About an hour after UNSIGHTED, I realized that I wasn’t playing any indie title. I was really surprised at the depth that this multi-genre game has. I say multi-genre for a reason. This exploration-intensive, story-driven, highly repeatable top-down action RPG adventure (gasp) is awesome and will keep you hooked after the opening level.
UNSIGHTED was developed by Studio Pixel Punk who, as their social media platforms show, are very excited and proud of this release. UNSIGHTED is really a project to be proud of. You can really see the passion and attention to detail in every aspect of the narrative and gameplay.
You play as Alma, who is an automaton (a robot made sentient by “anima”) who wakes up in a laboratory and realizes that the world she just remembers is now at war with humans. The anima that was once a rich resource for the automatons – and its life force – is now running out. Without them, Alma and her machine friends are slowly becoming UNSIGHTED, making them non-sentient versions of themselves who essentially become killer machines. Each slot machine has its own “remaining time” that decreases in real time as you play, which means that not only is your life at stake, but almost everyone you care about too. Alma takes on the task of finding five shards that will use the power to keep all the machines from going INVISIBLE. These shards are scattered all over the world of Arcadia, each area they are in is very different from the last, and Alma must “collect” them. I use “gathering” loosely because these are all protected by their own boss, each of whom is a hell of a challenge.
One aspect of the story that I would like to praise is that most of the story and characters are women (or at least feminine-looking automata). The relationship, especially that of Alma and Roxanne, strongly suggests that it is an LGBTQ + relationship. We are not told this either, but I saw it that way and liked it. I wanted nothing more than to reunite Alma with Roxanne and save a large number of other machines with which I had established a deep connection as Alma. Having an LGBTQ + narrative as well as a predominantly female cast is the kind of representation and diversity rarely seen in video games, but thankfully it’s becoming more common.
Knowing that your actions, decisions, and basically every move you make can cost you and someone in this world to become INVISIBLE is very stressful. There are many moments as an Alma when you come across vending machines during a conversation or speak to loved ones who have either been lost or left to fight. This gives NPCs a lot of depth that normally wouldn’t be all that important to you. At many points in the game, I was scared of exploring certain areas rather than sticking to it while playing as one of the NPCs I encountered recently wasn’t long left and I wanted to save as many as possible. At the same time, however, I was intrigued to see what would happen if I let them go UNSIGHTED and how that would affect the story – especially important characters in the story where replayability would come into play.
The gameplay is similar to Hyper Light Drifter and is much deeper than initially expected. With UNSIGHTED you have two weapon slots that you can change at any time by pausing the game and switching up in your main hub. These weapons vary from swords, pistols, heavy axes, and more, with the ZR and ZL acting as attack buttons during your campaign. These weapons can be given away, found, and crafted (as there are crafts, of course). All weapons have different advantages, speeds and combinations, so it’s fun to play around with different pairs to see what feels right or what is needed at a given moment. The fight seems easy enough but is difficult to master. Incorporating dashes and jumps and timing your actions to break the enemy’s patterns is key to survival. There’s a learning curve, especially when the controls could have been better. Movement feels good, but in combat, especially when dealing with larger enemies, the rigorous gameplay can feel stiff and your movement can stutter at times. Although you also have a stamina meter that wears out very quickly, adding a stamina chip to your unit can fix this problem. Chips can be used to improve and improve various stats – buffs such as more health, stronger attacks and the oh-so-important stamina buffs can be added to Alma. Remember, however, that you only have a certain number of slots for the chips so it is important to find the right combination. You can increase your chip slots at terminals, where you can also heal yourself and teleport to other locations that you have previously explored. To play a game where you are against the clock of each slot machine character’s lifespan requires a lot of careful planning, which can sometimes lead to a very stressful experience.
So far, I’ve only scratched the surface for customizability and the things you can do on your own in molding Alma into the best version you see fit. In addition to the many weapon variations you can have and chip mechanics, you can also add gears to Alma that are similar to chips but are temporary. An example of this could be the use of a gear that prevents the loss of stamina for a period of time. You can also look at blueprints that you discovered to be crafted and keep an eye on your inventory and essential items. Another area that you can monitor at all times is your contacts. These contacts are the friends you’ve made in history. It shows your connection with that character through a series of hearts and also shows the time remaining. This is also a great way to check how long you need to save a particular person.
There is a lot to discover and find in the world of Arcadia. The world can be viewed at any time on a map that fills in Metroidvania style as you enter new areas. When not in combat there is always something or place to explore, lots of easy puzzle pieces, and often more than one way to do things. In the opening level, for example, there are many ways to complete the progress to the next area. You can collect the sword, find the elevator code and go, or you can guess the elevator code and go without the sword. In this case, you will be given a different weapon later. Alternatively, after reading about the openings in a log left behind, you can search for those openings and then enter to find unique items that cannot be found anywhere else. This is only at the opening level, before you are presented with a story or you even know the main character’s name. Since the world is so big and I personally wanted to cover as much of it as possible, I sometimes felt that I couldn’t do this due to the ticking clock of everyone’s lifespan. I found that I’d spent so long exploring the early game that a character who was supposed to appear later in the game had already gone UNSIGHTED by the time I got to him. I think that’s where replayability comes in.
One living organism that has not threatened the life of these machines is dogs. A vending machine named Tobias even opened a pet store out of love for these creatures. On your travels you can find stray dogs, rescue them, send them to Tobias’ pet store, and yes, you can pet each and every one of them. A nice little addition to take your mind off the entire machine race that is relying on you!
In addition to the main story, which you can play in co-op, you can also play two other modes. These are Dungeon Raid and Boss Rush. In Dungeon Raid, you traverse procedurally generated dungeons to defeat enemies, collect loot and try to survive as long as possible. I found this mode pretty fun and more of a drop-in, drop-out mode to practice combat without the stress of knowing that my favorite machine was slowly dying. Boss Rush is what you might expect: choose a load of weapons and chips, then see how many bosses in the game you can take down in a row. These are both nice additions to the main campaign, and while they don’t necessarily spoil the story, they spoil who the bosses are and any weapons, chips, and items that you may not have discovered yet.
One of the biggest highlights of UNSIGHTED is its graphics and sound. The cyberpunk style pixel art is colorful and beautiful. Even in gloomy dungeons, the colors pop due to the constant aura of light that follows Alma and highlights common enemies. The music is a piano-heavy, melodic tone that I like to listen to all day when I read books or just swing.
Overall, UNSIGHTED is a game that I hope doesn’t fall into the hidden gem category. For the simple reason that it is a gem that shouldn’t be hidden and needs to be in the field of vision (get it?) As many players as possible. Despite the stress of the lifelong gimmick, this unique element is what keeps you going, panicking, worrying, but ultimately loving your time as Alma. The narration is beautiful and the characters are all full of life and adorable, which makes for a game journey that really matters to you.