Remember playing four-player splitscreen Goldeneye on Facility with your friends and having to deal with those cheating bastards looking at your screen? Screencheat does, and the team at Samurai Punk based an entire game around it. The premise of Screencheat is simple, go against years of couch coop programming by forcing players to look at each other’s screens to win. It’s a death match where the only place that a player is visible is on their own screen, and it’s a lot of fun when played in groups.
The initial gameplay of Screencheat takes some getting used to and leads to some hilarious screw ups, but after a few initial matches, looking at other player’s screens for visuals felt natural. In the initial matches it was very difficult to find other players, but luckily, each of Screencheat’s maps is color coded to help make it easier to identify where enemy players are. This helps you navigate the sometimes confusing terrain, and can lead to shouting colors at the screen to tell everyone where other players are (speaking from experience).
It’s the couch coop moments like this that make Screencheat memorable, and foster in-person gaming sessions rather than relying on the traditional online multiplayer model. While the game can be played online (players still have visions of everyone’s screens), it is not really meant to be. At its core, Screencheat is developed to be played in large groups, and isn’t as much fun without them. The game offers options for playing against bots as well, but their settings are either Stormtrooper level accuracy or deadshot, making for frustrating or boring gameplay.
There’s also the fact that the formula for Screencheat can get old very fast. After playing for about an hour or so, the novelty began to wear off, with the game’s vision gimmick losing its luster. There are a lot of modes to shake up the gameplay and a host of modifiers that are unlocked as players level, but the fun is short lived.
Luckily, Screencheat possesses unique maps and weapon sets. Whether you want to run people over with a demonic hobby horse, or shoot a massive mine that will try and kill you immediately after firing, Screencheat has your back. Each weapon is distinct, with its own set of drawbacks (some more than others), and allows for players to try different styles of attack. Every weapon also leaves some sort of visual cue when fired (smoke trail, flaming path, or a giant mine in the sky), and players have to make their shots count because each attack reveals their position. This leads to a fun cat-and-mouse style of gameplay in death matches, and balances other modes like king of the hill.
The levels themselves are also unique, with brightly colored settings that both assist with locating players and make for pleasant visuals. Each arena is unique and has its own set of interesting spaces that allow for some freshness in the game. The maps are also designed to have very visible landmarks to aid in locating other players, which helps for getting used to the game’s initial concept.
Overall, Screencheat is immensely fun when there are four players in the same room together, but falls flat when playing online or alone. It succeeds in bringing back some of the couch-coop magic that a lot of games have been missing recently, and is a lot of fun in short bursts. Map and weapon variety do help lend some replayability to the game, but unfortunately, there’s only so much that wacky weapons can do to make a game entertaining. Underneath it all, Screencheat is an alright shooter with an amazing gimmick that’s worth wasting a couple of hours on, as long as it is played locally with a group of people.