Local multiplayer games are nowhere near as prevalent these days as they were in the era before online gaming. When big publishers realised that taking multiplayer gaming online meant a unit sold per player – and not just one per friend group – split-screen modes largely went the way of the dodo.
Yet gaming with friends in the same room, whether co-operatively or competitively, often provide an incredible amount of entertainment; some of my absolute favourite, most memorable gaming sessions were ones with friends, all of us hunched around a usually tiny CRT – playing Bomberman, Super Mario Kart, GoldenEye or Mashed.
Thankfully, indie developers are keeping the local multiplayer flame alive – and Unspottable is a really great example of indie inventiveness and local multiplayer madness.
In Unspottable, two to four players compete to be the first to ten points. Points are gained by defeating other players or completing stage-specific alternative objectives. The twist? Players look identical to each other and the game-controlled bots on each stage – and it usually takes a few seconds for players to work out who they’re controlling themselves, let alone who their opponents are on each stage. So the trick is to try acting as much like a bot as possible while trying to track down and eliminate your opponents – without them working out who you are.
Typically, this means punching an opponent – but in most stages the bots don’t punch. So just by initiating a punch, you’re potentially giving yourself away. Unless you hit the last character in the stage, even if it’s a successful punch the other players will see you – and once you’ve tried to punch once, there’s a slight delay in being able to do so again, so you have to be extremely careful in choosing your moment to attack. It’s a delicate balancing act of trying to stay hidden while taking the opportunity to attack and then quickly hide again, however you can.
It’s incredibly addictive, plays brilliantly and it’s hilarious too. There’s a great variety in the stages on offer and though some definitely work better than others – a Bomberman-esque stage where players can be killed by huge bombs dropping onto the stage can feel unfair, for example, as players don’t always have enough time to work out who they’re controlling before the bombs drop – it’s a blast getting to grips with the various tweaks to the basic formula on each stage. The Prison yard stage, for example, has spotlights that reveal which characters are bots and which are human; another clever stage is the Nightclub, in which bots follow the dance routine the DJ performs – and players can remain hidden for longer if they follow the routine too.
Unspottable is a single, well-implemented idea with tons of fun squeezed from it, providing raucous local multiplayer fun of the type that many players miss; it’s accessible, it’s fast-paced, has a great sense of visual humour and it’s always a blast to play. Highly recommended.
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