It used to be that if you wanted to play a game with other people, you’d all have to gather around one TV. This led to a plethora of problems; it was hard to see what was going on sometimes, figuring out which screen you were on initially didn’t always go well, and everyone cheated by looking at each other’s screen. Looking at the other screens gave you key information while hunting down your mates/siblings and often resulted in people hiding by looking at the floor.
Now don’t get me wrong, I love online gaming, I love the convenience and the freedom immensely. The loss of split-screen gaming kind of sucks though, which is why it is always nice when games include it in this modern era. What is even better is when a game is specifically designed to be played locally. Nothing beats crushing your friends in real life, then making the loser buy pizza for the rest of the group.
Games like Towerfall, Nidhogg, and Crawl all capture this feeling pretty well, but only Screencheat captures the FPS gaming of old. Screencheat – which is now out for Switch as Screencheat: Unplugged – is a first-person shooter filled with bright vibrantly coloured areas, weird and wonderful weapons, and literally invisible characters. Yup, completely invisible.
The natural reaction to this information is, “How the hell am I meant to shoot my friends if I can’t see them?” This is where Screencheat shows off its frankly brilliant premise. The reason that the areas of each level are brightly coloured is so that you can track down where the other players are. The best way to find each other is by looking at each other’s screens. Only then can you accurately hunt your impossible to spot prey, only then can you rack up the kills you need to win the day.
The only other way you can see people is if they try to kill you off. There are a variety of weapons to choose from, but each one comes with a visual cue that will give away your positions. One of the most fun weapons is a toy horse, which has you charging forwards, destroying anyone in your path but leaving behind a very obvious trail. These are the only ways you can reliably find and beat whoever you have in your match. It is a lot of fun when you get the hang of it.
Naturally there are a few different match types as well. You have your standard ones like deathmatch, but that’s accompanied by more interesting modes which play out like a puzzle game. Hunting down a specific player and trying to kill them with a specific weapon is a really great way of changing the game from a shooter into something a bit different.
The new single player offering in Screencheat: Unplugged is a great introduction to the game and its systems, and it also serves as the best way to unlock the various levels, modes, and weapons that you’ll come to know and love. You make your way through a series of missions, just trying to take out the opposition as quickly as possible. It definitely helps if you aren’t familiar with the idea of screen cheating.
With Unplugged being for Nintendo Switch, there are plenty of reasons to be a little concerned that the game’s split-screen nature won’t play well in handheld or tabletop mode. Despite the size of the screen, it works a lot better than you would think, mainly due to the high contrast visuals. I wouldn’t recommend four people gather around one screen, but it is nice to have the option.
Screencheat is a hit of nostalgia for those who are beginning to feel old, and a fun new way to play for those who aren’t. The stream of unlockables and the chance to constantly try and better your old times are a good reason to play on your own, but the game is definitely at its best when played with friends. Screencheat: Unplugged is a fantastic addition to any game night, and will often serve up some genuinely funny moments between friends.