Your new favourite party game?
Originally published December 27, 2018 at Doublejump.co
Screencheat: Unplugged makes a great first impression. A joyful, goofy, colourful aesthetic and a light, bouncy jazz soundtrack, it’s meant to put you in a good mood. That first chaotic match is the same, immediately full of sudden screams and flailing as the party gradually and messily grasp what’s going on, cheering as you shoot empty space with a musket and actually hit someone.
It’s a shame that this high doesn’t last long.
Developed by Aussie studio Samurai Punk, Screencheat: Unplugged is a first-person shooter where every player is invisible and is killed in a single hit. To win, you have to ‘screencheat’, watching the split-screen segments of the other players to figure out their location before they figure out yours. Think split-screen GoldenEye except you’re all invisible and everyone’s that dick who says they aren’t cheating but totally are.
Screencheat‘s genius really comes from its simplicity, which lets the game focus squarely on its namesake.
In Screencheat, the actual ‘shooting’ is boiled down into its simplest form: you can turn around, walk, jump, shoot, and that’s it. Each weapon feels distinct and satisfying to use and, using a Pro controller or dual joy-cons, natural and intuitive. The Switch’s HD Rumble is used well and weaved through every aspect of the gameplay. Using a single Joy-Con, however, is worth a couple of paragraphs on its own.
Compared to the other control set-ups, using a single Joy-Con is very different. The left analogue stick still controls your movement but the player’s direction and turning is controlled by a mix of the face buttons and the Joy-Con’s motion controls. B and X (or the left Joy-Con equivalents) turn you left and right, A (bottom face button) jumps and Y (top button) resets your camera to face straight ahead, essentially leaving motion controls to control your up and down direction. It’s an unwieldy but surprisingly elegant solution once you have the hang of it, but it’s best as a self-imposed handicap.
No matter what, playing Screencheat with a single Joy-Con is a cramped and clumsy mess where you can barely control your direction let alone aim your weapon. It’s phenomenal. Especially for playing against folks who either don’t game or barely game at all, using a single Joy-Con keeps the experience a chaotically fun, loud, fumbling mess of an even playing field.
With this Nintendo Switch port, Screencheat: Unplugged also sees a major upgrade in visuals and audio, updating the entire aesthetic to capture an eccentric, attractive party feel. Samurai Punk has given its title a brighter, more vibrant and eye-catching look, each map, weapon and ragdoll overflowing with loud, saturated colour. Sound effects pop, energize and motivate – exactly how you want it – and the light, fun vibe of the new jazz-infused electro soundtrack matches the manic energy of the game itself. Aesthetically, Unplugged is pitch-perfect.
Unplugged also includes a bunch of single-player time trials, which are a fine distraction if little else. They’re brief little tests of your screen-cheating skills that award very little EXP towards that next unlock, regardless of how successful you are.
On that note, if Unplugged gets almost everything right, it’s the snail-paced progression that almost kills it.