Review: Screencheat (PS4)

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Title: Screencheat
Format: PlayStation Network Download (1.78 GB)
Release Date: March 1, 2016
Publisher: Surprise Attack Games
Developer: Samurai Punk
Original MSRP: $14.99
ESRB Rating: E10+
Screencheat is also available on Xbox One, PC, Mac, and Linux.
The PlayStation 4 download version was used for this review.
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy

Gameplay:
Back in the 90’s before there was easy access to the internet, multiplayer games were enjoyed locally and for a lot of gamers this is where their favorite multiplayer memories were formed. When I was a kid Goldeneye 64 was the pinnacle of split screen multiplayer and countless hours were spent accusing each other of looking at another’s screen.

After a couple years, split screen multiplayer fell by the wayside as online multiplayer made strides and became the standard. Recently, local multiplayer and split screen action have made a comeback and that brings us to today and a little game called Screencheat.

It’s a first person shooter in the vein of 90’s shooters, but the hook is that everyone in the game is invisible. Now while that may sound odd it actually makes for a fun and interesting take on the genre.

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Because everyone is invisible the game forces you to rely on looking at your opponent’s screen to figure out where they are. The game is split screen offline up to four players locally or eight players online. After many years of trying not to look at another player’s screen, here’s a game that requires players to break the split screen “code of honor” and peer at the other screens.

The gun-play is just as out there as the game’s concept. The arsenal leans towards wacky and dumb, but that good kind of dumb. The ten weapons vary from a candelabra or a toy horse to a more traditional shotgun-like weapon.

Each weapon is a one shot kill so the pace tends to be fast and every move important. Usually with one shot kills a player might want to move slow and attempt to be accurate, but since moving slow could reveal your position constant movement is a necessity.

It takes some time getting used to the idea that you have to look at your opponent’s screen. Years of trying not to do that made it quite difficult to break that habit. Success will not come by focusing on your character and you will need to look at all your opponents at all times and figure out their position.

… pleasantly surprised with the variety …
To help players determine locations the game cleverly sticks to basic colors by having a map divided into four colors that make pinpointing locations slightly easier. Once everyone in a game gets into the swing of things the fun begins.

Map designs are simple with some weirdness thrown in to keep things interesting. I do not have a favorite of the ten maps included in the game as none of them really stood out for me.

That is not to say there are any bad maps, as I never once have rolled my eyes when a map has come up in rotation, but when I did play I never felt the need to pick out a specific one to succeed.

When it comes to the game modes in Screencheat I was pleasantly surprised with the variety and how much I enjoyed even the weirder one. There is the expected Deathmatch and even a Search and Destroy-like mode where you plant a bomb on an opponent’s base while defending your own. Outside of the standard Deathmatch variants I had the most fun with Hillcampers, Murder Mystery and Capture the Fun.

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Hillcampers is a fast paced King of the Hill mode where the task is to stand in a moving target for forty seconds. This one is easy for players at any skill level to understand and a great way to learn the maps in the game.

The target will only stay in a specific area for a short period of time so it is easy to regroup and explore the map. I found Hillcampers to be an easy game for everyone to understand and welcoming to new players since it does not rely too much on shooting.

Murder Mystery is a quirky mode that gives each player three cards. One card shows your target, the second card shows which gun to use, and the third gives a point value. This requires a more strategic mindset because in order to achieve maximum points the cards need to be followed exactly. The game does not do a great job explaining the rules, but it is easy to figure out and can be fun and a very different experience compared to the other game types.

The last standout for me was Capture the Fun. The objective is simply find the pinata and hold it for eighty seconds. While holding the pinata you are unable to use your weapon and are made visible thanks to the colorful pinata leaving a confetti trail wherever you run. This mode is silly and damn fun and became a go to mode when showing people the game. It is a hectic game of “tag” or “it” but now in video game form.

… no incentive to level up …
And finally, something I found useful was the Timed Trials section which consists of solo timed missions where the object is to destroy A.I. bots. There are medals assigned to clearing a level in a specific time, but what this mode is really best at is training players to look at other screens.

As I mentioned before it is difficult to break the habit of only looking at your character, but the Timed Trials section forces you to look at the other screens to kill bots and better your time. So if you find yourself getting destroyed in competitive play, give this mode a try.

The modes are simple which is fine but there is not a lot of depth, which could lead to a quick burnout time for some. There is no incentive to level up even though there are player levels. And if you do not have anyone to play with offline or online there is little reason to play the game even with the Timed Trials unless you want a couple trophies.

Visuals:
The art design is really simple. The maps are relatively bare with only a few objects filling rooms and hallways. Textures and surfaces appear smooth and plain, but it is all made that way to serve the game’s concept.

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Players need to be capable of easily figuring out another player’s location on the map and keeping things simple makes that easier. The game is bright and colorful while still only using a limited number of colors and again it’s all in service of the core design.

There is not a lot going on in the art department, but that is as designed in order to make the game more accessible. It is meant to look like an old school first person shooter from the 90’s and 00’s and it nails that aspect of its design.

Audio:
I had issues remembering the game’s soundtrack and before I wrote this section of the review I had to load the game back up and give the soundtrack another listen. After listening to the game for awhile I enjoyed what I heard.

I thank that I couldn’t remember much of the soundtrack I played a good chunk of this game with friends locally. Doing so meant that there was too much chatter happening to actually listen to the music. The soundtrack is filled with poppy instrumentals reminiscent of games of the 1980’s and 1990’s. It is a good listen, but something that might be overlooked.

… a perfect party game …
Online/Multiplayer:
Screencheat is meant to be played with others and is best done locally where the game can be enjoyed by four players. It can also be played online with up to eight players.

I found eight players to be a little much since focusing on eight different screens can be overwhelming and chaotic even while I was playing on a 55 and a 40 inch television. Online play up to eight players might be a challenge for smaller TVs and the community might agree as I was rarely able to fill an eight player game.

The online experience was rather smooth and the game is customizable to your liking. I was able to jump into online games with little wait and if there were not enough players to fill a match those spots were taken by bots.

The game also does a nice job replacing players in match that quit with a bot. And as an added bonus you can take your local group into online games with you.

I was surprised how good the experience was but it did not compare to local play. The mechanics are the same, but something about playing against strangers and bots could not compare to what the game is meant for and that is local play.

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Conclusion:
Screencheat is wacky and dumb in all the best ways. It is a fast paced and simple game that when done locally really shines. The game shows some cracks in replayability when played by one person.

While online play is there to help keep this game afloat when there is no one locally I have doubts there will be an online community there to keep me or anyone else coming back.

This is a perfect party game and something that can be enjoyed by both experienced and novice players. Its wackiness has a lot of charm, but its simple nature could be a double edged sword.

Score:
7.5

* All screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Share functionality on the PlayStation 4.

Written by Michael Cwick

Michael Cwick

Just a nerd from the Windy City. I’m actually really bad at describing myself because I get all self-critical and self-conscious. Follow me on Twitter, @The1stMJC, to see my borderline insane rants on tv shows and other non important subjects. If I’m not tweeting I’m probably just watching Buffy or Firefly for the millionth time.

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