Review: Unsighted by Studio Pixel Punk


Artwork showing a variety of characters from Unsighted.
Source: link

For my first official act of Sci-Fi Month 2021, I played the new indie game Unsighted by Studio Pixel Punk (check it out on Steam here). While I played the PC version, this game is also available on Switch, X-Box, and PS4. Unsighted is an original game with a science fiction setting where the majority of characters are automatons, including the game's protagonist, Alma. Veteran gamers will notice subtle references to the Legend of Zelda series: in the music, sound effects, collection of items, and especially in the fairy automaton companion who travels with Alma in her journey to save her friends. References to other games and even to gaming culture abound, and my favorite reference is to @CanYouPetTheDog, which is apparent in achievements you receive when you, naturally, pet the dog. 

Screenshot of a hand petting a dog on the head.
Screenshot of a dog being petted by Alma.

I was not able to finish the game before posting the review, but in the approximately 9 hours in which I played the game I got a very good feel for all of the important elements you may need to know (According to, it should take most players between 7 and 15 hours to complete the main story of Unsighted, but if you know me you know I am usually the most leisurely of players and I take my time enjoying the story, characters, and environments so I tend to fall on the longer end of the play-time spectrum, meaning that I played maybe about half the game.)

The rest of this review will be divided into categories, in the order of which I think the game did best. My personal feelings about the game lean strongly on the positive side, but there were a few areas where I thought the game could be improved.

1) Characters

If there were a game of the year award for best characters, I would give it to Unsighted. The developers clearly put a lot of work into creating a wide variety of individual characters with their own personalities and attributes. The secondary characters are just as important to the story as Alma herself, since a main goal of the game is to save as many of them as you can. Alma's friends will truly tug at the player's heartstrings as they tell you about their past with Alma, their lives before the war began, and their goals for the future. It is also important to note that even though the characters are automatons, and were canonically manufactured by humans, they still represent a range of body types and racial features, showing players that there is no one "generic" look for humans or for automatons. My personal favorite characters, and the ones I first gave my meteor dust to, are Samuel and Tobias.

Samuel saying, "But... I... really value the time we've spent together."

2) Story

As you may have been able to tell in the previous section, the story is simultaneously heartwarming and sad, almost like a Pixar movie. This makes the game hook players in, as we want to reach the end to find out what happens to the characters and world we've grown to love. Some parts of the story do seem overly dreary from time to time -- a war is actively taking place and there are horrors roaming the land -- some of which were previously automatons who could even have been friends with Alma. These dreary parts are simply part of the overall picture, however, and if you are able to focus on the good parts (reuniting with Alma's friends and meeting new ones, collecting and crafting tools, etc.) you can easily get through the more scary parts. Think of the Fallout series, but with fewer zombies and more cute puppies. 

3) Accessibility

In terms of accessibility, I can't speak for everyone's accessibility needs. I can, however, speak for my own, and this game certainly has better accessibility options than most games. There are some areas where I feel the game could be improved. First, the difficulty settings are great, and even greater: there's an invincibility mode. There are also settings to make a lot of other aspects of the game easier for disabled people, including text size options (I'm glad these exist though I feel the difference in size for the three size options could have been greater), font options, and the ability to switch between keyboard/mouse and controller as needed. The biggest issue I faced as someone with low vision was that the environments were difficult to navigate, and I believe this would have been difficult even if I didn't already have vision problems. I'll talk about this more in the level design and graphics sections of my review. See the screenshots below for the option pages. 

This is not exactly an accessibility problem, but I will say it here anyway. The title of the game comes from the tragedy that occurs to automatons whose time runs out: they become "Unsighted." This is where they lose themselves and their personalities and basically just become killing machines. The wording used for this tragedy unnerves me -- is it ableist against blind people to equate loss of sight to loss of self? I don't want to be the definitive voice on this matter as I myself am not completely blind, but it is something to think about.

Edited on 11/30/2021 to add: Fernanda Dias, one of the developers of the game, messaged me on Twitter to clear up my confusion about the word Unsighted. She said, "UNSIGHTED in the game means "missing", not "blind". When an automaton is about to become unsighted, they often flee and hide in order to not hurt others around them."

4) Graphics

Graphics, of course, are a very subjective category. Personally, I have grown especially fond of 16-bit style graphics in recent years, in large part due to my love for Stardew Valley. While some players may not love the art style of Unsighted, which falls into the pixel-graphics category, it is still quite clear that the game's designers put a lot of work into the art of the game, from the individual characters who each have their own unique look, to the architecture of the setting, like the old gothic cathedral that is central to the main city in the game. Even the weather looks spectacular -- there are many instance when it is raining, and yet the characters and backgrounds stand out among the raindrops. The only problem with the graphics is that sometimes it's hard to tell the difference between the floor and the roof of the building next to you. Is that a building, a platform, or a pit where Alma might fall to her death? Sometimes you have to take a leap of faith and just... find out, and with the *very* unforgiving HP bar you have in this game, testing a black section of the game and falling can mean game over. Thankfully, the game has that aforementioned invincibility mode, so if you're in an area (like the city) where there are a lot of deadly pits, you can just turn on invincibility as you navigate your way through the world.

5) Controls

The controls are... fine. They're fine. But they could be better. I am always happy when a game allows for controller or keyboard/mouse input on PC. That said, I feel like there are some things you have to do manually that could have been mapped to the controller/keyboard better. For instance, I couldn't find an easy way to switch between equipment quickly. It got really frustrating in certain parts of the game where I needed to switch between three or so different things on a very regular basis. Alma only has two hands, so of course she is only able to hold two pieces of equipment at once (including her sword, which I used for most of the battle in the game). I would have liked a quick switch feature like the one you find in most Zelda games, or in Animal Crossing New Horizons. Otherwise I had few gripes with the controls. They're generally pretty basic and easy to follow. 

6) Level Design & Puzzles

I hear some people really like puzzles in their adventure games. For some people, it's really exciting to push giant boxes around and try to figure out how to get to the next room (even though you have bombs and/or grenades in your inventory and... couldn't you just blow a hole in the wall?). If you didn't figure it out yet, I am not one of those people. This may originate in the fact that I was a "gifted kid" growing up and from an extremely young age I was constantly forced by the school system to complete puzzles and brainteasers, and that got tiring. But I digress. There are a lot of these types of puzzles in Unsighted, which you might expect from a game that is heavily inspired by The Legend of Zelda. And of course, I can handle a puzzle or ten in my games -- I do play a lot of adventure games, after all. But when I have to do several puzzles that are difficult to figure out, I get tired, and I feel like Unsighted lands just over the line of what constitutes "too many puzzles." Unsighted's puzzles may not be so frustrating that I rage-quit the game, but they are often frustrating enough to deserve a mention. You will have to work your brain with this game. Whether that's an exciting prospect or not is up to you. And as I mentioned, there are issues with the perspective in the game's level designs that may have you confused about where Alma can and can't walk -- this in itself is a bit of an unwanted puzzle. 

A few notes to conclude my review: as I was playing the game the developers were regularly releasing patches, so if I mentioned an issue that you can't find in the game, it may have been patched before or soon after this review was published! This is one of the wonderful things about playing indie games whose developers really care about the game and its players. 

I received a copy of Unsighted for free in exchange for an honest review.

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