Exp Parasite claims that every minute of gameplay is unique in this hardcore, 2D platformer. While I’d not quite say unique, it does at least keep mixing things up as we progress though each of the levels – if we progress.
You see, the hardcore part of the description rings true; Exp Parasite is in the vein of titles such as The Impossible Game or, perhaps more aptly, VVVVVV. Our little blob dude slithers along the floor under our control, with a press of A sending him to the opposite surface. It’s this that forms the crux of the gameplay, with increasingly tricky pathways to navigate. Spikes, lasers, moving traps and more conspire to make us have a bad time almost constantly. Unlike VVVVVV we’re unable to change our orientation mid-air so once we’ve committed, there’s no going back.
There are 10 levels to best, each with 3 difficulties. Easy is, naturally, the more friendly of the bunch, though it’s really best thought of as a practice mode. Unlike Easy, completing a stage on Normal or Hard grants reward points that can be used to upgrade our character; essential if we’re to get anywhere at all. We get points for difficulty (completing on Hard automatically gives a point due to its tough nature), time, lives used, and level completion – it’s possible to skip areas to get to the end, but this will result in failing this last category.
I didn’t see a way to easily tell what the par time was set at other than to clear the level and see how far off I was, and the same is true of lives used. Some idea upfront might make clearing these challenges a bit easier. Well, in theory.
Despite the simple nature of the gameplay, it is really very tough at times. Sometimes dangers will be hidden off screen, only revealed after we’ve committed to a jump. Others, it’s just a case of some tight gaps and exact timing that put us at fault. It’s hardly as unique as it’s being sold, but it is a good, fun challenge. Even the Flappy Bird-inspired section on one stage is hair-pulling fun – at least for a while. Unlike some other examples in the genre, Exp Parasite is pretty clear cut when you’ve fucked up though. There’s very little in the way of feeling as though hit boxes were off, or anything other than out own mistimed manoeuvre is to blame.
There are no checkpoints as such, but this is also an area that is more forgiving; if we die we’re simply plopped back on the last solid surface we were near to try again. At the start 10 lives are bestowed on us, though through the upgrades this can be increased a fair amount. We can also gain a slow-down-time or invincibility ability to help in our efforts. It’s hard, but also does its fair share to help up out too.
At the end of each stage we face a boss that holds up the unique end of the deal. It’s not always clear straight away what to do – and we died, a lot – but there’s a pattern and rhythm to each to find and exploit to win.
It all comes back to those upgrade points though; it’s all well and good beating a level but the next is guaranteed to be much harder, so perfecting one stage before moving on is a must. Hard not only increases the difficulty but the speed too. I actually found this a tad easier at times, though soon enough I was put back in my place again.
Perhaps the biggest let down here though is the presentation. While visually it has a nice retro-pixel art style – if a little plain – the menus are a bit of a faff to navigate, and the audio is quick to grate on the ears. The music is OK, though not worth listening to, but the sound effects meant I soon hit mute and listened to a podcast instead.
Exp Parasite lives up to part of it’s promise; it certainly is hardcore, if not wholly unique. Even though it’s tough, it’s fair at the same time, only punishing us for our own mistakes and even then there’s still far more leniency than other titles out there. Aside from some average presentation there’s a lot of fun to be had here, proving you’re up to the challenge.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version. Game provided by the publisher.Want to keep up to date with the latest Xt reviews, Xt opinions and Xt content? Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.