Hypnospace Outlaw Review (Xbox Series X)

Is that a C.H.I.M.E. violation I see? Gotcha.

Released: March 12, 2019
Available on: Xbox/Steam/Consoles
Genre: Simulation
Developer: Tendershoot, Michael Lasch, ThatWhichIs Media
Publisher: No More Robots

I can’t believe it’s been so long since Hypnospace Outlaw released. I still remember playing the demo when it was up and looking forward to how the full game would be. I didn’t end up playing it as soon as I thought I would, but at least I’m getting to it now! Plus, I saw that it got an update that added new content (after I completed my playthroughs) and there’s a sequel in the works. So, how’s the game?

In the universe of Hypnospace Outlaw an interesting development in technology happened in the 1990s. You know how we can only browse the internet while awake? Well, in this universe a company called Merchantsoft developed a way to browse the internet while you’re asleep. Unbelievable, I know. They developed a headband that you wear while asleep, which stimulates your brain as it runs their operating software, HypnOS. I’m pretty sure you can use it without being asleep, but it does fill your vision with a desktop screen when you’re using it while asleep. It also allows you to access their social network that runs on HypnOS called Hypnospace. The equipment is pretty expensive, but it became popular despite that since it actually does work. It probably also helps that they had a previous social network, as you can learn while browsing. It’s honestly pretty cool, despite the worries on the effects on user’s health. I know I would want one even though I wouldn’t be able to afford it or be too hesitant worried that it’ll be a flash-in-the-pan thing (which is the best considering what ends up happening).

November 5, 1999 is the day you take up the role of a volunteer Enforcer for Hypnospace and thus is when the game begins. After a quick rundown on how to operate HypnOS and your Enforcer duties, you’re set out to browse Hypnospace. As an Enforcer, your job is to find any violations users committed using the C.H.I.M.E. law guideline. I won’t go into it, but it’s as you’d suspect. Enforcers get special editions of the HypnOS headbands which allows them to see info you wouldn’t normally see, have the enforcement tool that sends suspected violations to be reviews, and be able to flag accounts if they rack up enough violations. You’ll be assigned Cases, asking you to look for specific violations, which also act as a way for you to progress through the game. The position doesn’t pay, being a volunteer position and all, but you do get paid in Hypnocoin for each violation you find and when you close cases. Hypnocoin is just Hypnospace’s currency, which you can’t earn through paying money nor can you convert it into money. Helps you out in paying for the various things you can buy, but you’re not really getting paid.

Well, with your Cases in mind, gameplay in Hypnospace Outlaw is mainly just browsing Hypnospace and messing with your HypnOS desktop. It pretty much acts like our regular ‘ole desktop where you can personalize the desktop, download files and more applications, and open the applications. You don’t start out with much, but as you progress and browse around you’ll be able to download more stuff like stickers to add more decorations and personalization or a virtual pet. Hypnospace itself is made up of multiple Zones, each with their own demographic (aside from the typical official Merchantsoft Zones). You won’t have access to all the Zones starting out, but it doesn’t take long to. Zones are made up of pages which corporations and actual users can make and post. Though, they only show listed pages as unlisted ones can only be accessed if you either search for the right keyword(s) or find a link to it. And, well, you can read through the various pages and marvel at how they look. There’s even a little status they can write and set music. If there’s anything you can download or click, you can, and you can search anything in the search bar if you need or want to. There’s a good variety of pages here, which do feel like they were designed and written by different people, and a lot are pretty funny or interesting. I personally had a good time browsing. There’s even some puzzles that you’ll need to do to access some areas or to solve Cases, which usually is to search for what you need through clues the game gives you.

The gameplay is pretty hard to really describe other than it’s like you’re on your desktop, browsing the Hypnospace social network, and reporting violations. It’s very much a game you either need to see in action or play yourself to get it.

There is a story here as well, though a lot of it is in the background. As long as you’re not just skimming or scrolling through you’ll be able to pick up on what’s happening. There’s what’s happening within Merchantsoft, some you’ll be privy to and some you’ll have to dig up, and then there’s storylines with the characters themselves that you can gleam through their pages. You may not be able to directly interact with characters or the community, but you do feel like you get to know them through their online presence.

You don’t have to do everything in a chapter to progress as I believe half of the Cases are optional. Once you meet the requirement to progress, you’ll then get the thing that will allow you to progress to the next chapter. It’ll be pretty obvious in Chapter 1 and 3, but not so much in Chapter 2. At the end of each chapter there’s also a time skip, which does help in noticing the the changes in everyone’s pages, established relationships, see news on events that were referenced, and generally any changes or additions. It also makes it more believable, as everything that happens during the time skip wouldn’t happen overnight, and it means you won’t be looking for slight changes (which would be annoying).

Once you do complete the main story, there is a post-game. The post-game is you just archiving Hypnospace as you’re given a program that lets you easily switch between timestamps of when you were online. Though, this isn’t that fun. While there are some unlisted pages that you surely didn’t find (or couldn’t and have to wait for the post-game to “time travel” to get it archived) and it’s interesting seeing how pages and statuses changed more easily, it wasn’t fun cycling through all the timestamps so it could be archived fully. I didn’t like having to hunt down what I needed with the help of a guide. So I stopped once I realized I wasn’t liking it. I never thought the main story was work, like some others complained about, but I definitely felt the post-game was work.

While gameplay is pretty solid, I did have my own set of annoyances in my first playthrough. I ended up accidentally skipping Chapter 2. It confused me a lot and looking it up revealed that I ended up sequence breaking. I have no idea how as I only completed one Case before I was given the Case that closes the chapter, where in my second playthrough it didn’t come in until after I did about 3 Cases. I thought about restarting, but I just decided to continue. I didn’t have another problem until the very end when I was supposed to be send me what I needed to activate the ending. I tried everything and even redid things multiple times before I called it quits.

This did actually sour my experience on the game a bit. I did tell myself I would do a second playthrough the next day, but I was pretty unmotivated since I was done typing with the mouse. I was even not originally going to write a review! Luckily, I had a thought of looking up if there were more USB ports on the Xbox and, once I found out it did, I plugged in a keyboard as well. As you probably guessed, it worked wonders in motivating me and I completed it without skipping Chapter 2 too early. I had a much better time and I was able to get achievements I missed as well as explore Hypnospace and see what was going on during that timestamp.

Aside from that, I do wish text documents opened so you could see the full window rather than having to drag it up for the longer documents. It was also hard to see the arrow to go to the next page if it did have multiple pages. It took me watching someone else’s playthrough (during the time I was trying to figure out how to trigger the ending on my first playthrough) to learn that some documents have multiple pages. I do also agree that Chapter 2 is a bit overwhelming when you first get to it.

I’m admittedly not the best person to contribute to the talk about the game’s puzzles and whether or not you will eventually need to look up a guide. Due to accidentally skipping through Chapter 2 in my first playthrough, I did have to look up things that I ended up missing and needed. Though, I did figure out some stuff myself and there was one puzzle sequence that I looked up since I really didn’t want to go back and search for the answers. Like I found what you could call a secret zone early in Chapter 1 since I was curious after reading one of the “WITW?” tip sections. Which also led me to a skip so you wouldn’t have to do that aforementioned puzzle sequence (I did it in my second playthrough just to do it like the game wanted me to). Although, there were also some optional cases and violations I had to look up. One of them it was just me not realizing it was a violation, but the other handful were unlisted pages I had no idea existed. So basically yeah, I definitely see why people say you’ll eventually need a guide.

I did learn after the fact that there is an in-built hint system that you can access by typing in “hint” in the search bar. Can be helpful if you still want to work it out without risking finding out the solution.

In terms of how it feels playing it on a console rather than a computer, I actually plugged in a mouse and keyboard. I didn’t like how it felt playing with a controller as you can’t do the precise movements it calls for. I specifiably only played with a mouse for my first playthrough and my second I played with both a mouse and keyboard (after finding out the Xbox has more USB ports in the back). It’s fine just with a mouse, but it’s best with a keyboard so it’s easier and faster to type stuff out (especially if you mistype). Honestly, I wouldn’t have did a second playthrough without the keyboard. There is only one aspect that does make you go back to the controller, but it’s only required for the ending, otherwise it’s optional to play it.

I loved the aesthetics Hypnospace Outlaw went for. You can’t deny that they did a really good job building the game. A lot of work clearly went into the game and it absolutely paid off. It has that old school, retro feel and it does feel like all the pages were made by different people with different tastes decades ago. The music is also pretty good. There are some tracks that were obviously supposed to be bad, but there are a lot of good tracks here and the jingles were so catchy. My favorite tracks unironically was Chowder Man’s songs and I love the music videos you could find. The only thing that works against it is that text can be a bit hard to read.


Aside from the hiccups I had during my first playthrough that did sour my experience a bit, I honestly did enjoy playing through Hypnospace Outlaw. I did like looking for violations and I especially really enjoyed browsing Hypnospace. I loved seeing all of the pages the characters made, seeing how they changed between the time skips, figuring out the various relationships and storylines happening between the characters, and finding hidden, unlisted pages. Not to mention some of the music was pretty good (I unironically like Chowder Man’s music haha). I do agree the ending was lackluster, but I’m glad I finally played Hypnospace Outlaw. If you think you’ll like this, I would definitely recommend picking up Hypnospace Outlaw.

If you’re going to get this on console, I just highly recommend plugging in a mouse at the very least. A mouse and keyboard makes for the best experience.


♡ ♡ ♡ A witch that goes for anything that peaks her interest no matter the genre. Currently obsessed with the Persona series and trying to make a dent in my backlog. ♡ ♡ ♡

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