E For Everyone: Screencheat

Why should you play “Screencheat” (2014)? Because it is a perfect example of when developers observe a flaw with a standard and then use it as a tool.

Split-screen multiplayer’ refers to local multiplayer games dividing the single screen that players are looking at into zones, each acting as a smaller screen for one player. This effectively creates many smaller versions of the normal user interface, which becomes a problem if players’ current goal is to sneak up on another player, since the target could easily look over at the other screen to see they’re about to be attacked. Unless all players have notably horrendous peripheral vision and an iron self-control, ‘screencheating’ is bound to happen. This is the term used when a player’s eyes drift to another player’s zone, whether intentionally or accidentally, to determine their location or other information. The game that took the name of this phenomenon turns the idea on its head.

Screencheat” is a multiplayer game with the capacity to mix as many as eight local multiplayer and online players in which players must screencheat to win. The catch is that all player avatars are invisible, so the only way to figure out where opponents are is to look at the other sections of the screen. Each of the 11 one-hit-kill weapons also shows up on the map when being used (for example, visible smoke rises up whenever bullets are fired from a revolver).

The developers of “Screencheat,” Samurai Punk, flavored the game with interesting text and bright colors, possibly because they made it at a game jam over a single weekend and felt that a game with sarcastic writing and ragdoll physics would simply fit their aesthetic. For example, because players need to figure out other players’ locations from just what they see, all maps are cut into brightly colored zones to make the process easier. Additionally, when a player is ‘fragged’ or hit by another player, a normal success notification is replaced with a strange series of words, such as “You got Google Translated by Jumbo.” These strange visuals combined with the somewhat jarring, driving chiptune music make for a bizarre atmosphere that may not be for everyone. This isn’t to say that it’s vulgar in any way, but it is pretty strange, and some people may not want jokes from their first-person arena shooters. That said, the game tries to be versatile in the event that the default deathmatch isn’t your cup of tea. “Screencheat” has nine highly customizable game modes. The more unique Murder Mystery mode has players find and hit a specific target with a specific weapon, which each player can see and must navigate to find.

The idea of taking a problem and turning it into a strength is a popular pattern in video games to the point where it has developed into the saying, “It’s not a bug; it’s a feature,” but rarely does a game so wholeheartedly embody the phenomenon like “Screencheat” does.

It’s available for purchase for $14.99 on Samurai Punk’s website and is frequently on sale for $4.99 on Steam. 


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