This short, experimental experience will either hook you in or turn you away within seconds of booting it. I’m a big fan of retro aesthetics, and the 32-bit style holds a special place in my heart, but the use of this style here is in aid of making things as creepy and baffling to look at as possible. Add to that a bizarre story and some even weirder writing and we’re left with a title that, well, is kinda hard to talk about.
I appreciated the abstract and creepy nature of the visuals, and the great backing audio to it all. There’s very little in terms of moment to moment gameplay here: instead, we’re mainly just following the scenes as they happen, making dialogue choices and listening to the inane mumblings and distorted speech of the few characters we meet along the way. A few areas have us explore a linear trail, with two driving segments proving to be a slight lull in an already slow-paced and short experience, but for the most part the story is kept moving along nicely.
The story, as much as I understood of it anyway, is a twisted take on the future, where the drug of choice are VHS tapes that alter the person watching them both mentally and physically. We play the part of a smuggler moving a case of these tapes across the border and back again, with the story making use of filmic style cuts to new scenes every so often. This keeps things snappy but it does make it a tad confusing at times. Those aforementioned driving segments are simply a case of waiting on them to end, but that’s not clear to the player, almost leading me to restart as I was convinced I was missing something.
And when I say restart, I mean restart. As Paratopic is so short, it has no save system so must be beaten in one sitting. I do think this is a good idea here, as the story and atmosphere would not have quite the same effect if it were to be interrupted half way through.
All in all though, I’m not sure really about whether I enjoyed Paratopic enough to recommend it. It’s fairly priced for what it is but at the same time, and much like Baltoro’s Fatum Betula, it seems to layer on the weird for the sake of it, hoping that there can be some more depth or meaning pulled out of it by the player. If you like a bizarre tale that won’t take long to be then check it out, but the average player is probably going to be put off before they even begin.Become a Patron!
This game was reviewed based on Xbox One review code, using an Xbox Series S|X console. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version. Game provided by publisher.
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