Screencheat is the next evolution of party games and a wicked twist on split-screen multiplayer. Our PS4 review;
Before the rise of the PlayStation Network and Xbox LIVE, the term “Multiplayer” meant getting your friends around to your place, ordering a pizza and huddling around the same TV for split screen action. It was a simpler time, when each match of Goldeneye started at the menu screen and the race to select Oddjob and knowing how to properly handle a Warthog in Halo meant the difference between bragging rights and lowering your head in shame. Gathering around a single TV, bumping elbows with your friend turned foe on screen, was brilliant – especially if you were a “Screen Watcher”…
For those of you who missed the glory days of local split screen multiplayer, allow the Urban Dictionary to explain what screen watching is;
“When you’re gaming split screen and the other player watches your screen to see where you are. Usually done by stupid nubs”.
Eloquently put. Screen Watching was when you watched everyone else’s portion of the split screen to see where they are and what they’re doing to gain an unfair advantage. Get caught screen watching by, say, I d’know, firing off a shot as people are just turning a corner or by killing someone who is in stealth mode with the butt of your gun and you were likely to be named and shamed as a Screencheat. Like the name of the game I am reviewing. Screencheat. It’s so clever.
Screencheat takes the concept of first-person-shooter screen watching and turns it on its head – rather than offering an unfair advantage, it makes screen watching the *only* way to see where your opponents are and what they’re doing by making everyone invisible. Yes, *invisible*. Inconspicuous. See through. Indistinguishable between you and the background. Like a ghost.
“Screencheat takes the concept of first-person-shooter screen watching and turns it on its head”
On paper, this should be a nightmare. “You can’t see each other? How are you supposed to know where to shoot?” I hear you cry. Well, developers Samurai Punk have used an intuitive system that can take to little bit of adjusting to but becomes second nature once you get to grips with it. Each of the games maps is cleverly designed around colour and contains numerous distinctive land marks. Take the Museum map for example. Each level of this map has different coloured walls – red, pink, purple or blue – and unique art work is on display everywhere you turn. A quick glance around the screen will show you if anyone else is on the same coloured level and if they are, you can quickly discern where they are by the art work they can see. Another Map, Loop, has coloured floors and distinctly different architecture on each of its sides. There are a myriad of maps, 11 in total, and each can be daunting at first but once you learn the structure and colour set up used on each one, spying out who is stalking you and who you can stalk just by using the view of their portion of the split screen becomes simple.
The transition from playing the traditional “Hey! There’s a dude! Shoot them!” to Screencheats “Hey! Where’s the dude? Shoot over there and hope I hit him/her” game play is made even smoother by playing the games training modes and time trials. These offline modes let you play against a bunch of dumb bots that help you get a feel of each maps nuances as well as familiarising yourself with each weapon and the general wackiness of the game play.
Screencheat does offer a little extra to help you spot your opponents in the form of the risk and reward system of the weaponry. The game has an arsenal of 10 weapons, all of which are available from the moment you start the game (no weapons locked behind XP grinds here) and each with their own strengths and flaws. The Blunderbuss (my “go to”) has a wide spread which can catch numerous adversaries in its range – BUT once it’s fired, it gives out a trail of smoke while it reloads making you easy to spot should you miss your target. The Hobby Horse (yes, you read the right) speeds you forward and cuts down any foes in your path – BUT it leaves a trail of fire on the ground which can lead your invisible nemesis straight to you. The Bear Bomb (a stuffed bear packed with explosives) can cause the most chaos – BUT there is a delay between throwing the Teddy and pushing the Yosemite Sam styled plunger to blow them up, giving your target the chance to scarper. It’s a quirky collection of arms that matches the outré gameplay and sense of humour that Screencheat exudes.
Not content with the delightful confusion that being invisible brings to the table, developers Samurai Punk have included a total of 9 game modes that really wring everything out of the games unique one-note premise. On top of death match there is “Hillcampers”, Screencheat’s version of Control Point which takes an entirely different dynamic when you can’t see the person holding the zones. Then there is “One Shot”. In this mode, each person has one shot to use until every player has taken their shot or a timer runs down to zero. This mode emphasises Screencheat’ss dynamic, forcing you to hold your fire and make sure you hit or pay the consequences for missing. And then there is “Capture the Fun”, a mode that challenges you to hold onto a piñata (which emits visible confetti, pinpointing your position to would-be assailants) for as many seconds as possible. The last mode I want to talk about – possibly my favourite mode of any first-person-shooter I have ever played, never mind in Screencheat – is Murder Mystery. In this mode you are provided with 3 Cluedo cards – Who you need to kill, what weapon you need to kill them with and how many points you will get for doing so – and to score, you have to collect the right weapon, find your target and off them – before you get off’d yourself. This mode is hectic but laugh out loud funny. All but one of the modes (Juggernaut) can also be played in teams and the game ever allows you to create your own modes with granular customisation options of almost every game play aspect.
Of course, no modern day game release would be complete without some kind of levelling/experience system and Screencheat has one of those too. Gain experience by winning matches and killing your adversaries and you level up, unlocking new weapons skins and ragdoll physics that trigger when you’re shot. These are purely cosmetic unlocks and don’t effect game play but play into the wicked, self-aware sense of humour that Screencheat has.
“Online players can line up on screen against local players as if they were sitting next to you, chowing down on a slice of deep pan pepperoni”
One of the greatest achievements Screencheat manages to pull off is to enable split screen multiplayer while online. I was worried that Screencheat would be local play only (It’s harder to get my mates around for pizza and PlatStation these days thanks to my tribe of children) or that the online play would be hobbled in some way because the game is inspired by a traditionally single TV game play aspect. I’m happy to report that the game runs as smoothly online against friends 6 thousand miles away* as it does in local split screen against other humans or the more intelligent bots that the game can throw at you (especially when set to the “Dream Crusher” difficulty mode). Its visuals are crisp, showing no slow down no matter what’s happening on the screen. Online players can line up on screen against local players as if they were sitting next to you, chowing down on a slice of deep pan pepperoni.
*that’s a lie; Ross lives 247 miles away from me in the fictional world of Ponty Pandy.
I think it’s fair to say I have fallen head over heels in love with Screencheat and I think anyone who grew up with Timesplitters, Golden Eye or Halo would do the same. It comes complete with online and offline play, a challenging solo mode and more weapons, modes and maps than some AAA shooters. Filled with a goofy, whimsical sense of humour that’s at stark contrast to the intense and taxing game play, it flies the face of conventional first-person-shooters – to me, Screencheat is a revelation. When reviewing games, I often criticise them for aspects that I think are poorly designed or didn’t quite work but for Screencheat, that list is empty. If I was being overly critical, I would have demanded some sort of story mode to go with the offline bot battles but being honest with myself, Screencheat doesn’t need it. In my humble opinion, Screencheat is the ultimate party game and damn near essential for late 80’s/early 90’s kids that grew up as Screen Watching scum bags like myself – hence, I am about to do something I have never done before… Screencheat earns my first ever 10/10 score.
Screencheat is available now on PC via Steam, PS4 (version reviewed) and Xbox One for £11.99.
Disclaimer: In order to complete this review, we were provided with a review code by Stride PR.