The short indie game on itch.io makes you a hacker in a low-fi cyberspace.
Twenty-two years ago, Microsoft Windows took a big leap forward with Windows 95. Most would say that Windows 95 was significant for its addition of the Start button, or the merging of MS-DOS and Windows, or plug and play. Maybe they were wrong; maybe it was the screensavers that mattered the most. That’s what Screensaver Subterfuge, an indie game made by Cahoots Malone, posits.
The game is freely available on itch.io for Windows, macOS, and Linux, and it was previously reported on by Motherboard. It takes the assets (they were extracted directly from ssmaze.scr) from Windows 95’s iconic 3D Maze screensaver—the one that endlessly wanders a maze of brick walls in first-person perspective—and turns it into a very goofy cyberpunk hacking game.
The conceit is that the mazes are actually the tunnels through which truly valuable corporate data travels. You’re a young hacker on a mission to stop your dystopian world from turning into a slightly different kind of dystopian world—this is according to the game’s hilariously bad narration that includes ’90s hype lines such as, “Cyberspace has never looked so three dimensional! The geniuses at Microsoft have done it again!”
You must shoot the walls to transform them into a different texture, though it’s not really clear what purpose this serves other than helping you avoid retreading your steps in the maze. 2D sprite rats share the space with you. You’re looking for a giant smiley face icon to take you to the next, more complex level before you ultimately find a briefcase icon to conclude your journey.
Here are some screenshots that illustrate the complete journey through the game, more or less, including the ending.
The game was made as part of itch.io’s PROCJAM 2017—a procedural generation-focused virtual game jam. Its low-budget goofiness actually serves the vibe well, as it evokes other geeky ’90s takes on cyberspace and 3D gaming. If Screensaver Subterfuge hits all the right notes for you, the game’s creator has some other games with a similar aesthetic.