Plain Sight Review

This beautiful, gravity-defying multiplayer action game is a robot-killing blast.

Plain Sight is a game about self-destructive robots banging into each other in low-gravity levels fashioned after cassette tapes, pirate ships, and pocket watches. And if that isn't enough to pique your interest, then consider this: It's also a ton of fun. This multiplayer-focused action game is a chaotic hoot, filled with cel-shaded robots zooming about beautiful minimalist environments. In fact, the frantic pace and flighty targeting can sometimes lead to a bit too much chaos, making it tough to tell exactly what's going on, let alone respond to it. For the most part, however, the dizzying pace is an absolute joy. Plain Sight is an elegant and rewarding game that serves as a reminder that the sweetest pleasures are often the simplest.

Excuse me, I have to go. Somewhere there is a crime happening.
Excuse me, I have to go. Somewhere there is a crime happening.

The anarchy begins with a simple move: dashing. By holding down the left mouse button and then releasing it, you will dash forward. This is a good evasive move, but it's also key to an offensive strike because holding the mouse button down will also lock on to an enemy in your field of vision. As long as your target remains within view and within range (in plain sight, if you will), your katana-wielding robot smashes into its clanking victim when you release the mouse button. This destroys your victim, and lets you suck up all of his stored energy. That energy may eventually translate to points, but only if you're willing to make the ultimate sacrifice: suicide. The energy you accumulate only does you good when you blow yourself up and, hopefully, take down your enemies in your blast. The more energy you've stored up and the more zippy bots caught in your explosion, the more points you earn for upgrades. After each death, you apply these points to various enhancements to your jumping skills, your dash power, and so on. Then, you respawn and do it all over again.

Such a dry description doesn't do Plain Sight's moment-to-moment gameplay a bit of justice, however. Game arenas float in space like freaky deformed planets with stairways that lead to more stairways while you and your foes dash and triple-jump about like overcaffeinated toasters with legs. That every object exerts a gravitational pull further contributes to the fury. You cannot fall off any map--gravity will always pull you back. Using gravity to your advantage, you can circle about various objects for any number of seconds, trying to keep a surface between you and your foes by staying constantly on the move. Some of the maps make absolutely brilliant use of the force exerted upon you. On one map, for example, an inner object pulls every player to the center, while peripheral platforms offer a chance for respite. It's wonderful chaos to be flung about space with a dozen or more other players or AI-controlled bots; explosions and trails are everywhere while you slam into your victims and catch them in your suicidal detonation. Because you earn points by detonating, you perpetually need to fight the urge to accumulate just a bit more energy, which leads to a bigger blast radius and more points. Of course, the longer you cling to life, the greater the chance that you will end up feeding the energy accrued to your next assassin. This points mechanic throws in a welcome sense of tension amongst the freewheeling fun.

Dead or alive, you're coming with me.
Dead or alive, you're coming with me.

Plain Sight's greatest asset--this breakneck tempo--also happens to be its primary flaw. The madness of robots, robots everywhere is hugely entertaining, but you don't always feel completely in control. You automatically target whomever the game wants you to target. This keeps the pace moving because you never have to fiddle with manual targeting, but with bots flying every which way, you aren't guaranteed to lock on to anyone, let alone a specific target. This can lead to some camera flipping and random dashing as you try to get your next hapless victim in your view or simply try to come to grips with the gravitational pull of multiple objects at once. Nevertheless, it doesn't take too long to wrap your head around Plain Sight's quirky rules. Once you get a feel for the pull of gravity and the way you latch on to vertical surfaces, your twitch skills will rise to the occasion. Soon, you'll be soaring through the abstract skies and zooming toward enemies at screaming speeds and only occasionally getting flustered by the bedlam.

Deathmatch and Team Deathmatch modes offer a great way to enjoy all this chaos. In fact, the speedy nature of the gameplay is a perfect fit for these tried-and-true modes, which allow you to zip around without worry of additional objectives. You can also try your hand at Capture the Flag, though it's the other two modes that bear special mention. Ninja! Ninja! Botzilla! is an all-versus-one mode in which one player starts at gargantuan size with a Godzilla mask on his or her head, and the others repeatedly slam into the superpowered Botzilla, whittling his size down with each successful smash. This can be a lot of fun, though because your sights are set on a single player, you don't get the pandemonium that makes Plain Sight so special. (Granted, it's a ton of fun to be Botzilla and slash away at the little bots that hound you.) Lighten Up mode is a King of the Hill variant in which players compete to see who can set off the largest explosion in a particular location. While it can be tricky to maneuver to a very specific platform, this is Plain Sight at its best: absolute mayhem. Ostensibly, you can check the in-game leaderboards to see how you stack up to others, at least in the Steam version of the game, but as of this writing, the leaderboard screen never got past the "looking for entries" indicator.

They'll fix you. They'll fix everything.
They'll fix you. They'll fix everything.

Plain Sight pairs its insane speed with a beautiful visual style, in which rich, bold colors provide a galactic backdrop to the sterile constructs on which you run and tumble. Players leave behind them vivid trails that indicate the amount of energy they've hoarded, and foes explode in a flashy twinkle of glittering stars. Even the platform you land on glows in the same hue as your trail, and the resulting look is crisp and colorful but never so busy as to be distracting. The jaunty jazz of the menu screens might lead you to believe that Plain Sight will sport a similarly catchy audio design, but the sound is minimal. Yet while the sound effects harbor no surprises, there are minor delights in the clink-clink of your ninja robot prancing across a platform and the joyous grunts he occasionally emits.

Plain Sight is a cheerful flight of fancy. Things can get a bit messy, but that's a forgivable side effect of a game that is all wonderful madness. While there aren't great hordes of people playing online, you can practice against bots if you have trouble finding a match, and bot play is almost as much fun as competing against humans. Plain Sight is available on Steam and other digital distribution outlets and offers as much pure fun as you could expect for $9.99.

The Good
Speedy gameplay is pure, frenzied fun
The use of gravity is a great twist
Clever points system makes you weigh risks versus rewards
Striking visual style
The Bad
Things can get too busy for their own good
Broken Steam leaderboards
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About the Author

Kevin VanOrd has a cat named Ollie who refuses to play bass in Rock Band.

Plain Sight More Info

  • First Released Apr 5, 2010
    • PC
    Plain Sight is a multiplayer arcade game set across 13 space-themed maps and features a unique twist on the standard Deathmatch mechanic.
    Average Rating108 Rating(s)
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    Developed by:
    Beatnik Games
    Published by:
    Beatnik Games
    Action, Beat-'Em-Up, 3D