Oh wow, this game was a surprise. I remember hearing about it from time to time. I think I first heard of it's existence was when I watched a GDC talk about marketing on steam. The guy who gave the talk is the same guy who later founded the publishing company that this game was published under, so I remember seeing it there. I even heard of the game. But to me "90s internet simulator" sounded like your typical indie 'quirky' game, so I forgot about it
As I lately had nothing to play, and got an urge to play some great single player game, it for some reason popped into my mind out of nowhere. So I looked it up and after seeing positive reviews, I bought it with some hesitation.
It's good that I did because I have nothing but positives to say about this game. I don't even know where to begin. First of all, the game markets itself as 90s internet simulator, and that's a huge point of the game, but you are missing out if you think it's just that. If I had to think what it is, it's a detective game. A really, really, really good one at that.
What you do in this game is be an enforcer (moderator) for an online service in the alternate history 90s. Where instead of screens we accessed the internet through our dreams by using bands around our heads. Half of the fun is already there. Just visiting people's pages (something you probably do already if you are ended reading this review) and seeing what they are up to. A lot of work was put to make every little page you find interesting and have something fun to read, see, hear or download. If you catch something that seems illegal there, like copyright or bad language, you have to report it with your ban hammer
As you go on reporting, finding things to report becomes more elaborate. People will see you reporting their content and react to it or hide it better. Forcing you to do digital detective work and go on digital journeys to finish your job. And journeys you will do, since you have more than once the same feeling as when you click on hyperlinks few times only to end up in some mysterious place on the web wondering how you got here.
How you actually find the "shady" places to report is up to you. There are multiple ways to do things. I admit sometimes things are a bit too hidden, but it's mostly alright. I hate point-and-click games where you do pixel hunting or use obtuse moon logic. None of that is in this game. Don't worry. It's a fun experience through and through and the ways to solve puzzles always feel like something that would work in the real world.
A huge part of this game is the story. All the small stories of people interacting with each other build up to larger story points in interesting ways, which make the world really feel alive. You also have a huge variety in the story. One page will have you laugh, like a page of overprotective parents calling squishers (pokemons) satanic. While the next one will make you sad, like an old man reminiscing about his dead wife.
This game has the best 90s/Y2K aesthetics I've ever seen. They both feel authentic to the time period but also unique. All the gifs, videos and images you will find look incredible. My favorite has got to be this gif of two eyeballs spinning around a pyramid that you find pretty early in the game. The game even made me remake this site to have few tricks the sites in the game used. So it can't be bad if it made me do that.
I fully reccomend it. It's really entertaining and surprised me more than once. You will have pretty good detective game, with good story that will make you laugh and cry at the same time.
Yes, you aren't paid real money to moderate. Instead you get hypnocash. A digital currency explicitly made to not be exchanged for real cash. Meaning, He Does It for Free
The sleepband wasn't really that out of place after all. Atari had a mindband just like the one used in the game, although you didn't use it in your sleep. The story why it failed is funny too. You were meant to control it by it reading electrical signals from your brain, but the electrical signals from your forehead muscles are much stronger. Which made people use the device by squishing and wobbling their forehead, causing headaches after long play sessions.