Screen Cheat Gameplay & Review – A Unique Spin on Cheating

By Published November 10, 2014 at 7:26 pm
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Anyone growing up in the earlier console era remembers the days of split-screen. Those were the same days that LAN play still existed – it's a strange thing to think that game developers have favored online play so heavily over local play that the latter has nearly ceased existing.

Back in those days of split-screen play, though, there was “screen looking” or “screen cheating:” The act of looking at your couch-neighbor's screen to determine their map location. Anecdotally, I recall the days when my friends became so aware of screen cheating that they'd look at the floor of the map to mitigate the impact of the act; we'd rely strictly on memory to navigate the map, hoping that the floor would be plain enough to disallow screen cheat advantage.

All of this comes back to life with “Screen Cheat,” an FPS title that forces screen looking to kill opponents. Screen Cheat allows play with up to four total players, with split-screen constantly active even over internet play. The constant split-screen view is central to combat given the non-existent presentation of player characters. Player character models are invisible, so if an enemy's standing right in front of you, you'll see nothing but the environment. The only way to know the location of a player is by referencing their screen, normally by using colored floor tiles or objects. It is through these cues that the game gets interesting; we found ourselves learning to look at opponent screens more often than our own (as we learned the maps), playing almost by muscle memory and navigating based upon enemy locations.

The goals are pretty standard: Deathmatch, king of the hill, things like that. There's one unique game mode that's effectively a “murder mystery,” but we'll get into that momentarily. The game's maps are designed with bright, easily differentiated colors to aid in determining enemy locations, often using object placement as points of reference.

The map design overall wasn't necessarily inspiring, but they accomplished the goal of enabling screen cheating. Some of the maps felt a bit twisted and unnecessarily complex or confusing and there's nothing screaming “the next Dust 2” or “Bloodgulch” at me, but those are tough maps to compare against.

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Core gameplay mechanics are pretty straight-forward. Players select a weapon upon spawning, choosing among some of the oddest killing devices we've ever seen (like exploding teddy bears). Weapons have different advantages in different scenarios, though anything demanding less accuracy (like an explosive) is going to be a bit easier to peg enemies. The game is one hit, one kill. We found this to be a good thing, given the invisibility mechanics.

It's oddly satisfying to top the leaderboards when slaying foes you can't even see; the best part is that everyone in the game knows who's hunting whom based upon screens and combat, since it's all played out in the open.

The murder mystery game mode plays to this quality. Each player is dealt two cards: Opponent location and murder weapon. The first card shows that your unnamed opponent (of four total players) is located in a certain section of the map (based upon color). Your oponent is in blue, for instance, so you reference all the screens (shown simultaneously in split-screen) and pick among the players located in blue. Eventually, it becomes clear who the target is. Points are only awarded for slaying that target with the murder weapon, which must be picked up nearby.

The tricky part, though, is that these cards are visible to everyone as a result of the split-screen and focus on screen cheating. Players can determine which opponent is hunting them in this fashion. Your cards are hidden to everyone (including yourself) until you press a key to reveal them. This is often done to determine the victim, but the victim might be able to read your cards in that amount of time and respond accordingly.

It's a fun game mode. Different.

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And that's ultimately how we felt about Screen Cheat: It's fun and different, but definitely something you'd only play with friends. There's very little existing community and the game lobbies are largely non-existent or empty. You'd be best off getting some type of “four-pack” of Screen Cheat.

We'd expect a couple of hours of amusement, but there's not enough depth for much more than that. It's a fun game for a Saturday night. I'd price it at $10 and probably wouldn't spend much more than that. There's nothing deeply flawed with the game, it's just limited in appeal and the novelty mechanics only go so far.

More here: http://store.steampowered.com/app/301970/

- Steve "Lelldorianx" Burke.

Steve Burke

Steve started GamersNexus back when it was just a cool name, and now it's grown into an expansive website with an overwhelming amount of features. He recalls his first difficult decision with GN's direction: "I didn't know whether or not I wanted 'Gamers' to have a possessive apostrophe -- I mean, grammatically it should, but I didn't like it in the name. It was ugly. I also had people who were typing apostrophes into the address bar - sigh. It made sense to just leave it as 'Gamers.'"

First world problems, Steve. First world problems.

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