Plain Sight Hands-On

We delve into a world filled with kamikaze robots and arcade-style deathmatch action in Beatnik Game's latest multiplayer game.

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If there's one thing the gaming world is missing, it's samurai-sword-swinging ninja robots. Thanks to the efforts of indie developer Beatnik Games, that void is set to be filled with its latest multiplayer deathmatch creation, Plain Sight. With nods to the madcap level design of Mario Galaxy, to the control systems of flight simulators, and to the addictive point scoring of classic arcade games, Plain Sight wears its influences on its sleeve. Despite this, Beatnik Games has crafted a game that feels wholly original, with a unique visual style and a just-one-more-go quality.

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Plain Sight puts you in control of a robot named El Mono, whose sole aim in life is to destroy other robots. Destroying them nets you points, which in turn makes you bigger, stronger, and generally more badass. However, those points don't count towards your score until you commit mechanical suicide and detonate your robot. If another player destroys you beforehand, you'll lose all your points. This simple mechanic gives the game a strategical twist, and you have to decide whether to squirrel away your points for a larger score or detonate more often after a few kills. There are other considerations too; saving up points makes your final detonation more powerful, meaning you can take other robots down with you, but it also makes you bigger and an easier target for others. There is also an upgrade system which allows you to augment your robot with power-ups such as shields, double-jumps, and faster lock-on times. Upgrades cost a certain number of experience points, which you're awarded after each detonation.

Combat takes place on spherical structures floating in space, and you're able to affix yourself to any side. Controls are a simple affair, using the now standard W, A, S, and D keys for movement. However, combat is a little more unconventional. You launch into the air by jumping, and once there, you target other robots with the mouse. Spotting enemies is made easier by brightly coloured trails which follow them around as they jump. These are colour coded according to how many points they have, so you can decide whether to pick off the weak robots or go after the high-scoring strong ones. Once you have an enemy in your sights, a reticle appears around him, which changes colour to red to indicate you're locked on. You charge up your energy by holding down the left mouse button, and then you release it to see your robot fly towards the enemy like a missile. By chaining several attacks together you're able to stay in the air for long periods of time amassing points. We found it incredibly addictive in practice, and a sudden death just before we cashed in our points only made us want to exact bloody revenge on our opponents. Though we were able to sample only two maps and standard Deathmatch, the game will ship with 13 maps and five different modes. These include standards such as Team Deathmatch and Capture the Flag, as well as more esoteric modes such as Ninja! Ninja! Ninja! Robozilla! where you work together with others to destroy a giant robot Godzilla. Each mode supports up to 20 players, and there is also an offline practice mode where you can perfect your skills against computer-controlled bots before taking the fight online.

By the power of Grayskull!
By the power of Grayskull!

The visuals are a mix of cel-shading and over-the-top colour schemes. The sweeping trails that follow jumping robots create a hypnotic stream of lights, augmented by bright neon flashes from successful kills. Everything is designed with a thick black outline, giving the robots and levels a distinctly cartoon-like look. Structures on maps light up different colours as you land on them, letting competitors know where you are and illuminating the surrounding environment with an effervescent glow. Plain Site is set for release March 22 on the PC, with WiiWare and PSN versions following in 2011.

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