Plain Sight

April 21, 2010

Exploding robot ninjas, flaming swords, Robozilla…why oh why is this title from Beatnik Games named Plain Sight?  Personally, I would have gone with something like, oh I don’t know, Super Robo Jet Fighter Ninjas, but I guess there is something to be said for simplicity. Plain Sight is a downloadable PC game that re-imagines multiplayer ninja deathmatch gaming. Okay, so maybe it isn’t a very crowded genre, but the point is that Plain Sight looks and feels like nothing you have ever played before.  

The concept behind Plain Sight is pretty unique: you are a little robot ninja armed with a katana that must destroy other mini robot ninjas in order to build up energy. When you’ve built up enough energy, it’s time to explode, hopefully taking out as many of your enemies as possible in the process. The more energy you have stored up, the bigger the explosion.  Self destructing doesn’t just kill your foes, though—it also banks the points you have gained from taking out opponents, which you can then spend on upgrades. On the other hand, if you are killed before you can explode yourself, you gain no experience points. There are several categories that you can spend your upgrade points on, including run speed, jumping, and boost strength, among others. All of the upgrades are useful and they provide a good reason to keep on playing— the more you play, the stronger you get. Boosting is your only non-suicidal method of attack in Plain Sight; after you have locked on to a target, you simply hold down the left mouse button to charge and let go when you are in range to attack, hopefully turning your opponent into a pile of scrap metal. Sounds simple on paper, but there’s a lot that can go wrong in-game.

The first few times you play Plain Sight can be downright disorienting, thanks to the speedy gameplay and crazy variable gravity planetoid-based maps (think Super Mario Galaxy). Attacks can come from any and every direction, and you have full control of the camera at all times. In other words, players must constantly keep on the move, surveying their surroundings, in order to survive. The levels themselves all look really trippy, featuring various types of floating landscapes, with each piece of land on the map having its own gravitational field. Some of the maps are straightforward, while others are littered with planetoids and obstacles that make traversing them something of a puzzle in and of itself. Leaping and dashing through these levels is really fun and feels great once you get the hang of things.

While the main deathmatch and team deathmatch modes will undoubtedly prove to be the most popular ones in the game, there are three other modes that mix things up a bit. Capture the Flag isn’t really anything new, but “Ninja! Ninja! Ninja! Robozilla!” is a neat take on cooperative combat that has mini ninjas working together to destroy a giant player-controlled dinosaur robot with a flaming sword. Finally, “Lighten Up” is a mode that pits players in a race to gain energy and detonate themselves on top of a specific structure on the map, with the biggest explosion determining who wins the match.

Plain Sight is a fun ride, even if I do have some small issues with it. The auto-targeting cursor system, while necessary, is limited and often makes it difficult to lock on to specific players that you want to attack. Servers can support over 20 players, but I found that playing with so many other people in standard deathmatch can sometimes be an exercise in frustration, especially on the smaller maps. With so many enemies flying around, it is often impossible to evade attacks for very long, meaning it is a struggle to rack up enough points to upgrade your ninja early on in the matches. Or it could be that my robo-ninjutsu just isn’t strong enough yet. There is also a complete lack of a soundtrack in the game, other than the enjoyable menu music. Either way, Plain Sight is a fun and refreshing multiplayer title that is worth taking a look at, especially if you have grown tired of offing your foes with a gun and want to try something a little different for a change. Did I mention the game also looks damn good for an indie title?

Pros: Unique concept, fast and furious gameplay, nice visuals

Cons: The limited targeting system, no soundtrack

Plays like: Chibi-Robo meets Super Mario Galaxy with katanas…and robot dinosaurs. 


Score: 4/5

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