Thanks to Digerati for the review code
Title: Paranautical Activity
System: Wii U (eShop)
Release Date: 04/14/2016
Paranautical Activity might be one of the weirdest looking games that I’ve ever played. It doesn’t really look all that bad, but it certainly doesn’t look normal. Upon loading the game from the Wii U Menu you’re sent to a title screen with several options, “Classic” “Hardcore” and “Infinite” while also being greeted with a banner of some pixelated enemies that look as if they were ripped from Minecraft.
I realize that comparing something pixelated to Minecraft may seem like a childish thing to do (especially when you consider the heavy amount of 8/16 bit pixel throwbacks available) but that’s really what the art style of the game resembles the most, thanks to the blocky nature of pretty much everything in the game. Unfortunately, the field of view is rather odd, as by default tilting the camera up or down will cause the image to stretch out like some sort of hourglass, leading to an experience that can easily provide a headache. Thankfully this can be fixed in the options to bring it closer to the player, but it made me wonder why anyone would even want to play at such a distorted angle in the first place.
Another visual trend I’ve noticed in the game is that there’s a focus on the dark arts, as a lot of the enemies and areas appear to have a slightly satanic vibe to it, which in a way made me wonder if the art style is supposed to be a parody of both those things. With dubstep music playing in the background I’m willing to bet that’s the case.
Despite the art style and point of view being similar to of Minecraft, Paranautical Activity plays far differently than that title, being a FPS. Movement is done with the left analog stick while the camera is controlled with the right stick, the ZR button uses the currently equipped weapon while the LR button makes you jump, all standard fare for a game like this. You simply choose your weapon and have fun, right?
Unfortunately, the game doesn’t play all that well. You see, the gimmick of Paranautical activity is that its supposed to be randomly generated like a roguelike to provide a new experience every time you start up the game, all while sharing the same end goal. The problem with this gimmick is that its executed very poorly, as simply exiting the room you start from will often lead to an instant death, causing a game over that’ll boot you back to the title screen.
You see, enemies can easily wail on you, either by shooting projectiles that’ll tear through your health points in no time or sneaking up from behind and landing a surprise knockout. Each weapon provides you a different amount of life points, but I found that no matter which weapon I picked I couldn’t defeat more than a few enemies at a time, regardless of how hard I pushed myself to clear the first floor. All of these issues could have been resolved by making the invincibility frames last a bit longer, and making the challenge feel more fair than it is currently.
There was a big reason I waited nearly a year to finish this review, and that was simply because I didn’t want to put out a review for a game I could barely make progress in. I needed to get further and try and try again, just so I could get the grips of the game and have a comfortable yet challenging time. Unfortunately, the difficulty is really extreme, almost to the point of insanity, and despite picking the game up every now and then to give it another try, I simply couldn’t get far in the game.
That being said, I could still see that the developers put a lot of care into this weird action game, as there are plenty of unlockable achievements to gain and a lot of challenge to be had. Sadly, this challenge just wasn’t for me, which is a shame as I was hoping I would like this game quite a bit considering my fondness for roguelikes. Maybe if you’re willing to drop $10 on a game as tough as this you’ll enjoy it more than I did, but be warned, the barrier for entry is rather high. I give Paranautical Activity a 4 out of 10.