If you remember playing split-screen FPS games such as Goldeneye on the N64, you’ll know how much fun it was to hide round a bend, watch someone else’s corner of the screen as they approach your hiding place and then kill them before they even know you’re nearby. Screencheating. It was rife back in the day when split-screen gaming was all the rage, but it’s an art form that has died out with people playing online with their own screen, being totally unable to see the screens of those others who are playing. Where’s the fun in not being able to cheat a bit? Clearly, the makers of Screencheat had the same thought.
At just over £10 on Steam, Screencheat comes in fairly cheap, and for the opportunity to relive those awesome days of watching other peoples’ movements more than your own it’s worth every penny. It’s visually straight forward, relying more on bold colours than intricate level design, but there’s plenty of fun to be had with others – so much so you can’t even play it on your own, it’s real people or nothing. The idea behind the game is pretty simple – you need to kill the other players, but unlike other FPS games all of the other players are invisible. Yup, through your own eyes all you’ll see is the level around you and the occasional projectile from another player’s weapon. This time you need to focus on the other three corners of the screen, you need to watch what others are doing and where they are. That’s right, you need to cheat.
It sounds like it should be impossible, but each colour is split into clearly defined coloured sections. You’ll be able to see the Player 1 is sprinting up some red stairs into the blue section, and you’ll know where they are. Meanwhile Player 4 is hiding on top of the giant dinosaur skeleton, so firing off a shot in that direction might be a wise move. It’s always possible to know where a player is by looking at their screen such is the way the levels appear, but the game moves at a very quick pace so keeping up with all four screens at once is practically impossible. At the very least, it’s a heck of a skill to try and perfect.
Fire your weapon though and you’ll give your position away instantly – the reaction from the weapons, be it a well-lit bullet flying through the air or the swipe of a large candlestick, will appear on your screen as if fired by a ghost, giving you a split second to react and shoot at the thin air where it came from. With better players constantly moving while firing, it’s most certainly never an easy task.
While playing online works extremely well (although I found it tricky to find a game to join sometimes) this is clearly designed for a computer set up in such a way that four people can play in front of the same PC. Controllers are supported, as is the keyboard and mouse, so there’s chances to be able to join others. It’s nice to shoot random strangers, but cheating your way to victory in front of your friends in the same room would be comfortably more rewarding.
For a few quick blasts on a Friday night, Screencheat is a brilliant throwback to the late 90s. Younger gamers might get totally baffled by the very idea of what’s going on, but those of you who have similar memories to me will have a lot of fun. It’s a shame the online world is a little thin on the ground, and there’s not a huge amount of variety, but get a few mates over and hook up to the TV and you’ll be laughing for ages. A great way to breathe life into a stagnating genre.
Reviewed on PC