Now that we’ve all emerged from the subterrean labs of Aperture Science and popped our Steam Decks back into their cases, it’s time to crawl into bed and dream of the internet superhighway. That’s right, this month’s RPS Game Club pick is the alternate-reality detective adventure Hypnospace Outlaw!
Released in 2018 and developed by Tendershoot, Hypnospace Outlaw takes place in a warped version of 1999 where accessing the internet is done via a headband you wear while you sleep. You play as an enforcer – a moderator of sorts – tasked with keeping the users of Hypnospace in check by reporting any violations you discover on their personal web pages.
Although uncovering a larger conspiracy serves as your primary motivation after a few hours of play, the real joy of Hypnospace comes from picking your way through its vast network of goofy web pages. Divided into distinct communities designed for different user groups (teenagers, older adults, conspiracy theorists, music fans) pages are created by users, enthusiasts and brands alike. 14-year-old Zane Lofton adorns his page with flaming gifs, violent hand-drawn comics and an auto-playing rap-rock track. The hottest new monster-collecting video game Squisherz tasks you with hunting down its grotesque critters, which are scattered across other pages. An older user memorialises his recently deceased wife just below an animation of a skeleton popping a wheelie on a Harley Davidson.
Despite its fantastical depiction of the internet as it was pre-millenium, Hypnospace is a suprisingly earnest exploration into the early days of online communities. In stark contrast to the internet of today, Hypnospace celebrates a time where individuals were given the tools and the scope to express themselves within this exciting new frontier. It’s a nostalgia trip through a foreign land, one that resembles something familiar even if it’s very clearly the product of a world that isn’t our own.
For fans of the Indiescovery podcast (our lovely Jeffa Cakes), my selection will come as no suprise, I’m sure. I enthused about Hypnospace (and it’s excellent spin-off, the brilliantly named Slayers X: Terminal Aftermath: Vengance of the Slayer) a lot on that podcast, so if you’re still not convinced feel free to give that a listen.
And if you’re a PC Game Pass subscriber, you literally have no excuse not to play, as Hypnospace Outlaw is currently available as part of that service. You can also buy it via Steam or GOG instead, if popping some pounds into Phil Spencer’s pocket isn’t something you’re keen to do. Still, if you fancy a break from Starfield, you won’t find a better palette cleanser than this.
Both myself and some other members of the team will spend the rest of September publishing a bunch of articles about the game’ myriad eccentricties, so make sure to look out for those. Then, at the end of the month, we’ll all pile into a liveblog to discuss Hypnospace in detail with you, our lovely readers. Pre-warm your ice-cream, folks. As our Alice O famously says: a good time should be shared online, even if there’s a serious risk of contracting Beef Brain by doing so.
A small disclaimer: Former RPS contributor Xalavier Nelson Jr. was a writer on Hypnospace Outlaw, long before he posted a Twitter thread so heinous it genuinely left me angry for a full week.