Some games want to mess with the player, tricking them into doing things they didn’t think they were doing. In Hostile User Interface, this is something you should expect, especially with that title name.
You see, Hostile User Interface is a game designed to trick the player into hitting hotkeys, bringing up task managers mid-game, or rotating their screen around. With the main controls being arrow keys, Alt, Ctrl, Delete, and many F function keys, you’ll need to watch the order you press them throughout the game. Each of the minimalistic levels display various colors and patterns, which your cubed player must make it through.
Levels also showcase their specific instructions, written around the screen, to warn you of new patterns killing you or of colors just being walls. One even tells you about player two, which you need to control and move by toggling off your first player. All of these controls are written in a way that can trick you into messing with your computer, flipping the display being the first of which happens, but you can even end up closing the game completely.
This clever design gets quite chaotic as more and more controls are added into each level, increasing the challenge of the puzzles and the amount of keys you need to keep held at the same time. You’ll need to be super mindful of the hotkeys your computer is set to recognize and exactly what would kill you within the game as well.
I played around with Hostile User Interface at GameFest 2019, where the developer spoke to me about some of the differences this type of game has. A lot of Hostile User Interface is dependent on these hotkeys, which can be laid out differently on various keyboards. This means that laptop keyboards play differently then some PC keyboards and so on, which is a very interesting bit of design. The keyboard at the event, according to the developer, made the game slightly more challenging than the one that the game was tested on.
I’m sure that playing on a keyboard that is less challenging wouldn’t stop me from hitting the wrong buttons, forcing the game to close, and having to restart. Despite these rage-inducing bits, the idea behind the game and desire to see what it throws at you next was enough to keep me interested.
Hostile User Interface is available now on Steam.