2GB RAM. There are low graphics games with high RAM requirements, like Prison Architect and Streets of Rogue, the reason these titles have high system requirements are the same reason for their popularity: complex interlocking systems which generate the game experience. The levels in RealmHacker are complex gauntlets, but they are not subtle systems of the scale these resource requirements would justify, I am not an expert at programming but the use of Unreal 4 Engine, rather than something more efficient for the game’s concept like Unity, is a baffling design choice. It is like running errands in town with a bulldozer.

The gameplay itself is pretty straight forward. There is a virtual pad for movement, a shoot button, a jump button, and a build button. Each stage is occupied by blocks of Four colours, various enemies and traps, each time you die your character revives with one of his five lives, he assumes a new colour when he does so. You can hide inside blocks of the same colour as your character, and when you break a block, all adjacent blocks of the same colour break too. The aim is to find the keycards on the level and crush blocks to find the hidden stars, then race for the exit, all while being judged by a timer.

There are many complaints, in reviews here,  that the game needs a tutorial. In the world of contemporary iOS puzzlers like Splitter Critters where you are being taught the game as you play, and every few levels add a clear element of complexity to the puzzles. There is an expectation of a certain standard of methodical presentation. RealmHacker drops you into the relative thick of it and asks you to figure it out.

RealmHacker is reminiscent of Telepaint, Retro City Rampage, with a sprinkle of Junk Jack, and a smattering of Dig Doug. More than any of these it reminds me of a high school math test, where I often tried to use lateral thinking to solve for X because I didn’t learn my formulas. Whereas this approach often proved disastrous to my test scores, it works here. There is immense satisfaction in getting so frustrated with a floating death ball after it kills you for the third time, that you decide to build a cage to catch it, and it works! Alternatively, you can construct a series of platforms for moving around the danger zone and suffer far less frustration. Even the Getting Over It levels of control frustrations, like failing to jump a tiny gap in a wall you are climbing, can be solved creatively by just building a new wall without a gap.

This is where the immense charm of RealmHacker rests, there is so much unsaid that you can develop creative solutions to puzzles. Your playstyle is unique to your formative experiences in the game. I still don’t understand many of the game mechanics, but I know that eventually, I will meet a challenge severe enough to warrant integrating them into a solution.

If you enjoy sandbox games, here is a four crayon set with ambition in spades.

Steve Clarke

RealmHacker is a platforming puzzler where the well thought out levels are let down by the controls. It’s not a deal-breaker but it’s frustrating when you need to time your pixel-perfect jump impeccably. It would also benefit from a storyline and as others have said a tutorial wouldn’t go amiss, although I felt it didn’t take too long to pick everything up.

Oksana Ryan

For me, the greatest obstruction in this game was the controls – for a game that had simple graphics and sound they were over-complicated and difficult to get used to. That said, I did find the game enjoyable in brief spurts. There were plenty of tricks, jumps, and levels to keep me interested but there was nothing new that had me riveted for hours.

In short, a pleasant enough game when you need to kill a bit of time but easy enough to put down.

Quincy Jones

As most have stated a tutorial would have been most welcome. You’re kinda tossed into a situation of trial and error to figure things out and having iffy controls did not help things along. Even after moving them around a few times I just wasn’t happy using them.

I quickly got bored after a while and I’m not in a hurry to pick it back up

David Nieh

RealmHacker, is a puzzle-based platformer. The core of it is definitely a fun and interesting game but because there was a lack of tutorial in all senses, it took a while to get into the game.

I was playing on iPhone XR, but for a simple pixel-based shooting adventure game, it was a hard sell game. Maybe, I’m not the targeted audience, but I can see someone really liking it. I got bored really quickly.. stopped after beating 1-6. Though even then, I had a couple of OMG I’m safe moments, beyond that not much. Maybe needs some basic storyline?

Jc Ga

A tutorial would have been a nice addition, but I also like to discover how it works myself… The most frustrating thing is the controls: having to remove your finger before changing direction slows down the game, makes it imprecise, and ruins the pleasure. By modifying the controls the game experience would be completely different, I hope there’s an update to improve this because the idea is interesting.

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