The life of an automaton is difficult. Always under the orders of disrespectful human beings, who unload on the shoulders of robots all the anxieties, fears and responsibilities that they are unable to fend for themselves. Who knows what could happen if the automatons were to acquire a conscience, an empathy, feelings. Over the decades, literature, cinema and video games have often wondered about the ethical and moral dilemmas of artificial intelligence. Staying in the interactive sphere that interests us most, a name of little weight like that of Yoko Taro was able to deal with the question masterfully, giving us in 2017 a NieR Automata that punched us in the face, without saving anything or anyone. .
In the wake of Taro's work, the boys of Pixel Punk, aware of their means, avoiding overdoing it and hitting right on target. unsighted it is in fact an extraordinary title, punitive but balanced and which owes as much to the recent history of metroidvania as to another indie excellence that responds to the name of CrossCode.
Unsighted's narrative premise is not original in itself. On the contrary, it takes from a whole science fiction culture, more or less dystopian, which over the last century has abounded in all the major media. In an undefined future, human beings live in symbiosis with automata, mechanical beings of the most disparate shapes and appearances, useful for carrying out actions and jobs without complaining and without getting tired. In this panorama not so far from what the real future seems to set us, a meteorite hits the Earth and releases the so-called Anima, a substance that overnight makes automata sentient and capable of thinking, reasoning, feeling emotions and having ambitions.
The Earth is now an inhospitable place and human beings have largely fled, aware and frightened even by the renewed consciousness of automatons. For an indefinite time the robots live in community, until a tragic event, probably wanted by man himself, leads to the disappearance of the source of Soul. Assimilation is therefore impossible, if not through a few remains that can be found here and there for Arcadia - this is the name of the entire game map - and each automaton is therefore destined to lose what it has longed for without even knowing it: its own humanity. Running out of the Soul reserve, quantified in number of hours, means become Unsighted, creatures no longer conscious who give their name to the title and who live in anger and death.
Our adventure begins in this idyllic landscape, impersonating one of the last remaining automatons, who, as in the most classic of situations, has lost his memory, but is nevertheless aware of having to fight for the common good and for the continuation of his "species" .
From Hollow Knight and Guacamelee !, up to Control and the more recent Metroid Dread, the metroidvania genre has seen a large number of excellent experiences and different interpretations for some years. In this thriving landscape full of ideas, the Pixel Punk guys have decided to aim high, taking many inspirations here and there and putting together a balanced and masterfully structured game. Anyone of you in the past years who has had the pleasure of trying Hyper Light Drifter or Cross Code will soon be able to feel at home. Unsighted is in all respects a action RPG with features of progression from metroidvania and with a couple of elements that have characterized the Souls but which in the last ten years have become part of a common vocabulary among the most disparate genres.
The map is unique but divided into zones and levels, with a total completion percentage always visible and within reach. Simple but very clear, navigation is a pleasure, even and above all when you acquire new skills that allow you to explore previously inaccessible areas and which hide secrets or interesting upgrades.
Precisely the progression is so tangible and fun that it makes anyone familiar with the genre understand how the Brazilian team studied at the home of the best, and was able to put together an experience characterized by superfine balance and a sense of satisfaction that, believe it, it is truly unique. There personalization of the protagonist is another aspect that should not be underestimated: a bit like in NieR it is possible to insert chips into special slots that must be unlocked over time and used in the most disparate ways. Do you want to avoid spending stamina running? You can. Do you want to increase health points or total stamina? No problem. What interests you is defense? You can increase that too, and the possibilities are so many. Do not miss the crafting, possible through a series of projects that can be purchased from automata in the city or found inside chests, often after completing simple but fun environmental puzzles.
Two weapons that can be equipped at the same time, both at short and long distance, and with the possibility of building and upgrading them you can dramatically increase your arsenal, so as to choose what to use in each specific situation. The combat system it is rather traditional: few and well-aimed blows to do damage, just as very few are those that can be collected before dying. There is a parry system that allows you to counterattack at the right time and stun the enemies, so as to score really critical damage, fundamental against the numerous and splendid bosses of the game. However, it will be inevitable to die more than a few times and, unless you have found the suitable chip and spent a good number of slots at your disposal, this will result in the loss of half of your possessions, useful for making purchases and increasing your skills. There is no growth in levels, while fighting, exploring and solving puzzles in Unsighted is a pleasure, with a precise feel of the controls and on which the team has clearly dedicated a lot of attention.
Unsighted inserts into the equation of the game, unless you disable the option (but we do not recommend it), that of time available. As we have already said, the loss of the Soul source has put all automatons at risk, and this aspect is not left to chance in the gameplay. Every NPC you meet - and there are so many - will be entered in a contact register through which you can see the level of friendship and the hours available to him. Every second that passes in Unsighted is a minute in the game: once an NPC's time runs out, it becomes Unsighted and, in addition to the ethical and moral dilemma that may arise, cynically this also means losing any help or upgrade that that character could have given. The Pixel Punk guys were bad in this respect, not even hiding so deeply a series of elements, be they chips or weapons, that it is possible to receive only by giving more time to live to their fellowmen. Recover the little star dust available in the map will allow you to increase the life of a single automaton by 24 hours. It will be up to you to choose, with all that it will entail humanly and in terms of progression.
We played Unsighted on PC, but the game is available almost everywhere, including in Microsoft's Game Pass. The game performs very well both in terms of fluidity and input lag, making it a pleasure not only for the eyes, but also in the controls. However, a dignified but not particularly original pixel art is flanked by refined stylistic choices and a great differentiation of the settings. The sound design is also excellent, especially as regards the effects, minus the soundtrack, probably the only less impactful element of the Brazilian production.
Unsighted arrives like a cannon shot in a panorama of metroidvania derivatives that is making fans happy in recent years. Presented and released quietly, Pixel Punk's work is an excellent reflection on our planet, on inclusiveness and the ability to accept the different, all in an agglomeration of genres that works splendidly and that surprises for balance and ability to mix everything. Put a duration that is around 10 hours and two additional modes available in addition to the campaign, and you will have one of the biggest surprises of this fall and of the whole year at hand.
- Great sense of progression
- Not very original in themes, but it touches some important chords
- The boss fights are each more beautiful than the other
- The mechanics of time are "bad" and brilliant
- We would like it to last a lot, a lot, a lot longer
- Soundtrack not up to the rest