There are few thing worse in this world than a dirty screen-watcher. I’ve had more arguments with friends over them watching my screen in local multiplayer than anything else. It was an unwritten rule that anyone playing split screen would not look at the other player’s screen, I mean that’s cheating, right? Well, that is the entire premise of Samurai Punk’s new First Person Shooter: Screencheat.

Screencheat is a unique game where it isn’t only accepted that you will look at the other players screen, but you actively HAVE to do so. The screen will be divided into quarters (just like the good old days), even when you are playing online. Up to eight players can play together but the more players, the smaller the sections are and it can make seeing what is going on a little difficult unless you have a TV screen the size of a movie theatre. The reason for this is because everyone in Screencheat is invisible and the only way to find another player, is to watch their screen and try to line up your shot with their point of view. I have to admit that it is one of the most disorienting gaming experiences I’ve ever had, the task of watching three or more screens showing the enemy’s point of view, while moving your own character into a firing position is one that takes a toll on the player.

Screencheat has a wide selection of game types that range from a standard Deathmatch, either solo or team, to more interesting and creative modes like Capture the Fun where you have to keep possession of a piñata to score points. There are plenty of creative game modes in Screencheat that help to keep the gameplay fresh without getting too bogged down in the overriding mechanic of the game.

Before I get onto the actual gameplay let’s talk graphics. There is no easy way to say this, but they are terrible. They look marginally better than a game on the PlayStation 2 and normally that would be the end of it for a game’s aesthetic but in the minimalistic theatre that is Screencheat, it fits the remembered idea of local multiplayer. There is a catchy old school techno soundtrack that is right at home in the early 90’s, further fitting the feeling of nostalgia that Screencheat seems determined to inspire. The soundtrack can get to be a little old after a few games but it’s ultimately inoffensive and can fade into the background of the experience without taking up too much brainpower.

In a game where everyone is invisible and the only time you ever see a person is after their cold lifeless body falls to the ground (or is fired off into the lower atmosphere when you activate some mutators in the game settings), it is strange that new character models are unlocked as you level up. There are some problems with this system though (other than it being almost entirely redundant), the main one being that when you select your character, you can’t see what they look like. This means that you have to make the judgement of the name alone, I’ve yet to see what my Raptor character actually looks like. It feels like it is a genre standard, that you HAVE to be able to pick your character in an online FPS but if you can’t see them anyway, what the hell is the point? There is a fantastic selection of creatively useful weapons to choose from (and some that are so bad ass you’d think Liam Neeson should be using them in Taken 4). The most practical weapon is the Blunderbuss: a short ranged shotgun that has a good spread, there is also a single shot rifle of sorts that is very handy on large open maps.

Then we get to some of the more wacky weapons. If you want to use a high tech weapon that can fire through walls, Screencheat has you covered, if you want to ride a small wooden horse that leave a trail of fire like a DeLorean going 88mph, they have you covered too. All of the weapons leave a trail or muzzle flash of some description which can make a real difference in scrappy, close quarter fights. I have to admit that I found a few of the weapons borderline unusable, either taking too long to fire or simply doing too good a job at giving away my position, but there is definitely something for everybody.

The gameplay itself is incredibly disorienting. At any given time you will have to control your player, evade enemies that may be close to killing you AND find out where they are by looking at the three other screens on display. It can be too much at times, especially when you have a game mode that requires you to kill a specific enemy with a specific weapon or you have to defend your base from a bomb attack. It is fun in short bursts though, and for that alone, it has my admiration. Each level is divided into differently coloured sections, this allows you to get the general location of an enemy without having to compare the position of a table or vase in relation to where you are standing (something that is a lot easier said than done I might add). Actually getting kills on some maps is a real challenge, especially if you are playing with AI bots that have an uncanny ability to kill you from almost anywhere on the map with just one shot.

When you play online or with a friend in local multiplayer, Screencheat is a blast. It is a great party game and it is a unique concept. It has its problems: unbalanced AI, disorienting gameplay and a level of multitasking that is simply beyond some players. But if you can look past that, and see the game for the fun time killer with a unique twist on the normal multiplayer-centric FPS that it is intended to be, then you can have a real blast on this game. The maps are varied, as are the game modes and the ability to add modifiers before launching a game can make it a hectic and chaotic scramble for the win. Why not invite a few friends round and revisit the good old days? Only this time, screen watching is allowed.