Plain Sight

6th November 2008 – 9.03 am

At the recent Eurogamer Expo 2008, where I met some other splendid chaps who I won't name for fear of missing someone vitally important, I saw a whole bunch of console games and a handful of PC games, even trying a few of the apparently less popular ones that didn't have hour-long queues. One neat little game that caught my attention enough that I went back for a second try was Plain Sight, an independent game involving robots and killing other robots.

Played on a cube populated with buildings the world is reminiscent of a Super Mario Galaxy level, with it rotating underneath your robot as you run along the different faces and jump up and over the structures. But it's not just your robot; there are others, and they are out to get you. Armed with a sword the objective is to destroy the other robots by charging in to them, which also initiates the attack. If you're quick and accurate enough the other bot will explode, granting you a score. If not, you will either miss or be destroyed yourself. Every time you destroy an enemy bot you gain a point, but you do not score the point until you self-destruct. If you are destroyed before you self-destruct your points are lost.

It may be tempting to run around feeling masterful and invincible, but with the threat of a lucky strike defeating you there is always a need to bank some points through your own destruction. To make it more interesting, when you self-destruct you cause a local explosion that can destroy other nearby bots and if you catch any in the explosion you gain a multiplier to all the points you bank at that time. It's an excellent risk-reward mechanic, as mentioned in Melmoth's review of Plain Sight, encouraging you to stay close in the action to lure others to their untimely demise whilst potentially losing all your own points in the process.

The game is remarkably simple, yet it drew me back and I didn't want to stop playing. The physics of jumping around the small world feel great, and it can be entertaining enough running and jumping from building to building. Maybe I have too much nostalgia for the times of 8-bit games but the double-jumping antics of Plain Sight appealed to me more than what I saw of Mirror's Edge. There is a good balance between the serenity of jumping around casually and the heightened tension of realising an opponent robot is close and switching to attack mode, charging here and there or trying to escape to return from a better vantage point. The action of attacking comes in short bursts and is balanced with relaxing bouncing around.

Some excellent UI design choices help create this balance. The robots all leave a trail behind them as they move, a single line that follows the arc of the robot's travel precisely and fades out over time. Each surface that a robot touchs on its movements lights up, even if landed on for a moment when bouncing around, as if it were touch-sensitive, again fading out gradually. Both of these features could easily be overlooked as simple graphical effects but they add immensely to the action. If you see a highlighted surface nearby it is a sure sign that an opponent is close. You can then keep an eye out for the tell-tale trail that the robots leave, to pin-point his location and charge in with your sword for the kill. They are remarkably simple effects that act as visual clues and add an excellent sense of awareness of your surroundings. If ever a game epitomised the saying 'you can run but you can't hide' Plain Sight is it.

Plain Sight is simple, in design and gameplay, but it is wonderfully enjoyable. I had to be dragged away from the demonstration machines, but not before I got the details of the website so that I could sign up for the beta.

  1. One Response to “Plain Sight”

  2. By far the best game with exploding robots armed with swords at the Eurogamer Expo!

    And it was easily my favourite game there.

    Even if there was a game called War Twat.

    By Melmoth on Nov 6, 2008

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