Today I’ve been served a stark reminder that I am getting old. It wasn’t when I got stuck attempting to tie my shoes, neither was it when I stayed up until 2am and felt ill for the next 3 days. No, this reminder was nicely presented by Plain Sight, an ultra fast-paced multiplayer romp from newcomers Beatnik Games. The revelation of inadequacy came at the hands of my fifth straight defeat, not even close to the middle of the leaderboards. Some coffee and Pro-plus were required to crack this nut. With palpitations and sweaty palms I dove once more into the fray.
Neon acrobatic ninja robots with katanas, fight on mind-bending and physics defying levels. Players gain energy for killing their opponents, but this means nothing unless the energy is converted into points by killing yourself in a fiery explosion, with extra points being awarded if you blow up other players! Those converted points in turn unlock research points which can be spent upgrading your robots attributes, making you a more efficient ass-kicking machine. The winner is the player with the most converted points at the end of a set time period. The more energy you have collected, the bigger you become. A lucky run of 5 kills could make you a 100ft ninja monster, easily spotted but lethal. I’m fully aware that last paragraph didn’t make a lot of sense… I’ve tried refining it but it’s no use, this game is madness!
But what’s harder to express is the amount of charm this game oozes. From the film noir inspired menus (suave music included) to the game’s clean, distinguished lines with neon tinges, which bring a funky, Tron-esque edge to the experience. These small touches from the neon trails from your ninja to the clanking sounds of their robot feet, all add up to a very unique looking game. It’s a small shame that there’s no music while playing, some electronica or techno would suit the mood to give the game a bit more atmosphere, however as audio cues are heavily utilised, this is probably a good thing. If you do want something playing in the background, there’s always the MLG Podcast eh?
From a quick glance it could be said that this is a simple game, but looking deeper reveals fiendish strategy and surprising depth. As I mentioned before, the energy you collect from fallen enemies doesn’t count towards your overall score unless you kill yourself in an explosion, with multipliers awarded if you kill another player in the blast. And there lies the agonising choice; should you kill yourself early guaranteeing you a small amount of points or hold out for a few kills to net more points, running the high risk of getting robbed by another player. Another depth is your upgrades, coming as they do in three categories: attack, defence and manoeuvrability, each with three different upgradable abilities. Each player can have a different upgrade path, you can sample the lower level upgrades for few points to get a general upgrade in your abilities, or you can specialise in one field to get a mega-perk that greatly enhances that field.
At launch there are 5 different game modes: Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, Capture The Flag, Lighten Up and Ninja! Ninja! Botzilla! (similar to King of the Hill). More modes are promised by Beatnik, and PC users are ensured they will not be left in the cold when Plain Sight hits consoles further down the line. These included modes seem varied enough to give a different experience but it doesn’t change the core mechanic of the game too much, it’ll certainly be interesting to see what the team bring with any new modes in development.
So, in a nutshell, Plain Sight is a bit of a madman. The frantic fluid acrobatics punctuated with the odd katana in the back makes for a fun, occasionally frustrating, game. The first couple of playing hours are a steep learning curve, but when you get to know your bot, you’ll be flipping backwards over a skyscraper in hot pursuit of your enemies, and more importantly looking good while doing it. This has charm and innovation in a somewhat stagnant multiplayer arena scene, with the added Brucie Bonus being the title’s very reasonable price.
Perhaps the best part of the whole outing is that Beatnik Games have concentrated on what they do well and it’s almost noble that their pure vision of fun gameplay has been the upmost importance. It would’ve been so tempting to try to bolt on a poor single player experience to try to convert this into a full-priced title, but instead Beatnik have stuck to their guns admirably, stressing importance on the basic core experience. With any luck Plain Sight will attain the sucess it clearly deserves, but in any case, we’re very much looking forward to see what this promising team does next…
MLG Rating: 8/10
Platform: PC Release Date: 05/04/2010
Disclosure: Midlife Gamer were provided a digital copy of Plain Sight for review purposes by the promoter. The title was reviewed over the course of five days on a gaming-spec PC. For more information on what our scores mean, plus details of our reviews policy, click here.