UNSIGHTED Review – We’re Automata
Developer: Studio Pixel Punk
Release Date: September 30, 2021
Reviewed On: PS4
Publisher: Humble Games
Genre: Action, Puzzle, RPG
The world of UNSIGHTED, Arcadia, is dying. In many ways, it’s already dead. The humans have disappeared, and all that remains is the Automatons, a race of sentient robots whose sentience is a finite resource about to be extinguished. This game puts you in the role of one such android and tasks you with saving the city, your friends, and yourself before you succumb to madness and become a bloodthirsty UNSIGHTED.
This debut title from two-person Brazilian team Studio Pixel Punk takes heavy influence from The Legend of Zelda and NieR series, blending them into a dark, bleak world full of nightmarish abominations and puzzle-based exploration. Every character is on a time limit before they essentially lose their ability to reason and become violent UNSIGHTED. While you can use items to extend their lifespans, you will also need the same resource to expand your health regeneration and prevent yourself from death-by-entropy. This wide-open game asks you to use your time wisely because you don’t have an infinite amount of it.
Don’t let that discourage you too much from stopping to appreciate how gorgeous its world is, though. The fact that this game was made by two people is not at all evident in the level of detail Arcadia has to offer. There are shortcuts and side corridors and hidden passageways all over the place, and every puzzle will reward you with either progression or a valuable item. One of the more noteworthy items, Meteor Dust, is used to give a character of your choice another twenty-four hours to live. You may need to use it on yourself as well because your quest will take all the time you can give to it.
This quest of yours consists of searching the city for five shards of the meteor that crashed into Arcadia and eventually caused the situation as it stands in the present. These shards need to be forged into a blade that can fight through the strange, black, many-eyed corruption to reach the meteor tower in the distance. Then, you must find the source of said corruption to restore the Anima needed for the robots to retain their sentience. Each shard is in a different landmark in Arcadia, guarded by a powerful, former friend who is now UNSIGHTED. As you recover the shards, you also regain memories of your past, particularly about a robot named Raquel that ventured into the tower sometime before you woke up.
I don’t want to spoil too much about the story because it’s rather simple but very effective, and the bigger narrative affects the player in the fight against time. It gives the player a finite number of chances to keep trying after they’ve died and creates a sense of constant tension that only makes the experience more engrossing. You have much time to do what you need to do, but not all of your friends do, and you’ll have to prioritize the people you want to keep around (I heavily recommend giving some dust to Iris, your fairy companion). Of course, like with many games that have time limits, there are ways to mitigate it. Still, it’s an undeniably vital part of the experience.
Combat is fast and highly satisfying to master. You are more than welcome to charge in swinging, but you only have a few attacks before you drain your stamina bar, and doing so will leave you vulnerable to a swift and painful death. So instead, the real strategy is to learn how to parry enemies and stun them to set up a massive counterattack. It’s tricky at first, but once you start deliberately building your character to take advantage of substantial damage boosts, the feeling of scoring a lethal critical attack after a well-timed block is excellent.
Like in old-school Zelda, you have two buttons to map to your battle and exploration tools. The inspiration gets even more apparent once you start acquiring spinners and hookshots. However, despite how on the nose these inspirations are, making your way around the environment is consistently fun as you gain new ways of traversing over bottomless pits and huge ponds. The spinner allows you to quickly zip through any room you can cross on foot, which ends up being very helpful for bypassing monsters on your second, third, or fourth trip to the next boss room from the save point.
UNSIGHTED is a wonderful experience with enough consistency and challenge to make up for how much it borrows from other titles, but I do have some critiques with it. Meteor Dust can be obtained from fishing nodes, which respawn, making it a technically infinite resource. It’s still going to be hard to find enough of it to go around, but just spending some time wandering around and fishing will give you an amount that I would consider to go against the story’s themes. Additionally, some standard enemies can’t be parried against, and trying to fight them can feel like a drag compared to the reflex-testing combat the rest of the title offers.
UNSIGHTED is clearly a well-crafted adventure that gives the player a ton of different options for how they’ll play it. The combat is fluid and visceral, the environments form a beautiful obstacle course that’s always a blast to navigate, and the story delivers a cast of diverse characters and a well-deserved payoff at the end. Studio Pixel Punk’s first game can easily stand with the Hollow Knights and Oris of the indie action landscape.
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