Release Date: 26 June 2018
Price: $7.99 / £7.19
Reviewed by Gary Gray
You should never judge a book by its cover, as the old saying goes, and this is true for Paranautical Activity. It's a retro first person shooter with roguelike elements, including the ever divisive perma-death. 3D pixel-styled artwork graces its levels and at first glance, it's easy to say that gameplay is somewhat inspired by classics such as Doom.
Story is nonexistent, to the point where there’s no narrative given at all, not even a basic tutorial. Jumping right into the action you're given the choice of four different weapon layouts, each with different strengths and weaknesses, along with a unique sub weapon.
The weapons themselves are strange to say the least, with the majority feeling weak or powerless as enemies don’t flinch or get knocked back while being attacked. Paired with overly basic controls and a button layout that can’t be changed, this makes the core gameplay feel janky and dated.
As the order and layout of each room, as well as the enemies that patrol them, is randomly generated, there’s always a feeling of wonder as you explore. After a slight loading judder as you walk into a room, the enemies will pop into play. Some are small lifeless grunts while others will be super-sized - well designed monsters fashioned like the boss fights of yesteryear.
These constitute the strongest aspect of Paranautical Activity by far, but there’s a catch. While these overgrown threats are neat in design, the same cannot be said for the way that they operate. Most feel really unfair and ruthlessly attack you with no structure or pattern to their onslaught.
Tough and Unfair
'Relentlessly challenging' could be used to describe the game, however, repeated play-throughs make it apparent that the difficulty is actually tied more to luck, as rooms will generate with better weapons at random. Powerups that help make your continued adventure that little bit easier only show up if the procedurally generated gods take pity on you too.
Although the graphics in Paranautical Activity are minimalistic in design, there are some great neon lighting effects that i’m actually quite fond of. The same goes for the music too, as its heavy industrial beat goes hand in hand with the factory-styled corridors that are ever present.
Paranautical Activity might seem like a fun arcade style shooter at first glance, but its repetitive brutal playthroughs, luck generated levels and relentless enemies bring the fun grinding to a halt. 8-bit inspired bosses and a great soundtrack unfortunately weren't enough to make the game an overall pleasant experience.
Pros & Cons
+ Boss design
+ Fitting soundtrack
- Janky controls
- Bad A.I
- Luck based level generation