Like many others things (murder, car chases, fights to the death, etc.), cheating is something that can get you in trouble in real life, but can be a lot of fun in video games. With the rising popularity of multiplayer games, though, cheating became a no-no even in the virtual world. As cheaters were called out and banned in online contests, the single-player side of cheating fell out of fashion as well.
Fashions, however, have a tendency to make a comeback, which is exactly what Hyperkin hopes to start with their new device, the Game Genie: PS3 Save Editor. Released last month to little fanfare, this tiny gadget is designed to let PlayStation 3 owners transfer their saves to their computer, edit them with cheats and modifications using the built-in software, and enjoy the rewards back on their PS3. That’s what it’s designed to do, but as you’ll see, it doesn’t always work as planned.
Let’s break it down.
Right out of the box, the Game Genie looks good. Unlike cheat devices of the past that had to fit inside the proprietary ports of various gaming consoles, the Game Genie is simply a specialized thumb drive. Instead of looking like a plastic Wal-Mart-counter impulse-buy, though, Hyperkin’s drive has a sleek, orange, metal case that makes it look and feel substantial.
One thing that’s a bit annoying about the design of the Game Genie is that it has a little red light on the end of the stick. Obviously this light is there to tell the user that the device is working, but it’s unusually bright, and if you have it plugged in a dark room, it can be distracting. The metal casing also gets a bit toasty when the Genie has been plugged in too long, but neither of these issues is a huge detractor from the device as a whole.
Aesthetics aside, the in-box instructions tell the owner that step one is to install the Game Genie software. Even on my slow netbook, this process took about two minutes. Simply pop in the USB drive, run the Setup.exe file, and you’re on your way. As you can tell by the .exe extension, the Game Genie is only compatible with Windows, leaving Mac and Linux users out of luck.
The software itself is easy to use. Just copy a save of a supported game onto the Genie, boot the device in your computer, launch the software, and apply whatever cheats you’d like. One thing that makes this device different from last-gen cheat devices is that the cheats are applied online. The save is uploaded to the Game Genie server where the cheat is added, and then it’s downloaded back onto the USB drive. The original save is overwritten, but a copy is made on the computer’s hard drive, allowing users to reload their un-modified save anytime they want. It should also be noted that, through profile-reassignment in the software, players are easily able to transfer saves between consoles and even share them with friends.
The Game Genie also allows users to edit saves themselves, using the “Advanced Mode.” If a programming-savvy gamer wants to delve deeper into the workings of the save file, he is more than welcome to. The catch here is that only the games included in the database are accessible for advanced editing. The reason for this is simple: the Game Genie’s hexadecimal code (the code used for applying new cheats to a game) is a decrypted version. Because of the standard encryptions within saves, if someone were to try to edit a save file using an external editor, they would more than likely destroy the file completely. The Genie lets its users analyze the code and make their own changes with a decreased chance of harming the file.
The one downside to the software is its online-only cheat database. Because of this format, users need an internet connection to apply cheats to their saves. This ensures that Hyperkin can monitor cheats to make sure they are not being abused in unfair ways. While they seem to have no qualms with any sort of single-player cheats, the company understands that facilitating cheating in multiplayer is unacceptable.
A good-looking exterior and easy-to-use software are great, but the reason for buying a device like this is, of course, the cheats. In the case of the Game Genie, the cheats can be described in one word: Lacking.
For now anyway.
The current database of cheats stands at 71 supported games, and many of these games contain only one or two cheats. The save-based cheats also have stricter limitations than those on previous cheat devices. Because they’re reliant on numerical data within the saves, Game Genie cheats are restricted in their abilities. For instance, there does not seem to be a way to apply “infinite” modifications to a game’s elements. Instead, the most common cheats are edited as “Max Money” and “Max Ammo,” their numbers stated as 999,999,999. For some games, though, the gurus at Hyperkin have figured out how to unlock levels, costumes, and other content within the save files, so the cheats aren’t all based on in-game numbers. That being said, because the Genie doesn’t affect the code of the actual game, another “Hot Coffee Mod” incident is highly unlikely.
Although the cheats are limited right now, Hyperkin is actively working to expand and improve its current library. In fact, Hyperkin encourages its fans and users to tell them what games they’d like to see on the Genie, using Facebook and Twitter to monitor demand. Hyperkin’s commitment to fan service is admirable, and in time, the online library should grow into something formidable.
Even with the small library, I was able to test out five games in my collection that were supported by the Game Genie. Of the five, three worked flawlessly, one worked under certain circumstances but not others, and the last didn’t work at all. The three that worked without fail were Batman: Arkham City (level-up and content unlock cheats), Uncharted 3 (unlock all chapters, max grenades, and max ammo), and Grand Theft Auto IV (max money). The game that was iffy, in my testing, was The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. There is only one cheat for Skyrim—max gold—and it worked as expected when applied to a level-one save file, but on my more recent saves, I was unable to get the cheat to function. I had no luck with the last game I tested, Red Dead Redemption. Again, the sole cheat for this game is max money, but no matter how I tried, it would not apply to my save files. I have, however, heard of others who have gotten both the Skyrim and Red Dead Redemption cheats to work without incident, which makes me wonder what level of variability exists with these save-based cheats. Hopefully Hyperkin will give some tips for troublesome games in the future, but for now the successful application of cheats to certain games seems ambiguous.
UPDATE: Shortly after posting this review, I saw a Tweet from Hyperkin about the inconsistency of Skyrim’s “max gold” cheat. The company is investigating the issue at present.
To Buy or Not To Buy?
That is the question. The whole point of a review is to tell a prospective buyer whether or not a particular item is worth buying. In the case of the Game Genie, it’s a little too soon to tell. If you check out the list on the Game Genie’s website and see a few games in your collection you desperately want to cheat on, there’s no harm in dropping $30 on this device. On the other hand, this Genie is not all-powerful. The folks at Hyperkin are earnestly working on expanding the device’s reach, but there’s no doubt that a purchase of the Game Genie is an investment in potential. If you’re rooting for a return to the days of GameSharks and Action Replays, the Game Genie may be right up your alley. It’s simple, easy, and when it works, it works. But with the cheat library as limited as it is right now, and the bugs in some of the cheats that are listed, you may want to keep this Genie in its lamp until it can grant you more than just three wishes.