What is it? Fast paced first-person shooter that rewards cheating Play it on: Windows Vista/7, 1.4GHz or faster, 1 GB RAM Reviewed on: Windows 7, Intel Core i7-4800MQ, 8GB RAM, Nvidia GeForce GTX 870M / 3GB GDDR Copy protection: Steam Price: $ 14.99 Release date: October 21 Publisher: Surprise Attack Developer: Samurai Punk Multiplayer: 2-4 players, local and online Link: Official site
We take for granted that our enemies are visible in first-person shooters. Fair enough too, as shooting them might not be fun otherwise. That’s according to conventional wisdom anyway, which Screencheat shirks from the outset. A small project developed by Melbourne studio Samurai Punk, Screencheat is a competitive splitscreen shooter where four invisible players duke it out in tight, colour-coded arenas. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll cop a confetti spraying rainbow piñata in the face.
Instead of monitoring your own quarter of the screen, in Screencheat you’re encouraged to spend more time watching what your opponents are doing in order to figure out where they are. Those reared on Nintendo 64-era splitscreen shooters (Goldeneye 64, Perfect Dark) will be familiar with this reprehensible tactic, terminally impossible to police. Screencheat wields it as a central mechanic.
As a concept it doesn’t sound very fun, but in practice it is. Maps have distinctly coloured regions and landmarks which give away the location of each player. Movement and traversal is closer to the spirit of fast-paced arena shooters, with no fall damage complimenting the breakneck verticality of most of the game’s five maps. In standard deathmatch kills come thick and fast: weapons emit faint evidence of their owner’s location, and I quickly learned that precision and planning is more important than spamming the attack key, which most newcomers instinctively do. With one exception the maps tend to span upwards rather than horizontally, meaning I spent a lot of time in the air, propelled by air vents and trampolines, spraying bullets ungracefully as I plummeted.
Weapons are invariably one-shot kills, so there’s initially no incentive to explore Screencheat’s weirder weapons (y’know, explosive bouncing bears, modified car engines). The default blunderbuss boasts a generous bullet spread, and I was never attracted to any of the slower weapons like the aforementioned Chefolet car engine or grenade launcher. Melee weapons like the firey Hobby Horse and the Candelabra are good in tight situations, with the former providing a burst of speed at the expense of invisibility.
The five game modes range standard fare (deathmatch, a king of the hill mode) through to Murder Mystery, which assigns each player a specific target to be killed with a specific weapon. While this has its charms, Screencheat feels more at home in conventional modes where you’re free to focus on shooting and surviving, because that alone is usually stressful enough. Having to keep track of the location of three other players, with these locations changing by the second, is fatiguing after a while. I couldn’t handle playing Screencheat for more than half-an-hour at a time, but then, I don’t think it’s designed to be binged on.
That’s because Screencheat demands to be played on the couch with friends, and it doesn’t pretend to be a serious first-person shooter. It’s breezy and whimsical atmosphere situates it closer to Mario Kart than say, Counter-Strike. The thickly accented Australian commentary seems to mock the severity of other first-person shooters, and the kill messages are often ridiculous (it’s possible to be ‘Windows Vista-ed’ in Screencheat). While online splitscreen play is an option, the game shines among friends you can punch and swear at.
Which isn’t to say Screencheat lacks depth. Over the course of my five hours with the game I learned some pretty neat tricks. The crossbow seems like a useless weapon at first, requiring a level of precision virtually impossible against invisible foes, but once I learnt that it actually shoots laser beams which can wrap around corners, I started to use it to set temporary traps. Getting good at Screencheat isn’t about being a precise shooter or learning the maps but instead movement, observation, and lightning-quick thinking. Being good at Call of Duty won’t necessarily hold you in good stead if you play Screencheat, which was a huge relief for me.
While Screencheat’s premise is unique, it feels very much part of a burgeoning new approach to shooters on PC. Independent studios are starting to squeeze new life from the genre: see the strange warping mechanics in S.W.A.P. or the killstreak-centric Megaman-aping Wrack. Screencheat is a refreshingly barebones game which focuses on one particular thing: you don’t gain XP, you don’t climb leaderboards, and you never unlock weapons your opponents don’t have access to. For these reasons it’s the most fun I’ve had with a multiplayer game for a long time. I heartily recommend it, especially if you like Windows Vista-ing invisible crash test dummies with modified car engines.
Prepare to serve the empress in With Those We Love Alive, to serve the whims of gravity in The Gears Don’t Grind, and to be served a meal of slimy treats in Hugo’s House of Horrors. You’ll be doing a lot of reading, walking, shooting and jumping in this week’s roundup, so be sure to outfit yourself appropriately.
The gears don’t grind, but your teeth might while you’re playing this super-hard minimalist platformer. Compared to other super-hard minimalist platformers, Gears most closely resembles VVVVVV or Fred Wood’s Love, thanks to its iconic, simplistic art style and retro colour palette. The gravity mechanic recalls Tez Cavanagh’s game as well, although it works a little differently here. Every time you leap or fall from the side of the screen the gravity shifts – one moment you might be walking on the wall, the next you’re dancing on the ceiling. (Oh what a feeling.) The functions of the left and right cursor keys are frequently reversed, often necessitating a spot of neck-craning to maneuver yourself about.
Dr Love is a twin-stick shooter because, well, what else could it be? I suppose it could be a match-three puzzler like Dr Mario, or a fictional London GP like Eastenders’ Dr Legg, but I’m happy with the shooty Dr Love game we got. The twist here is that you’re shooting blocks, most of the time, blocks that drop from the sky to either a) crush you like a love pancake, or b) get in your motherlovin’ way. Blocks have differing properties, and it’s not long before jerk enemies introduce themselves as well. The way the game progresses seems a little random for my liking, but this is a fast and furious and pretty enough shooter that maybe that doesn’t matter all that much.
The figure of the empress looms over this sumptuous, destabilising bit of sci-fi that filters childhood trauma through a pulp sci-fi/fantasy lens. Porpentine’s vocabulary, turns of phrase, and mastery of Twine continues to impress, but it’s Neotenomie’s lush, embracing soundtrack that ties everything together. As an indentured servant in the palace of the brutal Empress, you’ll construct strange armour, ethereal ornaments, and gruesome weaponry, as your subsumed past slowly creeps back into your life.
Sometimes you need a virtual island to retreat to and saunter about on, and Andrew Dawson’s Orthoclase is better than most. There’s nothing to do here but stroll, and look, and absorb, and appreciate, and it’s a good way to unwind if, for some reason, you don’t own your own private island in real life. I was a bit disappointed to find that I couldn’t swim off to that distant landmass over there, but what can you do? *Starts furious e-petition demanding that Dawson add it in*.
A wonderfully cheeky bit of interactive fiction that takes David Gray’s 1990 adventure game Hugo’s House of Horrors and adds new writing over the top. It’s a little like a game version of the brilliant Bad Lip Reading YouTube series, which uses clips from shows like The Walking Dead and implements new, hilarious dialogue that matches the lip-syncing perfectly. Robot Parking’s poetic, silly, and sweary new words complement (screengrabs of) the original’s pixel art rather well – I like to think that they’ve never even played it, and that they’re improvising a new scenario on the spot.
Cooler Master just announced a new CM Storm keyboard that utilizes membrane keys rather than the usual assortment Cherry MX mechanical keys found in gaming keyboards. Wait! Before you shut your browser tab on this post, you should know the CM Storm Suppressor Gaming Keyboard has specially designed membrane keys that are silent to the touch. Cooler Master also promises the same noise dampening material under each key is made to last through a long life of heavy keystrokes.
The keyboard is also equipped with a 72 MHz ARM Rapid Engine processor paired with 128-kilobytes of internal memory. With this onboard chipset the keyboard can store up to 75 programmable macros split across five different profiles. Players can set up 15 keystrokes on each individual profile for anything such calling in units in StarCraft II. As the macros are being store on the keyboard itself, you’ll be able to simply plug it into another computer without having to reprogram everything.
Lastly, the CM Storm Suppressor keyboard lights up with white LED light. It’s nowhere near as colorful or fun as the Corsair Gaming K70 RGB, but the extra bit of light is helpful for navigating to WASD in the dark. Without mechanical keys the CM Storm Suppressor isn’t likely to usurp our favorite gaming keyboard, but we’ll keep an eye on it as a challenger for our favorite membrane pick.
The CM Storm Suppressor will be available soon in Europe for €45 (about $ 57, £35). Meanwhile, the keyboard is due to arrive in Asia later this month, with availability in Russia and East Europe sometime this December leading into early January. No word on if/when the keyboard is coming to the US.
Nope, don’t worry, you haven’t slipped back through a time portal to four years ago. Or, at least, if you have, it isn’t because of this news. The 2010 strategy RPG Mount & Blade: Warband is getting another DLC expansion. Viking Conquest is set around Britain, Norway and Denmark, and features a single-player storyline, the traditional sandbox mode and new multiplayer game types.
If you’re worried that this will further extend the agonising wait until the release of Mount & Blade 2: Bannerlords, rest easy. The DLC is being tackled by the makers of M&B: Warband’s superb Brytenwalda mod—leaving TaleWorlds to continue working away at the sequel.
The expansion will be releasing into early access “soon”. There’s little in the way of additional details, but you can see some seafaring screenshots below.