It seems like Metrodivania’s come out constantly. With a genre that has remained popular for over 30 years, that makes sense. Metroidvania’s move fast, require player thought and feature a visual design that harkens back to a nostalgic era in games. Unsighted is the latest to grace my games library, and Studio Pixel Punk brought something genuinely unique to the table. Almost immediately, Unsighted proved itself to be a game that wanted to bring something new to the genre. With a focus on time and player’s choices, I was in immediately.
Unsighted takes place in a sort of post-apocalyptic world where humans and automatons have clashed. You play as the amnesic, but incredibly talented, Alma who is searching for her partner. As the game continues, more automatons are introduced and it becomes clear that searching for Alma’s missing partner isn’t the only quest you’ll need to accomplish. A lack of resources is turning automatons into violent, mindless versions of themselves.
Unsighted‘s timing mechanic was generally interesting. Its implementation, however, is incredibly smart. Once it’s introduced, every future automaton you meet has a life timer that shows up alongside their name. Pulling up a sort of contact list only reminds you that everyone is slowly dying and biding time until they turn into a creature they can’t control. Death is inevitable, no matter how quick and skilled you are. Main characters tend to have a certain finality to them. When a story is based around someone, the expectation is that they’ll be around to see it to its end. That certainty is gone.
Unsighted fully reimagines what failure looks like in a Metroidvania. Having to restart a checkpoint doesn’t hurt nearly as much as not being able to save that one person. You exist in a world where death is inevitable and lives are dependent upon a single rare material. The pressure to either save yourself, save a friend, or be the herald of an entire community is immense. Attempting to save everyone through self sacrifice leads to death. Being understandably selfish with the one resource that can extend your own life also leads to death. It’s impossible to cheat the system. Those are the kind of stakes I like in games. I also think there’s something important about a narrative where a struggling community is desperately in need of an outside resource simply to maintain their lives and autonomy.
When I think of Metrodvanias, my main focus is on gameplay. Unsighted maintains the puzzle and “forward moving” traits common in the genre, but adds an emotional layer that I wasn’t expecting. It merges gameplay and mechanics in such a seamless way. I can’t help but feel a lot of this has to do with the creators of the game. Studio Pixel Punk is headed by two trans women, and they’ve managed to make a core mechanic feel inseparable from the emotional tone of the game.
Unsighted is currently available on PC (via Steam and Xbox Game Pass) and the Nintendo Switch.