Every now and then a game comes along that takes a pop at the mainstream – offering a deliberately twisted take on a popular genre. At the moment, games like Gunscape, the upcoming Superhot and now Screencheat are taking aim at the First Person Shooter, tearing it down and rebuilding it – quite literally in the case of Gunscape – in a unique way.
Where Gunscape hits FPS hard with the Minecraft hammer and Superhot uses the flow of time to create a brilliantly strategic experience, Screencheat‘s conceit rolls us back to the heyday of couch multiplayer shooters. Screen cheating is the diabolical tactic of identifying your foe’s whereabouts by looking at their half or quarter of the screen during split screen play. Screen cheating is something that everyone has been guilty of at one time or another – it’s the cause of many an argument, cushion to the face, unplugged controller, dead arm or worse.
Australian Developer Surprise Attack Games has taken this outlawed – but virtually impossible to prevent – tactic and built an entire game around it. To succeed in Screencheat you have to screen cheat; in a game in which everyone is invisible, looking at your foe’s portion of the screen is the only way to pinpoint them!
Screencheat was born out of the Global Game Jam 2014 and is developed by a three-man team. It launched on PC back in October and then followed on consoles at the beginning of March.
This game brings back memories of shooters from a bygone era, boasting 11 multi-floored maps, air vents that shoot payers around the map rapidly, and moving platforms galore. The nooks and crannies in each map make for absolute blood baths – Screencheat rounds are lightning and kills come rapidly. The look and feel matches the ridiculous gameplay – this game doesn’t aim to be the next Call of Duty or Halo, so we shouldn’t treat it as such – with goofy animations, weapons and rag-dolls.
Maps are brightly and distinctly coloured – by employing brightly coloured areas your foe’s rough location can be identified instantly – just as yours is apparent to them! Verticality is a significant feature on nearly every map – with vents and trampolines sending you skyward and offering a bird’s eye view before sending you plummeting downwards once again. There’s no fall damage, keeping things simple. Kill or be killed.
The nine game modes help flesh out the game, offering variants on staples like Deathmatch and King of the Hill, while Murder Mystery mode – in which you must kill a specific person with a specific weapon – owes more than a tip of the hat to any number of VIP game modes.
Talking of weapons, Screencheat also has 10 bizarre weapons to switch between, including melee and ranged weapons, each as bonkers as the last! Our favourite is most definitely the Hobby Horse melee weapon with which you ride the toy horse whilst holding a toy sword and then thrust it into your invisible opponent’s body! Awesome!
Screencheat has both an online and offline multiplayer mode – however several days after release it is still rather difficult finding anyone but bots to play with online. The offline mode though is great fun with a friend or two and – if you don’t have any – then the bots don’t actually seem to be that stupid! There’s also a time trial mode in which a single player must kill all the bots that are wandering the map in a set time in order to achieve the medal on offer in that level.
The real brilliance in this game is its simplicity – the genius of taking such an abhorrent practice and making it the game’s central mechanic is not lost on anyone who remembers those early days of split screen FPS games. Screencheat is, without question, an undeniably fun way to pass a few hours with friends. Whilst the game makes a decent stab at playing nice with the friendless, through online matchmaking and single player modes, these do feel a little tacked-on for the sake of commercial viability.
Take Screencheat as it’s intended, though – a local multiplayer romp going long on accessibility and fun and short on serious – and you will enjoy its ridiculous nature to the full. Best played with friends, best played for fun and, dare we say it, best played for some real-world forfeit (shots, chocolate or household chores). Screencheat is a riot. Brilliantly accessible and brilliantly simple. Don’t expect to rank up, don’t expect to prestige, don’t expect to unlock new weapons that your buddies don’t have and don’t expect your reward for winning to be anything other than insults hurled from across the room.
If you are looking for a break from your regular shooters and are looking for something that is a bit of fun as a change then for £11.99 from the Xbox Store this may not be a bad call.
Undenaibly fun with friends, but a poor choice for the singleton.
100% one for nostalgia seekers with its goofy graphics, crazy weapons and multiple game modes, Screencheat is brilliantly simple and accessible. Whilst the central conceit may wear off over time, with some local friends to play with you’ll definitely have some fun.
Single player modes offer only mild distraction, whilst (for us) online matchmaking performed poorly.