Screen cheating. We’ve all done it. If you try to say otherwise, you’re a dirty stinking liar. It’s nothing to be ashamed of either – win at all costs, right? I’ll happily admit that I’ve had the upper hand in split-screen deathmatches with friends in games like GoldenEye, Timesplitters and Halo: Combat Evolved thanks to taking the occasional glance at my opponent’s screen. I did it then and I’d do it now, I’m not ashamed!
Imagine my pleasure then that a game would be released based entirely around the concept of screen cheating. The aptly named Screencheat has you take on friends in split-screen first person shooter battles. There’s a big twist though – you’re all invisible and the only way to find out where your opponents are is by looking at their screen. All those years of screen cheating will finally pay off…
It’s such an ingenious concept – I’m actually surprised no other developer has done it sooner. In order to help you out Screencheat’s maps are made up of bright colours with plenty of unique objects to identify in the environment. Does one of your opponents have a lot of blue on their screen? Head over to the blue room and take them out. Is another one of your opponents lingering around an oddly shaped statue? Unleash hell on that statue. Always remember though – your friends are going to be screen cheating too. You’ve got to keep moving and try to not to stay in one place too long or someone is going to hunt you down. It’s hectic and you’ll constantly be on edge, but at least you’ll be having a damn good time.
The game allows up to four players on local play and up to eight players if you take it online. To get the most out of the game ideally need a minimum of three players. I tried it one on one and it was a lot less exciting with both of us constantly in pursuit of one another. The game saw us competing in a blind shootout as opposed to using detective skills to pursue one another. At the same time having eight players going at it all at once was outright insane – it’s difficult enough keeping on eye on three extra screens, let alone seven!
Of course, one of the most important aspects of a first person shooter is its tools of killing. Thankfully, Screencheat has a great repertoire of weapons, all requiring just one shot to slay your foes. There’s the blunderbuss, the ideal weapon to take out foes from a mid-ranged distance. It’s dependable, easy to use and doesn’t give away your position. Alternatively you could use the modified car engine that blasts out energy balls. That’s right – we’ve gone from using a traditional blunderbuss to inflicting hell on foes with a car engine in the space of one sentence. Screencheat is full of crazy weapons that are great fun to use, my favourite being the hobbyhorse that allows you to mow down foes with a ‘galloping’ steed. Be aware though – some of these weapons will give away your position. You might feel unstoppable riding your hobbyhorse, but you’ll leave a detectable stream of flames behind you each time you attack.
You’re given the option to choose exactly what weapon you want to use at the start of each round and each have their advantages. Some work well from a distance, others up close. It’s up to you to play around with them and see what you like best. Developers Samurai Punk have done a good job of making each weapon feel fun to use though, so you’re onto a winner whatever you go with.
Seeing how Screencheat depends on you working out your opponents location based entirely on looking at their screen, it’s very important that the game actually features good maps. Fortunately each of the eleven maps is great fun to play on, sending you up, down, over and under across stages that whilst simple in design have been carefully crafted to suit the game’s concept. You’ll battle across museums, temples, mountains – you’ll even defy gravity in a space themed level. Each level is full of colour specific areas and unique objects, making it a lot easier to find and take out your opponents.
Because of the nature of the game and the need for colour specific areas, Screencheat isn’t one of the prettiest games to look at. It doesn’t look bad by any means, but there’s not a whole ton of detail in each level and model designs are very simplistic. It’s understandable that the game has a simple aesthetic given that it depends so much on you recognising your opponent’s surroundings – those looking for a more graphically impressive multiplayer first person shooter will want to stick to Call Of Duty though.
Screencheat features nine game modes including the likes of ‘Deathmatch’, king of the hill variant ‘Hillcampers’, ‘Capture The Fun’ that replaces the traditional flag with a piñata and ‘One Shot’ that allows each player only one life per round. There are also a few unique game modes on offer, my favourites being the Cluedo themed ‘Murder Mystery’ mode and the point collecting ‘Gold Rush’
In ‘Murder Mystery’ you’re given a mansion and a set of objectives that require you to murder opponents by specific means. Will it be Green with the candlestick? Or maybe Blue with the hobbyhorse? It’s a neat game mode that fits in perfectly with the chaotic vibe of Screencheat. ‘Gold Rush’ mode tasks you with grabbing all the coins on a map in ninety seconds and then staying alive before the round ends. You’ll have a ton of fun in ‘Gold Rush’, and the focus on surviving rather than killing certainly amps up the pressure – you’ll be constantly looking at your opponent’s screen, but this time to make sure they aren’t pursuing you!
Whilst Screencheat offers crazy weapons, great maps and unique game modes, you need a good group of friends around you to get the most out of the game. Whilst I did have fun playing the online modes it certainly wasn’t as fun as playing locally with friends – all whilst dishing out the trash talk and trying to put everyone off with random screams and threats. You can also play on your own against bots, but knowing that there’s an AI working against you as opposed to a set of eyes takes away a ton of the joy from the game. I loved the uncertainty of hunting down a player by looking at their screen and not knowing if anyone else was looking at my screen – you won’t believe the chaos that ensues when three of you are hunting down one player at the same time unknowingly! Screencheat offers the sort of fun that’s best shared with three friends around one screen.
If you’ve got a group of three friends together all downing some beers and munching some food, adding Screencheat to the mix makes for an amazing time. Seriously – it’s one of the craziest and most enjoyable local multiplayer experiences I’ve ever had. It’s chaotic, it’s expletive inducing, it’s nerve wracking, but most importantly it’s a damn good time.
If you’re playing it solo you’ll have a whole different experience. Screencheat has been designed from the ground up to be enjoyed locally with a group of friends, and even though there are bot battles on offer I’d never really recommend it. If you’ve got friends to play with or are even willing to spend time looking at online player’s screens you’re going to have a blast with Screencheat – if you’re playing alone though you might want to play something else.
– A fantastic concept that is great fun with three friends
– Crazy weapons, including the deadly hobbyhorse
– Great map designs that really suit the gameplay style
– Plenty of unique game modes including the Cluedo inspired ‘Murder Mystery’
– The game isn’t as fun when not played in local multiplayer
Developer: Samurai Punk (www.samuraipunk.com)
Publisher: Surprise Attack (www.surpriseattackgames.com)
Release Date: 01/03/2016 (Playstation 4, Xbox One) 21/10/2014 (PC, Mac, Linux)
Format(s): Playstation 4 (Reviewed) Xbox One, PC, Mac, Linux