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The Games Of Christmas ’10: Day 11

POWER. Everybody wants it, but no man should have so much of it. Just ask Kanye West. On the eleventieth day of Christmas, RPS thinks fondly back to our pursuit of it, at great expense to our foes.


Iiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiit's: Plain Sight!

Quinns: No game has ever made me feel as pretty as Plain Sight does. Prettiness in games- it’s not really done, is it? We’re all about the boot-stomp and the big numbers, the bloodstained victory, the conversation and the demolition. If we encounter some pretty, it’s usually from unintentionally catching a day-night cycle’s sunrise. It’s an accident.

Plain Sight is no accident. Plain Sight’s thing, if you’re unaware, is robot deathmatch with katanas, but gravity is weak like a kitten and only pulls you towards the nearest flat surface. If you jump more than half way towards a ceiling, you finish your jump falling upwards towards it and landing on your feet, whereupon it becomes the floor. If you jump lightly off a platform that’s floating in space, you’ll land on the other side. Jump harder, and you’ll end up orbiting that platform. In Plain Sight, these zero-G acrobatics aren’t just encouraged, they’re unavoidable. With the neon streamer your robot leaves behind, you couldn’t be ugly in Plain Sight if you wanted to. But oh my goodness, you can be pretty. You can be exquisite.

You can end a duel where yourself and another robot are unintentionally tying your trails in a great two-tone knot by leaping off the level as hard as you can. All that blocking and dodging and attacking will abruptly dissolve into a long, gentle curve that’ll take you all the way around the level to a completely different location where it’ll probably be all skittish backflips and nervous lunges again. But any time you want another cut of peace, you just leap.

My favourite level in Plain Sight is a Capture The Flag map with two opposing castle, where the flag is actually kept on the moon that floats above each fortress. You climb the enemy castle all the way to the highest parapet, then perform a desperate leap of faith up towards the moon. Usually it’ll only just catch you in its gravity, causing a stomach-turning twist as you seemingly get pulled up into space before your robot glides around and around to land on the moon. Finally you grab the flag and look up at your otherworldly reward. From here you can see the whole level, both castles and all the battles happening between them, but now it’s your ceiling and everything’s happening upside-down. It’s utterly awe-inspiring. Plain Sight’s loaded with this stuff. One level is two giant floating cassette tapes with their tape spooled out to create two looping, curving pathways for you to leap between or around.

A game like Plain Sight makes you realise what games can do, or, more accurately, what they’re not doing. Games can model anything we can imagine, anything at all, and each year sees the release of HOW many games involving men with guns? Why isn’t low-gravity robot ninja suicide deathmatch a genre already? C’mon, developers. Pick it up.

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Alec: Yeah, it's that "why not?" ethos I was banging on about in regard to Recettear yesterday, this time painted in glorious abstract violence. Robots + swords + drunken gravity: why not?

There's a satisfyingly organic quality to Plain Sight, which makes it far harder to understand through words than through play. Despite the easy attention-grabbing of robot/sword thing, it's not at all dependent on a high concept. Rather, there's a palpable sense of happy developers mashing a mixed pile of intriguing interactions mashed together and just seeing what manner of Frankenstein results. The result is a beautiful beast.

That pic'n'mix why not? DNA means this perhaps doesn't suit intensive, grimly methodical play (something which slightly soured Plain Sight to me when I was reviewing it in a hurry for somewhere else). As I discovered upon returning to in on my own basis, it positively sings when treated as something to drop in and out of. Plain Sight's idiom is ten minutes of sculpted madness, being guaranteed a breathless series of tiny adrenaline highs no matter what the outcome.

It's built upon nearly-moments. Every single clash with an opponent is a pounding rush of near-victory or near-defeat, happening so quickly that it's impossible not to have a dozen What Ifs? spasm across the canals of your brain in a split second - and always resulting in the clear, staunch conviction that in the next fight, your superiority will be without question. The freewheeling, zero-G strangeness of the maps only endorses that sentiment: this science-bending neon place is my playground. How dare anyone else seek to contradict that?

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