Hands-on / Plain Sight (PC)

Robot ninjas. Robot. Ninjas. If the world was fair and just we could end this preview now confident in the knowledge that we’ve said all we need to say about Plain Sight. But convention dictates that we continue, so here we go.

Plain Sight is the debut title from UK-based indies Beatnik Games. It’s a competitive multiplayer game with a stonkingly awesome aesthetic and a wonderfully conceived central conceit. And robot freakin’ ninjas!

Taking control of one of these beautifully designed little fellas, you are charged with taking out as many enemies as possible, deathmatch-style. You’ll do this by leaping around the sleek minimalist environments, leaving a neon Tron-esque trail and a string of vanquished foes in your wake.

The ‘map’ we played – although it seems odd calling them maps as they are fully-formed little worlds – was a giant, dizzying, unraveled tape loop. As the action takes place in space (and because it’s fun), you can leap onto and off of any surface, with a gravity system in effect that is most easily described as similar to Mario Galaxy.

Enemies are destroyed not with guns, but with swords. Get within range of an enemy, click and hold the attack button and your targeting reticule will zero in on the target. Once locked all you have to do is release the button and watch as your robo-assassin darts across and reduces your foe to scrap robo-parts. Making this harder is the fact that you and your enemies will be springing around the environment after each other, making combat more like a dogfight than a twitch-based encounter.

But the really interesting little quirk of Plain Sight is yet to come. As you swoop around the environment dishing out the pain, you earn points. The more enemies you kill, the more points you amass. You don’t ‘bank’ those points, however, until you blow yourself up. Do that and you’ll register the points and possibly bag a few extra in the resulting blast. The more points you collect before you hit self-destruct, the bigger the explosion. The bigger the explosion, the more potential to score extra points. The kicker being that an impressive points haul can be wiped out by death if you get too greedy. It’s a fantastic risk/reward dynamic and far easier to understand in practice than with my fumbling words.

If you read our interview with the producer of Plain Sight, you’ll know that the development of the game hasn’t gone entirely smoothly. The game is currently on its third iteration, after the original build proved too lightweight and its replacement/upgrade went the other way and was far too hard. The current version is aiming for the middle ground. We played the Alpha build (though sadly not the insanely hard rebuild) last year and can vouch that the current set-up does indeed demand far more skilled approach. Judging how balanced the combat is, however, requires a far longer session than we had.

With a fully-rounded set of gameplay modes incoming, including a single-player campaign, Plain Sight has more than enough going for it to stand out from the crowd. That, along with the aesthetic, the robot ninjas, the game rules themselves and the ninja robots means that we’ll be keeping an interested eye on the final stages of development. AND THE ROBOT NINJAS!!!

Plain Sight is slated for a new year release on PC with a Dec 2010 release on WiiWare and PlayStation Network.