When it comes to PC gaming, there's no lack of multiplayer fun to be had. Booting up Steam any given week will introduce gamers to a number of interesting-looking online games, each sporting one or two elements that separate it from the rest of the pack. Because of this, it takes something special to stand out, and there are few times when any one game can hold players' interest for an extended period of time. This fairly competitive market is where Beatnik Games' Plain Sight comes in, attempting to have something more than a little different to grab the attention of the ADD PC gaming crowd.
It's not a shooter. That already sets it apart. Instead, it's a third-person adventure title, throwing players into control of suicidal ninja robots. In terms of controls, it's really quite simple to get into. Running and jumping is as easy as might be expected; a task made even simpler thanks to the game's low gravity environments, which pulls everything towards the 3D world. Not unlike the areas of Super Mario Galaxy, gravity works in the favor of players, keeping robots from falling off the sides. Each level is an assortment of blocks and objects floating in a 3D space that can be explored completely, with all characters being held on by gravity, unable to break free from the orbit. This makes running around and jumping fairly fun, even without the combative elements, and the ninja's ability to automatically stick to walls helps acrobatic acts feel even more, well, acrobatic.
Though, without combat, the experience would be fairly weak. That's where the "ninja" element comes into play, adding charging and dashing to the list of abilities at players' hands. It, too, can be completed fairly easily, intuitively being mapped to clicking and holding the left mouse button. While running around, robots will automatically target nearby opponents, and an indicator will glow red once the enemy is within range of a dash. Letting go will cause the robot to leap at an enemy, destroying anything it comes into contact with. These attacks can be blocked or deflected, leading to some hectic battles between the suicidal ninjas. With every kill, the player's robot becomes more powerful, a trait signified by a glowing trail left behind at all times. More powerful players will have brighter glows, both warning and inviting enemies of their dangerous presence.
But there's a twist. While every kill adds energy, dying at the hands of another player will erase all stored points. The only way to save, or "bank" said points, is to commit suicide in a large, fiery explosion. This element is where a majority of the strategy comes into play, and serves as the single feature that evolves Plain Sight from an enjoyable, albeit forgettable experience to something more. Players need to constantly struggle with the possibility that they're going to be taken out, losing all stored points. At any time, they can blow themselves up, possibly taking out a few additional foes in the process. Many will bank points whenever possible; an attitude that doesn't spawn winners. In order to rein supreme, players need to take risks, stay alive for a bit longer, and take advantage of the bonuses awarded for doing so.
Points are important beyond being necessary to win. They also act as experience, and the smattering of RPG elements helps expand Plain Sight further. Three tiers can be invested in, upgrading the robot's combat, defensive, or special abilities, accumulating in an extremely powerful final ability. None are strong enough to break the balance, but the builds are different enough that they add a wealth of replay value to the title, creating more diverse poetic violence. Also adding to the replayability are upgrades, scattered around the levels, and a number of different game modes. While nothing breaks the mold and there's nothing more fun than traditional deathmatch, they give players more to do with Plain Sight, helping stretch the game's value significantly.
Besides suffering from an utterly forgettable name, Plain Sight has a lot to offer for a low price. The combat's hectic nature has a certain rhythm to it that's easy to appreciate, and the style, while simplistic, is worth commending. It might not be the absolute deepest package, but there's little to criticize in what is included, and there's no reason not to pick up a sword and start slashing. Hopefully Beatnik Games finds time to bring the experience to Xbox Live or the PlayStation Network, since it could use some distancing from the overly competitive PC market, and would likely flourish in the smaller pond.