Plain Sight – First Look

Title   Plain Sight
Developer  Beatnik Games
Publisher  Digitally Distributed (Independent)
Platform  PC
Genre  Multiplayer Action Arcade
Release Date  5th April

There was an ABBA song running through my head when I first laid eyes on this Indie release (no it wasn’t S.O.S). Seeing the advertisements for this one pop on Steam, I found myself quietly singing ‘Take a Chance On Me’. It just started playing away in the back of my head when I laid eyes on a humble trio of Robots with swords and all of a sudden, the “Oooh, shiny!” part of my brain woke up. Once that Peanut M&M part of my subconscious had awoken, what choice did I have other than to hand over those hard earned pennies and then spend the rest of the day having my eyes melted, my brain massaged and my soul serenaded. Such is the power of marketing. And ABBA.

Beatnik Games - If only you wrote episodes of Eastenders

I’ll confess to not being aware of Beatnik Games before downloading my copy of Plain Sight although I am atoning for my sin by writing this review. With this being the studio’s first release, it’s of course a forgivable fault for me, but what exactly is it that they have created? Honestly, I had no idea what it was when I bought it and having spent the best part of the week playing it, I still wouldn’t be entirely comfortable nailing it down to any particular genre. Within the game play there are elements of Team Fortress, hints of Super Mario Galaxy and whiffs of Team 17’s Worms. In terms of style, there’s the distinctive flavour of ‘Indie-ness’ that can be compared to the last Indie title I took a chance on with Steam, The Ship and a visual style only explainable if Beatnik got Tron 2.0 and Wip3out drunk and then left them alone in a dark room, with a nice bottle of red and some Bryan Adams. If I then conclude my explanation by throwing in game mechanics drawn from Anne Robinson’s: The Weakest Link, only then can I satisfy myself with the knowledge that you’re so utterly perplexed by Plain Sight that you’re maybe thinking now is a good time to sit your Hard-Drive down for a nice long chat about the dangers of talking to strange games. Please allow me to explain.

Plain Sight is a multiplayer game. Everything else the game is, doesn’t exactly have a definitive term yet. Try and imagine Unreal Tournament. That’s a good place to start. Now try and imagine Unreal Tournament, only with a lot of emphasis on the ‘Unreal’ part. Good, getting ever so slightly warmer. Let us now replace all of the characters with Robots and all of the weapons with Swords. Ok, we’re doing well. If you can, now would be a good time to throw in the feel of playing any of the Tribes games in order to better imagine the controls and the way you move around. For anyone that never played a Tribes game, it was essentially like playing Unreal Tournament, only with Jetpacks and Skis – the best two things to ever be combined since cheese landed on toast. Still with me? Great! Ok so all of that, only every level is set on floating platforms like in Super Monkey Ball, only in Space and using the same gravity system that was recently used in Super Mario Galaxy. You’re doing really well, we’re nearly there. Finally, throw in a Talent Tree straight out of Azeroth, put on the soundtrack from Grim Fandango and pace the whole game alongside Sonic 3.

That is quite literally the only way to explain Plain Sight without sitting you down, giving you a nice cup of tea and making you watch the game’s trailer. It seems unfair to really drop the game into a genre (it actually feels quite criminal). Beatnik label it simply as a Multiplayer Arcade Game, but that really seems far too vague. Arguably you could call it a fighter or a platformer but really it’s neither, the fighting’s there and so are the platforms but still it doesn’t do Plain Sight justice. The only real title you can label this one with is to add the word Action into Beatniks description. Even then it’s not a perfectly fair gauge for the sheer beauty of the carnage that awaits you in your first game.

I need your clothes, boots and your motorcy... no wait, I don't, I'm OK actually, I have a Ninja Sword, thanks anyway.

Being a multiplayer title, Plain Sight features no story, campaign or any set of challenges to learn the skills required to play. Beatnik are kind enough not to just throw you right in at the deep end by forcing you straight into that first game; they were kind enough to cobble together a nifty training exercise for us. As you would expect of a PC title, ‘W,A,S,D’ are your faithful friends and the mouse acts an ever trusty steering wheel to control your direction. The Space bar fulfils it stoic role as the jump button and Left Mouse reprises it’s function as Primary Attack. In the games ‘mini-tutorial’ you’re provided with a small platform to familiarise yourself with this tried and tested control scheme and having used it in every game you’ve probably ever played since Wolfenstein, it seems mighty patronising to be asked to checklist your way through such basic commands. And so, as an impatient gamer, I mashed the direction keys in advance the training to a useful part and then proceeded to fling myself like a lemming straight over the edge of the platform. I had already assumed that the game operated on a centric-gravity system and that this action would cause me land harmlessly on the other side of the platform. What actually happened was that I threw myself so fast and hard at the edge of the platform that I flew out, far beyond the ledge and when Gravity reversed its polarity, I continued to fly clean over the underside of the platform and land several yards from where I took off. At this stage in the tutorial, the game was trying to usher me into the combat school whilst I was sat in a stunned disbelief having had my smug facade of gaming prowess stripped away from me after realising that basic control and navigation was going to be something of an issue.

No-one ever makes the first Jump

Ignoring the big instruction across the centre of the screen to continue the tutorial and engage in combat, I proceeded to spend the next 15 minutes trying to successfully navigate the platform in a manner that I could comfortably say ‘That’s what I intended to do’. It wasn’t easy but I was eventually able to jump over the edge and land within a few feet of where I wanted to. There was however an outstanding occasion where I jumped short, landing on the rim of the platform and left sat scratching my head for a few moments, trying to understand why the other side of the platform was now so incredibly narrow. Eventually I stumbled upon the Slam ability which saves you from spinning wildly around the platforms axis and zips you straight down onto your Robot feet. Having achieved my self-awarded jumping badge, I then turned my attention to spicing it up with the dash feature. Left Mouse Button, when held down, causes the Robot to charge-up, with the release propelling the Robot off into the distance. When simply running this acts as a nice and simple dash forwards, although when combined with the space bar and good timing it acts as a form of Hyper Jump that allows you to travel further and faster than normal.

For combat, the function of Left Mouse Button alters somewhat. When approaching a hostile target (provided in the mini-tutorial as a static drone to wail on) a targeting reticule surrounds the enemy and causes a charged left click to direct the Robot directly at the opponent. The longer the mouse button is held, the faster and further the attacking charge you can make. Any hit scored acts as a kill (unless the attacker was simultaneously charging at you –resulting in a ‘clash’ where both Robots are thrown backwards so that they are free to try again) and the now dead Robot’s energy is passed to the victor. This absorbed energy causes the Robot to increase in size and once enough energy has been consumed, the Robot becomes quite the behemoth and quite the target. Size in Plain Sight however affords you with a few slight advantages. Manoeuvring at first appears slower as the Robot seems not to run quite so fast, whereas you’re actually covering more ground, particularly when jumping. In combat you also gain the benefit of being able to reach further with your attacks, but on the downside your increased size does makes you easier to target from further away  and despite possessing stores of energy, one hit is still all that is required to kill you.

The strongest link in this round was K9, who managed to bank +11 energy and make a snotty remark back at Anne Robinson

So where exactly does The Weakest Link reference I made earlier comes into play? Any energy collected, either by collecting star shaped power-ups out in the games or acquired from kills must be banked in order to count towards your score. And how do you Bank your points I hear you cry? Why you blow yourself up of course! Once you have collected your first energy point, the ‘E’ key becomes a detonator just waiting for your command to go robo-supernova. If you are killed before you can detonate, any energy acquired is lost and your score remains unchanged. No detonation, no points. Connecting to your first server and it seems odd to then see those top spots are occupied of scores well over the 100 mark. If each power-up only awards +1 energy and kills on standard size robots also only awarding +1 energy, how is that the scores are so high?. Killing larger Robots of course transfers their own store of collected energy directly to you, meaning that the smallest Robot can quickly become the largest Robot if they’re able to find one and take it down. Still, with time limits not often exceeding 10 minutes, it seems rather perplexing as to how players are able to achieve such high-scores.

In order to reach those dizzy heights, players need to chain together kills in order to gain multiplier bonuses. To make the ascent even faster, players are rewarded for killing Robots using the detonation blast with extra posthumous multiplier bonuses. Banking the energy also provides players with experience points that can be spent advancing the Robot’s skills in 3 areas: Movement, Defence and Offence. Each skill tree is then further broken down into 3 skills with some acting as enhancements to speed, attack and time reductions in the detonation process and other skills introducing entirely new abilities to the Robot such as temporary shield deployment, multi-jump and a lock on warning system.

iJesus is coming back from the grave and this time he's packing a +1 Jump and a Rank 3 Detonate Speed

All of this really extends beyond the games ‘mini-tutorial’ however and is only made aware to the player by actually daring to play the game. The tutorial concludes shortly after the first time you detonate with no explanation given to the games skill trees or any tips given on how to defend yourself or ways to avoid embarrassing yourself. The game does come packaged with a training mode, allowing you to play 4 of the 5 game modes on the games 13 maps. As you might expect though, the bots lack the AI to seriously challenge you in anyway and very little can be learned from the experience save for familiarising yourself with the map and trying out new combinations in the talent tree.

Now that you’ve learned the basics, what is it that you’re actually going to be tasked with? Well, being a multiplayer game, you’re going to be playing against other Robots and they’re going to be playing against you. I know that’s pretty much a given in a multiplayer title but I think that it’s important to remind you that once you set foot online, you’re not really going to be given much of an opportunity to ask questions. I’ll come to the game modes later on, but the main objective in each game is fairly straight forward. Kill Robot. Explode. Score.

I think the Royal Society for the Protection of Ninja Robot Animals may have something to say about that

So to really get started in Plain Sight, you just have to make the jump into an online game, which for me was something of a scary situation. I didn’t feel adequately prepared by any means to face what is sure to be a server populated by ‘Grade A’ Robot Assassins. Having spent the last few years out of the competitive online PC gaming loop, I’ll confess to being even more apprehensive about connecting to a server. My recent gaming in the online world has been more centred on Cooperative gaming in titles like Left 4 Dead and World of Warcraft, with any actual competitive multiplayer being in the less intimate scenarios of 32 vs. 32 and above, where it’s perfectly acceptable for me to be completely rubbish –there’s plenty of other people present to make up for my shortcomings. It’s been too long, I tell myself, I don’t know how to do it anymore. I don’t know if my fingers are able to move that fast or if I’m able recognise where to put pressure and if I’m putting it in the right places. Will I survive long enough to make an impact? Can I honestly measure up to anyone else? Am I going to detonate too soon!?

Sorry, got a bit carried away there. Possibly.

Eventually, I manned up and connected to the biggest baddest battle I could see in the server browser. Sadly, the games yet to take off and at best there are around 30-50 servers operating with most servers being capped at around the 6-8 player mark. Wanting to get my Robot dirty, I launched myself straight into a 20 Robot Deathmatch. I didn’t do too badly, I didn’t do particularly well either, but I somehow came 3rd overall and that’s fairly impressive by my standards. It became clear in this first game that there are techniques to be learned such as when to attack and how to recognise whose likely to be locked onto you in order to successfully avoid them long enough so that someone else kills them or to have the intelligence to engage them in the hope that you can ‘clash’ and from there, take the upper hand. I certainly got lucky in order to have scored so high, I found that I just happened to be in the right place at the right time when making my attacks, often taking out much bigger Robots and having the sense (and sheer elated panic) to detonate straight away in order to bank the energy. I noticed quite often in the game that many players were happily killing Robot after Robot in the hope that they could build a handsome multiplier to score big, only to then have their greed rewarded by another Robot’s sword before they could detonate.

The art-style of Plain Sight is beautiful right down to the last UI. Sadly the games better game modes are left on the sidelines whilst Deathmatch and Team Deathmatch draw in the crowds

Once I’d played a few rounds, I started to really get sucked in to the game and its quirky design. Robots, when jumping, leave colourful trails across the skies acting as on screen radar of sorts that would otherwise have cluttered up a refreshingly empty HUD. The game itself is littered with comical references to Science Fiction and Gaming with a favourite of mine found in the games Steam Achievement: ‘Everybody’s Dead Dave’ to give you a sample of the humour. The sharp neon colours and the games brilliant Jazz soundtrack leaves you unable to escape the game, whether you’re winning or losing. The simplicity in the design along with the uncomplicated controls keep the game accessible to anyone and the variation in the game modes keep each session fresh and filled with Robot fun.

With most of the servers running the Deathmatch or Team Deathmatch game modes, it’s difficult to really enjoy the game fully outside of the practice mode as the more objective based game modes remain under-played. There are a few servers that successfully run large Capture the Beacon games and rarely may you stumble across an active game of Ninja! Ninja! Ninja! Robozilla! (One Robot acting as a boss sized Robot wearing a frankly awesome dinosaur hat, whilst everyone else plays as tiny Robot Ninjas –also complete with bitching hats- that have to work together to take Robozilla down). Until the game really takes off, Deathmatch is looking like the only place where everyone can be found.

The game runs comfortably on a low-mid range hardware thanks to its seemingly basic use of graphics whilst still playing out beautifully up at the 1080p scale of the powerhouse desktop market. Lag, a crucial factor in any multiplayer game, is hard to find with the game operating smoothly up as high as 200 m/s without any noticeable drop in response in what is essentially a fast-reaction game. Sadly, the game is entirely inaccessible without an internet connection, even in Steam’s offline mode and so any hopes of playing a few practice or LAN sessions are this far unavailable. Despite being featured so prominently on Steam, the game is also missing the ability to use the Steam overlay in-game (at least in an official capacity, users are still able to add the game as a ‘Non-Steam’ title in order to gain the Shift Tab features). You can’t also help but feel that the game is still missing a lot of basic and simple features, such as a simple Robot customisation similar to TrackMania (where users can paint the stock cars and change the colour of the trailing line) or any Server Admin tools that would allow hosts to switch game modes on the fly.

    • It's Robot Ninjas with Swords
    • Brilliant audio/visual experience
    • Easy on the Lag
    • Simple to learn yet challenging to master
    • Currently £7.99 ($9.99) on Steam
    • A unique twist on Multiplayer gaming
    • Restricted by the absolute need for an internet connection
    • Still missing some tools you'd look for in a Multiplayer title
    • Painfully short tutorial that leaves you unprepared for the first game
    • No customisation for your handsome Robot Ninja
    • No single player campaign
    • No LAN

There's no denying that Beatnik have stumbled onto a good thing with Plain Sight. The game is fast, fun and full of Robots. When you consider that the game is also set to be released for the PlayStation 3 and Nintendo Wii (no news on a Xbox Live release yet) within the next 12 months, you know that there's still a lot to come from Plain Sight. If you take a look at Beatniks community forums, you can see that the developers are actively asking gamers for ways to improve the game and similarly keeping them informed of any imminent changes and additions due to be patched in. It certainly feels to me that the game has been put out before it's really up to the standard that Beatnik and the community have in mind. Hopefully, the funds acquired from these early sales are going to allow Beatnik to continue to develop the game further and encourage them to develop a fuller gaming experience.

For what we have so far, Plain Sight really is something to be enjoyed. The combat is straight-forward, with the underlying complexity delivered in the 30 varied Robot Upgrades. The visuals are eyeball meltingly satisfying and the movement mechanics, whilst first hard to get to grips with, soon become a joy to play with. I have absolute faith in the London based outfits ability to continue developing the game in the run up to its inevitable console detonation.

So I say thank you for the Robots, the swords I'm swinging. Thanks for all the joy Beatniks bringing. Who can live without it, I ask in all honesty, what would life be? Without a Sword or a Slam what are we? So I say thank you for Robots, for selling them (for £7.99) to meeeeeeee.

Last five articles by Adam



  1. Lorna Lorna says:

    Anything with robots and swords always gets my attention, but where this one lets me down is the fact that it is multiplayer only, something that I avoid like the plague. Still, the concept is interesting and if it came to consoles and allowed for local multiplayer scrums, then it could actually be a pretty stunning party game that doesn’t have to involve Nintendo :D

  2. Kat says:

    Aww look at the pretty pictures! ;P

  3. Lee says:

    Ohhh looks good, I shal have a browse around steam later

  4. Mark R MarkuzR says:

    I’m with Lorna on this one, except that it’s not all about swords and robots for me… I’m not that shallow. It has EXPLOSIONS!! Seriously though, when I read this through the other night I thought “yeah, that sounds like my kind of game” and then I realised that it was JUST multiplayer and… worse than that… ONLINE multiplayer through lobbies. There’s no way I’ll touch it, purely because of that. I’ve played a fair few online lobby games in the past (mostly C&C and more recently AVP) and I really can’t be bothered with it. I prefer to play solo wherever possible and if I HAVE to play multiplayer, I’d rather that we had control over who was playing.

    If only it had a single player with AI option, or an invitation only option. I’d be there.

  5. Adam Adam says:

    I truly believe that Beatnik are planning to add in a large portion of Single Player. They’ve built such a magnificent engine with a unique style and feel to it that they’d be foolish not too.

    As I said, it does have some Single Player Bot AI, but you still have to have an active internet connection just to play that and the bots are fairly predictable, it plays like what Star Wars Battlefront did against bots (easy to rack up a massive score which is fun for 5 minutes but very hollow victory straight after).

    I think with the money they’re bringing in now from these sales, they’re going to be able to develop this mythical content I’m imagining in my head for when they release the game on Consoles next year. Its something that will warrant a fresh look in a few months thats for sure.

  6. Samuel The Preacher says:

    I’m even more confused about this game now than when I started reading, heh… I saw it on Steam advertised for eight quid at the end of last week and since it is robot ninjas I seriously considered it, but I can’t for the life of me figure it out. That kind of anarchy is anathema to me, so I wound up leaving it alone. That and I don’t do multiplayer with random weirdos from Steam. Not after the last time my usual TF2 server was full and I stupidly decided to just pick out a replacement and wound up playing with what seemed to be drunken toddlers with mad FPS skills.

    Maybe when my liver is fixed and I’m good and drunk, I’ll finally get this. Literally and conceptually. For now, it remains a tantalising enigma.

  7. LANNER says:

    No LAN?. Dammit. I was just about to buy it.

  8. Adam Adam says:

    The no-lan is pretty heartbreaking, especially seeing as it probably isn’t so hard to program in.

    I can understand the reasons why of course. PC Gaming is always under threat from piracy and with independant developers like Beatnik, that can litterally kill a game. If something requires an internet connection to play, it protects the company from pirates and with Plain Sight, I totally support that.

    I think both Starcraft and the newest Command and Conquer do not feature LAN either which is sad. Again, I understand the reason, but the bigger companies can surely risk taking a few hits in order to support the masses. I love reading about LAN events (sadly never been to any of the big ones) and love idea behind it and Its worrying to think that events like that are going to be forced out of our passion because of it.

    I used to play a lot of Baldurs Gate, Age of Empires and Neverwinter Nights LAN’d, its sad to think that so many today and millions more in the future will never get to enjoy that

Leave a Comment