Striking is the word that comes to mind. Both in visual style and gameplay, striking is a word that pretty much encapsulates Plain Sight. It’s a multiplayer game with a fairly simple, if unusual, concept – playing as ninja robots (which alone is a hybrid that automatically makes the game 15.8% more awesome) you gain points by killing other players. So far, so straightforward. However, to actually convert those kills into a cold hard score, you have to kill yourself by self destructing.
Despite the concept being fairly easy to understand, there’s even more surprising depth to these rules. Players are rewarded for kills by making them more powerful but at the same time making them bigger targets. In addition, catching anyone in your self destruction multiplies your score banked for every other competitor caught in the blast, making when you choose to detonate all the more important than if. There’s also the small matter of movement. Controls are very simple, having only one attack button to worry about. However, holding down your attack key will lock onto any opponent in sight and cause you to dash towards them when you release it. The longer you hold the button down, the further you go. Combine this with some well timed jumping and clever use of the shift key – which forces you down towards the nearest surface – you can perform some impressively acrobatic manoeuvres. As the levels are all constructs with no one definitive definition of which way is up, battles are often as frantic as they are impressive to witness.
As I said at the start of this review, it’s a striking game to look at, but these screenshots really don’t do justice to seeing the game in action. A definitive visual style with shades of Tron is apparent, with trails coming from both yourself and opponents while a distinctive mixture of cool and cute has been achieved with the robots themselves. The levels themselves are largely made out of abstract shapes with a few treats including one arena being a giant robot. Luckily it itself doesn’t decide to stab you in the back while you’re not looking. However for all the game’s unique visual stylings, occasionally it can still be slightly disorientating to new players and tough to figure out what’s going on.
It’s certainly a hurdle worth getting over though, as once you’ve got the hang of it Plain Sight is fast and furious fun, providing several gamemodes to further shake up the experience including capture the flag. But some are weaker than others – namely Robozilla, in which one player is made the massively powerful and enormous Robozilla (complete with comedy angry lizard head) and the others must form a shaky alliance to bring him down. The main problem is that Robozilla is a little too strong, and the game seems to lose something when there’s only truly one target to go for.
One really nice touch in Plain Sight is the upgrade system: netting points also bags you upgrade points that allow you to improve your player in various ways, such as speed, getting a shield or making your explosion timer shorter (crucial for when you want to bank those points before someone else takes you out). These upgrades are organised into trees, upon reaching the end of each gives an even greater power boost, but forces players to specialize their playstyle in order to reach the upper branches. This really encourages players to find their preferred playstyle and stick at it within a game. But these changes only remain per round, so players still have the flexibility to adapt and adjust in later matches as they see fit. Throw in additional powerups such as flaming sword and stealth, and you realize there’s far more to Plain Sight than just clicking frantically towards an opponent.
But overall, you want to know if Plain Sight is any good. There are no truly persistent stats aside from the achievements on the Steam version, and the game is currently rather difficult to play with friends, as there is no ability to add friends in game nor can you currently join a friend playing through Steam. These mean the game loses a bit of the immediacy if you want to say, play a quick game with friends which are features sorely missing. Leaderboards are coming, but they’re not implemented yet. However, the game itself is straightforward to grasp while difficult to master, and provides some frantic fun, once you’ve got your head around it. As long as Beatnik Games keep up the post-release support with new content – there’s been a patch already adding a new map and new achievements, so signs are promising – Plain Sight is well worth the punt.