The best games you missed in 2021: Unsighted
The first rule of video game club (apart from not talking about video game club) usually involves saving the world somehow. We do our best to rescue others from harm, to avert world-ending disasters, and give everyone around us the happy ending they deserve. But if there’s one thing I’ve learned about myself in 2021, it’s that I’m a cruel, heartless robot who will happily toss others under the bus if they don’t provide any material benefit to me. Or at least I am when I’m playing Unsighted, the gorgeous and criminally underrated action RPG from Studio Pixel Punk that puts a ticking time-bomb inside each of its characters’ metallic chests which, if left unchecked, will remove them from the game entirely, preventing you from gaining some potentially very handy upgrades to help you in your quest to fight back against your human oppressors.
It’s an ingenious system, as you’re not only fighting against the hordes of enemies that appear onscreen, but your own ineptitude.
The key to averting your friends’ fates is to collect handfuls of meteor dust, which can extend their life force by 24 hours. These are hidden away in chests around Unsighted’s frequently stunning open-world map and five main dungeons, often requiring some nifty footwork and platform puzzling to reach and unlock. But you quickly realise there simply isn’t enough to go round and save everyone you meet. It’s a limited resource, and even spending the time seeking it out can cost vital minutes and hours on the in-game clock. And of course the first person you’re confronted with saving is none other than a little old granny android. Of course it is. So yes, Studio Pixel Punk, I AM a monster, okay? Are you happy now?
The thing is, old granny android is also kinda useless. Her main function is to sell you cogs that can increase your attack power, defence, stamina and movement speed, but you also quickly gain the ability to craft these items yourself. Similarly, increasing her friendship level to the maximum of four hearts by giving her said meteor dust doesn’t really benefit you either. Just some deeper discounts on those already easily obtainable cogs she’s plugging. Putting my tech journalist hat on for a minute, she’s the very definition of an outdated piece of technology. She’s completely redundant in the face of your superior android abilites, and when my pal Samuel across the way is musing whether he’ll have enough time to complete his portable chip-equipping machine for me before he, too, bites the dust, it becomes pretty clear who I should give my precious meteor dust to and who not to. I wish it weren’t that stark, but there you go, and good lord if I didn’t half feel terrible about letting her timer run out in the process. I’m sorry, granny Teresa, I really am.
Aside from making me feel like a terrible human being, I also think it’s a novel kind of pressure to put on a player, as it really is the strength of your own actions and ability to conquer its systems that determines what happens to these people you’re trying to save. None of this going off to catalogue every last bug or poncing about taking pictures while the world burns around you nonsense, no sir. Time matters in Unsighted, and I like how it flies in the face of almost every single ‘urgent’ video game quest I’ve ever undertaken in an RPG. At first you think 325 in-game hours will be an absolute doozy, but I’ve already had to extend my own lifeforce a couple of times now, and my mates back home are starting to drop like flies – and that’s despite giving them bundles of dust, too. I’m so close to the finish line (I think), but man, I really have no one to blame but myself that not all of them will get to see how it ends.
If that sounds like too much added pressure for your liking, you’ll be pleased to hear you can simply turn this feature off in Unsighted and just focus on perfecting its rock-hard combat. I was almost tempted to do this myself when I realised how many people I wouldn’t be able to save – either due to my poor fighting skills or general curiosity to wander off the beaten track – but I eventually decided to stick to my guns and see through my decision to the end. I wanted to experience the full force of what Unsighted is about, even if it meant I was going to be the only one standing at the end of it all. After all, I’m the person who made such a pig’s ear of Frostpunk that by the time I reached the big climactic blizzard at the end, I just had to whack the timer on fast forward and hope for the best.
The combat in Unsighted is properly excellent as well. It reminds me of the considered, yet fast-paced action of Hyper Light Drifter, only it packs a mean and devastating parry that can really make mincemeat of both its screen-hogging bosses and signature field enemies. Its dungeons are classic top-down Zelda stuff, too. Even the way Alma falls from floor to floor is straight up from A Link To The Past, while her nifty spinner calls harks back to the best bits from Twilight Princess. My only complaint is that its checkpoints are just a tad too far away from its unforgiving boss lairs to make getting back them unscatched nice and straightforward. Perhaps I’ve been spoiled by Death’s Door in this regard, which plonks its save points, ironically, right at each boss’ front porch, but when time is of the essence, Unsighted’s save terminals can end up feeling a little stingy as a result.
Still, that shouldn’t deter you from giving Unsighted a go, especially when it’s on Game Pass. My only regret is that I didn’t write about Unsighted sooner. It’s a special game that not only looks gorgeous and is satisfying to play, but it’s also doing something genuinely different from a lot of other Metroid-likes out there right now. I hope you’ll be a better person than I am when it comes to saving old granny Teresa.