Developer: 82 Inc.
Price: $1.99
Version: 1.2.2
App Reviewed on: iPhone 4s

Graphics / Sound Rating: Rating: ★★★★☆
Game Controls Rating: Rating: ★★★★½
Gameplay Rating: Rating: ★★★★★
Replay Value Rating: Rating: ★★★★½

Overall Rating: ★★★★½

PWN: Combat Hacking is a real-time strategy/puzzle game by 82 Inc. that is set in hacker space. The main bulk of the game has players looking at a grid of nodes that you have to hack in order to defeat an opponent; this opponent’s goal is the same. If the idea of “hacking” is not your thing, fear not, the hacker backdrop is just that: a backdrop. Everything about PWN is very accessible to those unfamiliar with cyberpunk universes, making the game an approachable and super fun experience.

There’s not a whole lot to the core of PWN’s gameplay. Each stage provides a starting node for each player. Once the round begins, players then have to procedurally hack a path from their starting node to any and all of the nodes that will help them achieve victory. To hack, players only need tap a node that is adjacent to one an already hacked node. By doing this, players begin a “hacking sequence” which is indicated by a circular timer. Once the timer fills, the node is successfully hacked. The object of the game is to hack all of the nodes necessary for victory. Sometimes, this means hacking all nodes on the stage, while at other times it could mean hacking a path to a “central node.”

Although this sounds simple enough, there are many added elements to PWN’s gameplay that make the task of hacking your opponents much more complex and interesting. For example, in some stages, certain nodes will have multiple connections to other nodes. These nodes are particularly valuable because multiple node connections can mean faster hacking speeds. On top of this, all players will gain access to a bevy of hacker-themed power-ups like encryption or spike, both of which can help you achieve victory if used effectively. If this weren’t enough, there’s also multiple characters to choose from with different affinities for specific abilities. With all of these added goodies, players can spend a lot of time honing their strategies and fitting them with their particular play styles.

Although the single-player campaign is fantastic, multi-player is where PWN’s action shines best. Playing against a real person as you duke it out over node control is a blast. Unfortunately, the game only offers multi-player over Bluetooth, making the potential for playing others much lower.

Other than the multi-player issue though, PWN is a fantastic game. It’s very easy to recommend for its compelling (and replayable) gameplay alone.

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