On the heels of the outstanding Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night, I think it’s safe to say that Paradox Soul, a game that’s described as a chilling metroidvania, makes for a bold and daring release. The truth of the matter is that whilst Paradox Soul is nowhere near on the same level as Bloodstained, it still makes for a fairly decent metroidvania trek that just about manages to get as much right as it gets wrong. This wont surprise you, this wont wow you, and this sure as hell wont provide much challenge, but it’s daft, silly fun nonetheless.
I cant speak much for its story mind, because in truth, what’s present just isn’t all that noteworthy. In a nutshell, you take on the role of a research scientist that goes by the name of Dr. Alli Rose, a character that stumbles across a test facility with a yearning to find answers to the dangers and mysteries within. That, ladies and gents, is about as interesting as it gets, and although that may well serve as a decent premise, it’s hardly a scratch on the genre’s more dominant leads. Either way, I suppose it sets up a very basic framework.
The game plays out much like any other metroidvania; a 2D affair that sees you patrolling an interconnected environment as you battle a few nasties along the way. Starting out, you don’t have much in the way of capability. In fact, all you can pretty much do is cover and shoot. The game does a fair job at feeding you into the fields of play, slowly giving you some consistent understandings as to how the game should be played, but in all honesty, Paradox Soul is perhaps a little too basic for its own good, and dare I say, a little too easy as a result.
The game’s world is sizable enough to withstand the foundation of play; most areas within the facility do one of two things – lead exactly to where you need to be, or, lead to an item or ability that allows you to then get to exactly where you need to be. The metroidvania structure is, at the very least, well set, but it doesn’t come across very refined overall. In fact, truth be told, the whole formula is quite linear, simply due to the fact that there’s usually no wrong way to go. Still, for its cost, I wont be too hard on it for this concept.
Whilst it would have been nice to have seen just a bit more depth, or at the very least, a less convoluted map interface, it’s all somewhat passable at the very best. The gameplay sadly falls victim to being too straightforward too. Pretty much all you’ll do in this game is move, cover, and shoot. The game’s environments are merely seconds long, most of which house copy-and-paste enemies that all utilize the exact same tactics as those before them. This makes for a very repetitive trek before long, and one that rarely gets all that exciting.
It doesn’t help matters that most enemies are forgettable; soldiers that shoot, dogs that chase, mech-bombs that roll after you, and a few more besides. I’ll say as much about the bosses too, being that they all rely on overly repeated attack sequences that makes things far too easy to suss out. Further to that, there’s no tactic that you need to adopt outside of shooting to get the job done; most enemies and bosses can be disposed of with a few bullets. Sure, it’s mindless fun at the bottom line, but, innovation wouldn’t have gone amiss.
The combat itself is relatively bare-bones. You’ll shoot via holding the attack button, and if you’re close to a structure that allows you to hide behind it, your character will automatically take cover when rolling. This can be a nuisance if you’re trying to roll past a group of enemies, only to have your character plugged to a box through no fault of your own, but in the grand scheme of things, it’s a small gripe to complain about. Whatever the case, it would have been much more fluid to have had this cover assigned elsewhere.
In regards to death, the game is never all that punishing. Should you bite the proverbial dust, you’ll be taken to your last checkpoint. The checkpoint system is a little inconsistent, and seems to randomly spawn you at specific locations, but to the game’s credit, respawns are never usually that far from your last failed attempt. There’s a number of items that you’ll pick up along the way; be it key-cards to open specific doors, abilities to access new areas, or anything between. These are always well explained, and tend to make sense.
Said abilities revolve around the usual flavors; double jump for reaching high-up locations, weapon upgrades that allows you to dispose of enemies faster, and so on and so forth. There isn’t anything here that you wont have seen before. Like I said, it just plays things a little too safely, and does little to step outside its comfort zone. I’ll say this though, the game does well at keeping you on your toes through barraging you with enemies. Seriously, they’re everywhere, and they’re, despite repetitive, very accurate and lethal by design.
Paradox Soul’s greatest drawback, mind, and as alluded to above, is that it’s too laid back for a metroidvania. When we take into account that the world map is structured in such a way that you cant really go in the wrong direction, and group that with the simplicity of the game’s progress, it ultimately comes across quite like a spoon feeding session. One thing that makes metroidvanias so compelling is that they’re usually stuffed with variation, and house dozens of secrets. Here, you don’t get much of that, and if anything, it hurts the adventure.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to come down on the game harder than I need to, but when we’ve got the likes of Hollow Knight and Bloodstained dominating the market, Paradox Soul is akin to comparing a child’s finger painting to a Monet. However, even with its many drawbacks in mind, Paradox Soul is still quite endearing. It’s just fun for the sake of being silly and bonkers. Some more depth, more environmental variation, more enemy diversity, and more mechanical innovation, would have elevated this to better heights, for sure.
In regards to the game’s visual and audio design, the game just about gets a thumbs up for both. Whilst the game sports quite a bit of detail across the board, it makes a habit of recycling its assets a little too much. This leads to environments just looking very samey-samey, which is never good for a game of this kind. I’ll say as much about the game’s audio presentation, being that it does little to impress, but hardly does much to annoy. The bottom line? If you want a much less serious metroidvania, this may be the one for you.
Hot on the heels of Bloodstained, Paradox Soul comes across quite simple, especially for a metroidvania. The game lacks many of the qualities that its contemporaries house, and it’s perhaps a bit too straightforward for its own good. That being said, if you’re looking for a much less serious take on the loved concept, you’re unlikely to be disappointed. This, at the absolute best, is merely a serviceable adventure. Nothing less, and certainly nothing more.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox One. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version.Want to keep up to date with the latest Xt reviews, Xt opinions and Xt content? Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.