In the continued vice-like economic climate, indie multiplayer games have broken onto the scene to provide virtual interaction at affordable prices. Games like Lead and Gold, Castle Crashers, and Fat Princess have proven that buying cheaper games doesn’t always mean poorer gameplay. In fact, some are better alternatives than some of the full priced offerings stinking up the shelves.
With that, Plain Sight is associated with a blossoming pedigree, and Beatnik Games has its work cut out for them. Does its recipe of suicidal robot ninjas battling in low-gravity arenas equal quality chaos at a low price; or does it blend together like pizza and ice cream? (Warning: do not attempt without proper medical supervision).
Plain Sight is a pure multiplayer title. Players assume the roles of suicidal robot ninjas bent on stealing energy from their adversaries; and using it to perform explosive hara-kiri. Once the dust settles, they are awarded points based on energy gathered, and how many unfortunate ninjas were caught in the blast.
These points determine score (depending on game type) and the amount of experience each player earns. The exp points are used to upgrade nine different abilities spread over three tiers that offer faster movement, stronger shields, and mega perks that substantially alter your ninjas abilities.
The control scheme is elegantly simple. Players earn kills by charging up a dash attack by holding down the attack button. Releasing the dash propels the ninja forward and unaware enemies are killed; their energy transferred to the victorious player. If you find yourself on the receiving end, you can activate a shield akin to the one in Super Smash Bros. It deflects attacks, but slowly drains as the player holds the button down.
Players battle in arenas that look like repudiated M.C. Escher paintings. They lack detail, but make up for it with low-gravity and a myriad buildings and obstacles that would be a geometry major’s wet dream. It sounds fun, dancing around these buildings, double-jumping and vying for position, but it doesn’t translate well from concept to application.
It’s a big problem because Plain Sight’s simple gameplay rests on the foundation precise positioning and timing. When this foundation is cracked, the rest of the mechanics have little to stand on. Maneuvering from platform to platform – at will – is difficult, and a successful landing can be attributed to luck than actual skill.
Its frustrating to chase down an opponent (colored trails and arrows make enemies easy to locate); and unintentionally get caught up in the gravity of a pole or building. It doesn’t happen all the time, but its enough to cause someone in the lead to lose all of their energy – and their position on the board.
The upgrade system doesn’t help either, because it offers the same problems as Modern Warfare’s kill streak system. Good players are rewarded with better abilities, making it difficult for a player to compete when someone is on a hot streak. Granted, good players shouldn’t be punished; but, they shouldn’t be given bigger and better tools based on their performance mid-game. What if they gave rocket shoes to Lebron James for hitting three shots in a row?
To its benefit, the upgrade systems advantage isn’t prodigious at first, but the upper echelon skills considerably lengthen the gap between players. It makes it difficult for a player to make a comeback if they are stuck at the bottom of the board. There are energy stars they can collect, but collecting them is difficult thanks to the crazy platform orbits and the chaotic combat. However, a well placed explosion will offer a handful of experience points to help with the gap from first to last.
To make matters worse, multiplayer games need players. Plain Sight offers the (thankfully) old-school server system. However, the downside is that the server system doesn’t benefit when there are only a handful of people online. Servers are almost always full, and the ones that aren’t may not be the game type you are looking for – which is unfortunate. Hopefully, a few more weeks will see the ranks bolstered so players can enjoy the better gameplay modes. But for now, matches that are almost always full are the standard Deathmatch and Team Deathmatch.
The Lighten Up and Botzilla modes are fun variations of King of the Hill and Juggernaut. The former requires players to blow themselves up on specific zones to earn points. This forces all of the explosions to happen in specific areas, and the resulting chaos is intensely hilarious. The latter makes the juggernaut a giant robot ninja with a lizard helmet and a flaming sword. Its draw is self-explanatory.
The only way to get these modes started – without getting lucky – means the player must start a server on their own, and pray it reaches capacity in a timely manner – or at all. This can force a player looking to play a specific game to experience a wait/play ratio of nearly 1:1.
The best thing that can be said about Plain Sight is that it does have suicidal robot ninjas for under ten dollars. Besides that, it doesn’t have much else. The simple graphics make it easy to run, but a low population base makes it difficult to find a match worth finishing. When you do, it’s fun, simple, fast-paced, and entertaining; until you become the victim of shoddy maneuverability. Then, it becomes a frustrating romp where the lucky become powerful and the unlucky fire up Team Fortress 2.
The minimalist artistic style caters to the explosions and robot ninjas, but the maps suffer from bleak layouts at a byproduct
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When it works, Plain Sight is crazy, frantic, and fun. But, low-gravity causes the zany action to fly off the handle, and force the player to make mistakes.
Besides the jazzy menu tune, the sounds of robot footfalls, screeches, and explosions don't offer more than background noise.
Plain Sight is a cheap, accessible multiplayer title that will give players willing to overlook its faults something to do for a few hours a day.
Plain Sight is a simple, fun multiplayer game that suffers from a low population base and shoddy maneuverability, but makes up for it with a cheap price tag. It isn't for everyone, but if you love ninjas and robots - with a sprig of Godzilla - you will have a good time.