When was the last time you punched your buddy in the arm for constantly stalking you around the map and killing you by looking at your half of the screen? Probably not for a long time, maybe never for some people. As great as online gaming is, it’s kind of spelled the end of local play and screen-peeking. Enter Screencheat. Released in 2014 on PC and March 1 of this year on Xbox One and PS4, Screencheat is game that forces you to do everyone’s favourite cheese from the nineties: look at your opponents’ screen. In the spirit of split-screen gaming, myself and our Editor, Tyler, have combined our experiences of the game into one seamless bundle of opinions, enjoy!
In Screencheat, everyone’s invisible. The only way to figure out where someone is and shoot them is to look at their corner of the screen (Screencheat is always divided up into four separate screens, à la a local play session, even when online). This is a bit easier than it sounds. While map knowledge is hugely helpful, maps are divided up into multiple colour zones with landmarks & objects that help you nail down where an opponent is. Weapons too add to the ease of finding and killing your opponents, all are one shot/swing kill weapons with a large damage cone to make up for the near impossibility of precise shots. But be warned, they also give a lot of feedback. You may be invisible, and your weapon may be invisible, but the pellets flying out of your blunderbuss can be seen with ease. Coupled with the fact that all weapons can only shoot once before needing to be reloaded, and melee weapons have a low swing rate, missing can easily alert your opponent and spell your doom.
One of Screencheat‘s most defining features is how meta meta and goofy it is. The entire game is centered around one of the most classic and well-loved ways of cheating in video games, after all, not to mention the simply daft kill messages you can expect to see. Did you kill your opponent? Nope, but apparently you AFK-ed, unfollowed or perhaps meme’d them. On top of that, players can arm themselves with a selection of hilarious weapons to do battle with, including a hobby horse, and a teddy-bear bomb. The announcer announces a lot, and hearing “double kill!” when you’re the one who just died is comically surreal.
Now, whilst Screencheat is, at its core, a simple yet frenetic arena shooter, it suffers as a result of that same simplicity. In short bursts of gameplay, perhaps a few matches for a bit of change from your regular favourites, it’s absolutely fantastic. The deliberately bite-sized matches are well-tuned for providing fun, light-hearted and energetic short stints of play. However, it’s certainly not the sort of game you can expect to play a for couple of hours on at a time. After the (easily renewed) novelty of screen-peeking wears off, the core mechanic of the game can become more of a chore, and the game turns from comically-meta carnage to something more serious (or even bland), and Screencheat unfortunately is simply not all that fun when it’s taken too seriously. This decrease in engagement can be accelerated by certain game modes, such as Murder Mystery, where players are given targets to kill with particular weapons. These minor complexities can pull the game out of simplicity and into tedious hunting for an invisible needle in a haystack.
With that said, these issues only really stand if you’re playing by yourself online. Whilst I haven’t been able to try it myself on local play with friends over an extended play session, it’s very easy to tell from my online experiences that this game would go down a storm in that scenario, now it’s on console and therefore much easier to bring to the “couch setting”. Set up Screencheat at a party with a few friends, the format that inspired it all, and you can expect to relive all the fun of spying on each other, complete with vulgar reactions and physical repercussions for sneaky kills.
All in all, for $14.99, Screencheat is certainly worth picking up if not simply for the sake of having something very different to fill a quiet 15 mins or so. It’s a lot of fun if you play it right, and certainly refreshing against the backdrop of so many serious games dominating the scene. Not to mention, it’s always very handy to have a solid party game in your back pocket, er – games library. Give it a go and let us know what you think! You never know, if the demand is there, there could even be RUL Nights on the cards….
Are you playing Screencheat? Any fond memories of screen-peeking against your friends?
Tell us in the comments below, or on our subreddit!