There's been some disappointing first-person shooters as of late. Major releases such as Call of Duty: Black Ops III and Star Wars: Battlefront have either lacked inspired gameplay, freshness, or content, so it's been great to see things pick up on the independent scene. We've already seen the speedrun focused Lovely Planet make its way to Xbox One, and the time bending Superhot, which just had a highly successful PC launch, is coming soon.
The latest first-person shooter with a twist is Samurai Punk's Screencheat, a multiplayer-only affair that will invoke some serious nostalgia for fans of splitscreen gaming. If you spent hundreds of hours playing GoldenEye 007 in college then you'll surely remember accusations of participants looking at the screens of others. It's the worst thing a player could do in a competitive game, and nobody ever wanted to be labelled a "screen cheat." Well, Samurai Punk turns that notion completely on its head, as now you want to cheat as if you were Latino Heat himself.
Everyone's character in Screencheat is invisible, so it's now necessary to look at the screens of others to determine your target. If that sounds difficult, it's because it is. At least, initially. It's a skill players will have to learn over time, and it's simply exciting having to learn how to play a first-person shooter again.
Samurai Punk has done a fantastic job of making sure each of the game's 11 maps are color-coated, and filled with unique objects. This makes it easy for players to quickly identify where there opponents are at a quick glance. This type of recognition is one of the many new types of skills players will have to develop over time.
Another major change to the genre is that simply firing your weapon is incredibly dangerous. It's yet another tell as to where your position on the map is, as each weapon gives off some sort of visual identifier when used. While it can be incredibly tempting to ride the Hobby Horse (the game's name for a weapon that is literally a stick horse) around the entire stage, it's a fool's errand as it leaves a trace of flames behind it. That's probably why smart people use coconuts instead. This type of risk/reward teaches players to only strike when they know the kill is there, and then to quickly evacuate as they've just put a target on their own back.
Players will get to put all of these new skills to the test in a wide variety of modes, as Samurai Punk has thrown in just about every possible first-person mode imaginable. You've got your standard deathmatch and capture the flag varieties, but you've also got more unique stuff such as a mode called Murder Mystery. This mode basically adapts the board game Clue into a shooter, as each player is given the goal to kill a certain player with a specific weapon. It's simply genius, and one of the more unique modes we've seen in a first-person shooter.
Our favorite mode out of the 10 available (you can create even more by adding mutators) is One Shot. Players only get to fire a blunderbuss once every 15 seconds here. This creates a tense atmosphere as every single round wasted (or successfully used) leaves the player vulnerable. It's a stellar mode, and one that teaches the game's core lessons better than the rest of them.
If there's one major fault to be had with Screencheat, it's that the online multiplayer is completely dead. It won't be an issue if you can group four friends together, but if you're looking to hop on at random times and have fun with random people then we wish you good luck. On the bright side, the game fully supports local multiplayer and you can add bots of varying difficulty to those matches. That loses a lot of the appeal, though, as a large part of the fun is making fun of your friends after blasting them with one of the game's ridiculous weapons.
Ridiculous might even be an understatement. While we've already mentioned the stick horse earlier, there are nine other weapons to choose from. You've got a gun that shoots through walls as if you were playing Perfect Dark, a bouncing bomb that is disguised as an adorable teddy bear, and a dangerous chandelier for melee combat. The weapon selection feels just a notch below Ratchet & Clank in terms of zaniness.
If you and your crew want to play something far more unique than most first-person shooters on the market, then Screencheat is an easy recommendation. Those on their own will have it rough, however, since the online community just simply isn't there for it. It's a shame, since playing against bots can only sustain users for so long. What makes Samurai Punk's game so special is sharing the experience with other players, not the AI.