One would have to be UNSIGHTED not to see this game’s quality.
Type: Single-player, Local Co-op
Developer: Studio Pixel Punk
Publisher: Humble Games
Release date: 30 Sept, 2021
UNSIGHTED first caught my attention as a tale about automatons, one of my favorite science fiction staples, often diving into deep themes such as what does it mean to be alive. When I sat down to play, I realized that the game is described as a metroidvania, a subgenre I was familiar with by name and not much else. Historically I have avoided games with that tag due to my belief that they would be too difficult for me, but I tried to go into playing UNSIGHTED with an open mind and have had a thoroughly enjoyable experience despite the challenges. That said, this is essentially my first experience playing a metroidvania game.
UNSIGHTED borrows from classic Japanese fantasy games as well as cyberpunk manga and anime to spin its own story. The character awakens in a lab with no memories of who she is or how she got there, only that she is looking for Raquel. Eventually the player meets other characters and learns she is Alma, an automaton created by the human Doctor Zeferina to be perfect to fight the humans who are attempting to run out the clock on all Automatons. Automatons are given consciousness by Anima from a Meteor which landed on their world some time ago. Humans at war with Automatons have sealed away the Meteor and begun stripping Automatons of consciousness, as Automatons who run out of Anima become UNSIGHTED, mindless killing machines. Alma sets out to recover five Shards that will allow her to access the Crater Tower blocking the Meteor.
Gameplay and Mechanics
UNSIGHTED is not a 2D side-scrolling platformer like some classic metroidvania games but contains key elements of the subgenre, such as a large interconnected world map with areas that become explorable as the player gains the right abilities or equipment. The game can be played as both single-player or shared-/split-screen co-op and provides full controller support as well as remote play on phone, tablet, and TV. As of the time of this review, I’ve only explored the single-player mouse-and-keyboard options on PC. There are three levels of difficulty to choose from: Explorer, Action Girl, and Robot Apocalypse. Action Girl is the recommended difficulty level, but as an inexperienced metroidvania player, I opted to play on the Explorer difficulty for my first playthrough. The Explorer mode offers additional customization, including invincibility, although I refused to enable that particular option.
One of UNSIGHTED’s key gameplay features is the limited amount of time each character has left before they become UNSIGHTED, which is indicated by a timer near their name. This time can be extended 24 hours by using Meteor Dust, but since there is a limited amount available, the player must decide whether to use it for Alma or whether to give it to someone else. The player can see which Automatons they’ve met and how much time they have left in the Contacts List. In Explorer Mode, the Character Timers can be disabled, but I hope to have this feature on in a future playthrough once I’m more familiar with the game’s mechanics in order to fully experience the spectrum of choices as far as storytelling is concerned.
The game saves at Terminals, with only one save slot per playthrough and three save slots total. Dying causes Alma to lose half of her accumulated bolts (the currency of UNSIGHTED), but they can be recovered once she returns to the location where she died. The player can choose to respawn at the last Terminal or Gear Village. Fortunately, ‘dying’ only applies to combat and not to falling off a cliff or in the water; in those cases the player simply respawns where they were before falling. The Terminal is also where the player can adjust Alma’s chips or teleport to other visited Terminal locations on the map. Chips are effectively equipment that increases Alma’s stamina, health, or other attributes. There are a limited number of chip slots, although additional slots can be purchased with enough bolts (up to a point). Crafting Tables can frequently be found near Terminals, and with Blueprints Alma can craft better weapons, chips, or cogs. Effect Cogs are a consumable resource that can temporarily enhance Alma’s attack, defense, stamina, or other attributes. Crafting isn’t the only way to get weapons, chips, or cogs though, as they can also be picked up during exploration.
Alma has two weapon slots available. The first one is activated with the left mouse button, and the second one is activated with the right mouse button. It’s important to use the mouse cursor to help aim Alma’s attacks. For me, it worked well to have a melee weapon in the first slot and a ranged weapon in the second slot. Some of the weapons effectively become part of solving puzzles; for example, the shuriken is a guidable ranged weapon that the player can navigate around curves to hit switches that are otherwise out of reach.
Art Style and Graphics
The art style and graphics nail late 80s/early 90s arcade games, with a retro comic book color palette, pixel art, and anime character attributes. Alma’s hair in particular is very dynamic, waving as she walks. Day and night visually cycle to show the passage of time. Death calls to mind classic arcade games as Alma flies in the air and the background fades to black, leaving Alma laying defeated in the center screen.
Sound and Music
The sound effects are an homage to late 80s/early 90s video games, and the soundtrack is clearly inspired by that era as well. The music uses industrial and electronic elements to create a cyberpunk ambience with notes reminiscent of MIDI.
In addition to the Main Story, UNSIGHTED also has Dungeon Raid and Boss Rush challenge modes. There are 42 possible achievements, some of which are definitely going to make the player work to earn them.
UNSIGHTED offers a high-quality gameplay experience with plenty of content for variety throughout multiple playthroughs, well worth buying at full price ($19.99 USD at the time of review). Fans of metroidvania will find plenty to love here, and for players like me who have been hesitant to give metroidvania a try, UNSIGHTED offers an engaging story and characters, fun puzzles, ample gameplay customization options for the inexperienced, and an artistic retro feast for the senses.