Featuring splitscreen gameplay online or in local networks, ScreenCheat is fast-paced and frantic. All players are invisible, but every player can see the other players’ screens, even in online mode. Players are forced to check the other three screens to spot enemy locations, hunt them down and kill them.
It’s a unique concept, especially in a time when splitscreen multiplayer is increasingly rare. Invisible avatars creates a challenge for players, and the small maps keep the action flowing constantly. Splitting your attention across the other screens can be tough, but the game maps are designed to help you narrow in on enemy locations. Every map follows a similar 4 color motif with clearly different sections of unique colors and decoration. You will find onscreen prompts as helpful, as each weapon creates visual queues to help lock onto other players. Even then, it can be difficult to find your target. This creates a frantic atmosphere where everyone is encouraged to remain in motion.
Atmosphere & Music
ScreenCheat only has an online mode and although it features a number of colorful maps, weapons, and rag dolls ,there is not unifying story to explain it. But it really isn’t needed either. The game utilizes bright colors and a cartoon aesthetic to create a bright and fun environment. However, the visuals do seem dated, even accounting for the art style. Small maps with few places to hide keep the gameplay dynamic. ScreenCheat’s score supports this as well, with very upbeat electronic tracks perfect for the speedy gameplay. The only criticism concerning sound is the repetitive announcer commentary. It could use some more variation.
Hardware & Control
ScreenCheat has relatively low system requirements for PC play. Steam recommends A 1.4GHz processor, 3 GB of RAM, and “anything from the last 4 years” for graphics processing. It is a FPS, so your mouse and keyboard on are right at home but doesn’t offer a significant increase in accuracy as other FPS titles because of its blind firing gameplay. The controls are very simple and easy to learn quickly. You can also plug in your controller to play or let a friend use it and play together on your PC.
The basic online FPS concept remains; kills things, get points. There are 12 maps and nine game play modes, which can be played alone or in teams with 2-8 players. The nine modes draw inspiration from a number of classic online gameplay types:
- Deathmatch. Kill or be killed.
- Capture the Fun. Capture the Flag, except the flag is a piñata and you can kill people with it.
- Hill Campers. Basically king of the hill. Hold down an area, which changes periodically, to gain points and win. Rather challenging when you can’t see the enemy, but a lot of fun.
- Gold Rush. Players collect gold coins. Kill other players to claim their gold coins. Player with the most at the end of the round wins. It is somewhere between Kill Confirmed & Sonic.
- Juggernaut. Only the juggernaut can score points, kill him to become the juggernaut.
- Elimination. The last one standing 3 times wins.
- One Shot. Players only have 1 bullet until everyone has fired or a preset timer has run down. One of my favorite modes of the game. It forces players to be more thoughtful with their rounds and makes the game a little less random.
- Murder Mystery. In an homage to the classic board game clue you are given 3 cards as clues to how you can score points. A weapon, which enemy to hunt down, and how many points you’ll gain if you follow the clues. This encourages the player to focus on one of three other screens in order to get the maximum reward.
- Bombs Away. Players have to find and place bombs on opponents “bases” and may have to deactivate bombs on their own. The bombs have limited timers that encourages speed.
Modes with alternate goals actually provided the most fun. Hill Campers and Gold Rush for instance. With non-kill based goals, it make the gameplay more challenging, intentional, and strategic. It;s important to note that all games are highly customizable. A layer can create his or her own match in any of the preset archetypes, and then alter most parameters. You can change everything from the timers and point goals to player speed and gravity. This creates a multitude of gameplay modes.
The game features a series of achievements, many of which will require a lot of rounds to unlock. For many, this game will likely be a casual amusement. Games are easy to drop in and out of for a few minutes of FPS action without a lot of waiting. As a LAN game, it’s a lot of fun. I did have some issues finding other humans to play against but don’t let that dissuade you. In a game where you have to monitor other players screen, an AI has a distinct advantage. ScreenCheat features unusually intelligent bots. Even on Easy, you may find yourself losing to them a few times and their difficulty can be increased as your skill does. Bots are automatically booted (unless you want to play with just them) when someone joins your game, so you don’t have to spend all day waiting for real humans to enjoy the bizarre invisible killers.
This fast paced multiplayer game has a lot of personality. While it lacks the refinement of a larger FPS, it does offer a unique way to play tired old modes. The screen sharing mechanic adds a challenge that some gamers will enjoy and is a lot of fun if you have group to play with. Don’t fret if if you are going it alone because the bot AI will give you a run for your money as well.
ScreenCheat is developed by Samurai Punk and available for PS4, Xbox One and Steam.
Images © Samurai Punk