Developed by Code Avarice, Paranautical Activity is a roguelike first-person shooter that combines elements and gameplay from classic titles such as DOOM, Quake and more recently The Binding Of Issac. Consisting of eight randomly generated floors, players are tasked with fighting through each layer in order to reach an exit, while tackling a random selection of creatures and huge bosses.
Paranautical Activity: Xbox One [Reviewed], PC
Developer: Code Avarice
Publisher: Digerati Distribution
Release Date: 29 April 2016
Price: £7.99 [Disclosure: Game Copy Provided by Publisher]
The first thing to strike me when exiting onto the first floor is the lack of any real light to the game, this theme resounds throughout Paranautical Activity and can be a little overwhelming. Overall, the game is darklit and broodish in nature, which can hinder both your progress and gameplay at times, there is also no option to adjust brightness, which only serves to make life that much more difficult. With most of the action set at a frantic and fast pace, it can be troubling to see so little of what’s in front of you, in a game which includes permadeath, the last thing you need is to not be able to see the enemies sapping away at your health bar.
Each level of Paranautical Activity is separated into a selection of random rooms, which regenerate following each death. The main objective, of course, is to work through the eight available floors, to achieve that I had to reach a red door with a pentagram etched upon it before fighting one of the game’s larger bosses. The varied assortment of rooms can be worked through in any order, it’s all dependent on player choice. Because of the somewhat random nature of the rooms, on any given turn I could find myself walking off the elevator to find the red door directly in front of me, other occasions I would have to fight my way through numerous rooms to locate it, while every room doesn’t need to be entered to reach the next floor, at times it will feel like a necessity.
Waltzing through each floor by simply locating the evil red door quickly might seem like a completely viable option in the short term, more often than not I needed to venture into other rooms to earn precious coins, which, in turn, could be used to buy better character upgrades, stronger weapons, and powerups. Without coins, life can become a living nightmare and that, in part is down to permadeaths. Dying and being re-sent back to the very first floor after working through a large part of the game can be a frustrating experience at the best of times, not being able to afford the items that can help you in the long run and prolong your torture is the real kicker.
Level design isn’t exactly Paranautical Activity’s strongest suit either while they serve to present a challenge there isn’t too much of a difference between the one I just left and the one I stand in now. A large part of survival within the game is having the ability to learn from your mistakes, to learn the layout of each room and adapt to the more troublesome ones. Some rooms are merely large open square spaces allowing for more movability, some areas contain stairs and obstructions that can easily be caught up on. All too often I would get stuck in one position, allowing for enemies to strike several crucial blows to my already dwindling health bar. Upon entering each room the door slams shut behind the character, the room must then be cleared before it will re-open, allowing me to continue.
As I made my way past the games larger than life bosses and began clearing floors, I started to earn powerups, which are a huge advantage. Upon entering one particular end room I found myself face to face with a flying giant white whale, after defeating the boss and its minions I was presented with a powerup which increased my health dramatically, suddenly, life felt worth living again. Each boss would drop a different powerup, these items can be not only a lifesaver but a real game changer. With said items, I could move at a much faster speed than before, throw poisonous bombs around that would take down enemies with ease and double jump.
Coins earned from killing enemies and bosses can be spent in shops situated throughout each floor. These shops provide a great chance for players to purchase better weapons and powerups, crucial to staying alive that little bit longer. With a little of luck, these shops might contain valuable items that can leave you feeling invincible and can see you clearing rooms at a much faster rate. Through one run I found myself with a rocket launcher, bombs that would stick to enemies and a rather handy shield protecting me from explosive damage, mix that with a perk that slowed time down and I found myself feeling like a god, of course, all good things come to an end and soon enough I found myself restarting over, minus one god complex.
For the most part, Paranautical Activity is an enjoyable experience, it is also a very punishing and brutal game, at times it felt like a real war of attrition as I attempted to make my way down through the various floors with each floor cleared the difficulty spiked. Although there is some variation between each of the characters available, even the strongest character only begins with nine bars of health. I found myself with the task of opting whether to go for speed or power. The game’s speedier characters make dodging and evading enemy attacks a breeze but the lack of power left them threadbare when attacking. Other characters provided more powerful weapons but left me slightly flat-footed while attempting to clear a room.
Paranautical Activity does offer a wide range of amusing and entertaining enemies to shoot down. With ground sharks snapping at my every move, large devil characters firing explosive waves at me and large flying turtles with rockets strapped to their backs primed to attack, the game certainly isn’t short on humorous enemies. Completing challenges such as making it through a floor without jumping or taking a hit unlocks a wider selection of end bosses to fight against.
With a constant influx of enjoyable roguelike FPS titles available on todays current market, it would be hard to simply ignore Paranautical Activity. While the game certainly isn’t great or as enjoyable as previous titles, Tower of Guns or Ziggurat, it certainly has something to offer and a charm to it. Proving to be both very challenging and rewarding, Paranautical Activity is a game that requires fast reflexes and the ability to learn and adapt, but with time invested there are hours of gameplay to be had and a ton of replayability within the games foundations.