Bite-sized Review:
Midnight Protocol

Developer: LuGus Studios

Release Date: 14 October, 2021 

Platform: Windows, Linux, MacOS

Genre: Simulation

By Chris Picone, 26 July 2023

Midnight Protocol is a hacking sim that takes itself seriously; it's very dedicated to maintaining its gritty theme, going above and beyond with the bells and whistles to ensure a comprehensive and evocative experience.


Midnight Protocol is very spartan, a monochromatic system decorated only by a few useful symbols that serve to display the various nodes of the server you're working on and a command interface.  Somehow, the developers have managed an impression of polish rather than simply minimalism, and they have added an option to select themes so you've at least got control over the colour scheme.  Function is very much favoured over form, however.  The first thing that comes up when you launch the game is a friendly note advising you not to panic if you can't see your cursor - because there isn't one.  The entire game is controlled through keyboard prompts and typed commands, which some users might find jarring. Personally, I enjoyed it as a nostalgic experience; I still fondly remember my misspent youth playing around thinking I was a hacker (really I was just a script kiddy) in the 90s.  


the core game is essentially a puzzle that involves moving around nodes trying to drain accounts and download data while trying to avoid being caught.  You constantly need to choose between speed and stealth and it pays to come up with a plan of attack ahead of time, starting by selecting your deck layout before starting a mission.  You can purchase all manner of programs, but you can only load a handful at a time so you really need to exploit weaknesses in a mission and look for synergy to make the most of your very limited resources.  Some of the programs are designed for convenience (for example, setting up an automatic leech instead of having to manually drain financial nodes), others are designed to help you stay hidden or avoid ICE, others still help you get past ICE when you do encounter it.  Sometimes the dagger's the right tool for the job; other times, the hammer.  You also only have limited resources during the mission - only so much memory which must be shared amongst all of your running programs, so you must again choose between running multiple at partial strength or focusing everything on one job at a time.  Midnight Protocol is all about strategy and decision making and that's why I love it so much.

But it's also about creating an experience.  Midnight Protocol uses a pseudo-typing interface, such as the initial login screen which prompts you for a username and password (but which, no matter what you type, produces Data and a long string of asterisks). The same strategy is applied when you need to write emails in the game - as you tap away maniacally at your keyboard, a well-written email types itself out.  It's a bit of a gimmick, sure, and one I've seen in other games, but rarely is it executed this well and I found that rather than being annoying, it really did add to the experience.  And not only will you be hacking your way through servers but sometimes you even need to browse in-game internet and send emails to try to trick server users into giving up passwords and precious information.  Midnight Protocol really is a comprehensive experience.



There are plenty of hacking simulators out there, many trying to recreate the experience we all enjoyed as we viewed pseodo-hacking scenes in 90s movies like Johnny Mnemonic and the Matrix, but few are executed as thoroughly or as well as Midnight Protocol.  Hacking sims are a niche genre but if it's one you enjoy, Midnight Protocol's premium.