Plain Sight review
Some games shine by their clever mechanics, others because of their unique aesthetics, and, by rare chance, a title comes along that strikes a great balance between both. Plain Sight borrows its main mechanics from one of the greatest games of this generation, Mario Galaxy, and its graphics have a strong Art Deco and steampunk flavor that gives it a great sense of identity and conveys subtle humor.
But can a game stand on its own when it borrows from everyone else? Obviously, the question is larger than Plain Sight, but in this case, I would say that yes, absolutely, it can. Plain Sight manages to take the gravity mechanic Mario Galaxy first explored and combine it with competitive fighting. It’s a very clever idea. Imagine the space-bending fun of jumping from planet to planet in Mario Galaxy applied to a deathmatch game opposing cute and funny steampunk robot wielding huge blades who jump around in order to destroy the clicking daylight out of each other.
This is Plain Sight in a nutshell. The idea is great. The execution has both good and less than stellar things to offer. The good include a very nice sense of style, as I mentioned earlier, down to the Art Deco font (that you will remember from BioShock) and the idle animation your robot will have if you are bold enough to stop moving for a few seconds. The mechanics of the game are also clever since you don’t automatically score points for destroying you opponents, but have to blow yourself up to cash in the points you earned by killing the other robots. The explosion itself is a strategic decision since you can use it to blow up other players, multiplying the points by the number of enemies eliminated.
Once your robot has been reduced to pieces, you can use your points to upgrade your skills, an other interesting addition that allows you to gain a double or triple jump, to resist attacks better or hit harder. It adds a little depth to a game that was already very fun to begin with. After a while players receive points to unlock one of the three ultimate skills that provide a serious edge in a match.
The maps all have a great look, and that might be a little bit of a problem. It is obvious that their design was thought first to look cool, then to play well. Well they sure do look intriguing, but they don't exactly scream out for intelligent design. An other issue the map design brings is the camera. Because it's a competitive multiplayer, along with continuously jumping and rotating around relatively small land masses, the camera control being tied to the mouse makes it hard to follow what is going on around you. For once, I would have really preferred a fixed camera that you can slightly stir and a lock on button for when you attack someone.
The game is a one hit, one kill affair, so expect to dispatch a lot of enemies and die also quite a bit. The good news is that the explosion mechanic allows for sweet payback when the odds are against you. And you can be sure that as soon as you start earning a few kills enemies will keep an eye out since the robot gets bigger and stronger. That also makes you easier to locate and target unfortunately, again, making the explosion mechanic a key to victory.
One serious issue remains though. The servers are completely empty. No one is online. Of course, you can play with bots, but that’s not the idea at all. What I would recommend though is using Plain Sight as an intermission during a lan party. After you’ve spent a few hours on Call of Duty and before you jump into Starcraft, jump in Plain Sight for a few matches. It’s great fun, especially with friends, and especially in the same room. In the end, it fills a role as a perfect LAN party title.