Paranautical Activity Xbox One Review
Publisher: Digerati Distribution Developer: Code Avarice, Digerati Distribution Genre: FPS
Players: 1 Age Rating: 12+ Other console/handheld formats: N/A
I’m a huge fan of The Binding of Isaac. It was one of the first games with roguelike elements that I played. The proof was there for me to see that roguelike games could have a lot of appeal. With Paranautical Activity, FPS and roguelike elements have been combined, which is an attractive prospect in itself.
Unlike The Binding of Isaac which has you making your way downwards, Paranautical Activity has you starting at the bottom, and then making your way upwards to the eighth and final floor. But this is far from an easy task. The game isn’t a lengthy one by any means, but with its merciless enemies and random elements, it’s certainly a challenging one.
The game has a number of selectable characters, some of which are unlocked by completing set tasks. The characters have their own weapons and statistics; the latter determines things such as the speed of the character, their fire rate, health, and how damaging their weapons are. You’ll more than likely find a favourite character, one suited to your play-style. A favoured character choice may even mean a better chance of survival.
Before delving further into the game itself, I have to say that Paranautical Activity has a very distinctive look. The game is retro styled, with blocky guns and enemies that appear as though they have been built out of LEGO bricks. This blockiness, along with the lively Dubstep soundtrack, certainly helps to add some personality to the game.
As distinctive as the visuals are, the randomly generated environments are actually rather uninteresting, and this does make the experience feel duller than it could have been. With all the enemies that you’ll be shooting and killing though, the dark and rather boring environments are easier to forgive and forget during a play session.
Less forgiving are the dark floors. Paranautical Activity is regularly a difficult and fair game, but it does have some cheap tactics that it throws at you from time to time. Chiefly, when you move up to a new floor, you’ll find that you are in the dark from time to time, and it makes things a whole lot more difficult than what they already are. I wasn’t able to survive on any of the dark floors, and that’s because I wasn’t able to see what was going on. It just feels unfair.
Being a roguelike game, Paranautical Activity has its random elements. This means that every time you restart the game, the experience feels slightly different from the last. Like I’ve already mentioned, the rooms you visit are randomly generated, and enemies, items and weapons in the environment are also randomised. This makes the prospect of failure and repetition less of an issue, and, if the game manages to capture and hold your attention, you’ll keep going back time and time again to give it another try. Hopefully, you’ll eventually reach that elusive eighth floor.
The game goes a little like this. You go into a room, you get locked in, and you have to kill all the enemies in order for the doors to be reopened. You’ll also have to kill a boss before you are able to ride the lift to the next floor. Enemies are varied enough, with some firing a number of projectiles at you, while others disappear and reappear right in front of you. As for the bosses, some of these are brutal, and they include everything from a giant floating skull to a rolling snail.
The shooting is relatively fast paced, and you really do have to be careful in the rooms that enemies are present, which is in the majority of them. Learning the attack patterns of these enemies is a must and, initially, you’ll very likely be dying within no time at all; you may even struggle to get off the first floor. Even though it can feel a little clunky at times, the shooting is competent enough, and it does bring to mind the likes of Doom, which the game was partially inspired by.
As for pick-ups, these include some that you are able to purchase with cash that you pick up from defeated enemies, and others that are dropped after killing enemies or rewarded to you after beating a boss. Pick-ups dropped by normal enemies can only be used once, at a time of your own choosing, although, in the heat of the moment, they may just give you an all important edge. These pick-ups include temporary speed and damage increases as well as other things such as invulnerability and slow motion. Guns and secondary weapons can also be switched for free in weapon rooms that you may come across, even allowing you to get your hands on another characters weapon. During a session, all the permanent power-ups you carry stack up, which means that the longer you manage to stay alive, the more powered up you will be. You’ll need to be, as the further you progress, the more difficult the game becomes as a number of extra dangerous enemies are introduced. Some of the pick-ups have detrimental effects as well, with an example being one that raises your health but lowers your speed. You’ll be hoping that your current run will be kind to you every time you play, with a reliable range of power-ups hopefully being sent your way.
If you want to get as far as possible, you may decide to try and move up to the next floor as quickly as possible, but you may miss out on some helpful items. If you are an adventurous player, on the other hand, you’ll want to search each and every room on the current floor, and kill every enemy and mini boss before taking on the main boss in the boss room; indicated by a red door. Being bold can come with its own rewards.
There’s a lot of replay value, and I found that the game had that ‘just one more try’ appeal, as I intended to get further into the tower on my next attempt. There are also three modes in the game, which includes Classic, Hardcore and Endless modes. At the beginning of the game, you’ll only have access to the Classic mode, and you’ll have to put a lot of work in if you intend to unlock the other two modes.
Paranautical Activity is a brutal but likeable combination of FPS and roguelike games. It’s fast paced, very replayable, and the LEGO-like visuals give the game a distinctive look for such an FPS. The bland environments and the dark floors let things down somewhat, but if you enjoy the challenge and randomness of similar roguelike games, then this is definitely worth a look.