It’s 1997. Your friends are around and GoldenEye is lodged securely in your N64 (where it never leaves anyway). They slot in their controllers and you boot up multiplayer, taking turns to select what weapons and maps you want to play.
As you play through the Facility stage (one of the best), you notice your friend in the toilet vents, so you make a beeline there with a shotgun in hand, ready to blast them in the face as they drop down.
You laugh as they accuse you of ‘screencheating’, because you know you’ll do it again in an instant.
CHEATERS ALWAYS PROSPER
And that brings us to Screencheat: Unplugged, which aims to flesh out this concept into an entire game. There’s no story mode, just four player multiplayer shenanigans where you can see the action from everyone’s perspective.
Not only are you able to screencheat, but you are actively encouraged to. Your opponents are entirely invisible, so if you want to know where people are then you’re going to have to manage both your screen and theirs. It’s a stressful piece of multitasking to be sure, but Samurai Punk pull it off well.
in order to make this feat possible, maps are divided into distinct areas, complete with vivid colours to help set them apart. There are air vents, elevators, ramps, fountains, statues nd the like scattered around too to help narrow down your opponents position. All eleven maps are very well thought out, and none of them are particularly difficult to navigate. Whilst there are probably only a handful that stand out as being exceptional, they’re all a lot of fun and didn’t find a single map that I actually didn’t care for.
It is possible to get by with only minimal screencheating too, since weapons also have telltale signs that give away their position. The blunderbuss fires a powerful slow blast, but the smoking barrel after firing is enough to prove fatal should you miss. The hobby horse, on the other hand, is extremely useful since you charge in a straight line decimating anyone in your path, but that trail it leaves behind will show exactly where you are. All the weapons are useful and feel quite balanced, with most of them being fun to use. And yes, I did say ‘hobby horse’. The weapons here are exquisitely silly, and add to the game’s already daft presentation.
It’s a shame then that when you first load up the game, you’re restricted to a single map, game mode, and weapon. Thankfully, the game has a levelling system that has you unlocking new things after every match or two. Getting new stuff becomes extremely addictive, and there is a lot to unlock: eleven maps, 10 weapons, nine game modes, plus lots of weapons and ragdoll skins – it’s enough to keep you busy for a while.
Whilst the star of the show will be your standard deathmatch, the other game modes you can unlock are also a ton of fun. There are variants of classic game modes such as ‘hold the briefcase’ (in this case a piñata) and an extremely brutal yet very addictive ‘king of the hill’ mode, but there are also some new ones too. One of my favourites was a murder mystery mode that gives you a target and a weapon that you need to pick up to kill them with in order to gain points. The problem is that other people have you as the target, so you need to be constantly on your toes.
Every mode is so much fun that I ended up playing with both maps and modes set to random, as pretty much every one is a winner. Even if there is a map or mode you don’t care for, you can choose to exclude them from the selection. There’s so much on offer here, that it makes Screencheat an almost perfect party game.
The only real issue with the game is also the one thing that is likely going to stop people from buying it: it’s local multiplayer only. Even though you are able to play matches alone with bots, or try your hand at time trials to familiarise yourself with the maps, anyone who doesn’t have friends nearby to play with are going to be in for a real disappointment. Of course, a game like this is far more enjoyable locally considering the whole premise is based on the original couch co-op experience, but it’s also something that could easily have been possible online too. it really is a crying shame too, since the game offers such a variety of content and an immense amount of fun that restricting it to offline play is going to really affect just how much you’ll end up playing the game.
Screencheat: Unplugged takes a great concept for a multiplayer game and infuses it with wackiness, loads of unlocks, and fantastic gameplay. It’s a shame then that it’s restricted to local play only. Having competent bots certainly helps, allowing you to jump in whenever you feel the itch, but the lack of online really hurts the game a lot. At least the game goes on sale for next to nothing, meaning that picking it up regardless is a no-brainer!