HyperParasite Review – Taking Over The 80s
The 80s aesthetic is one that never got old. From high-profile actions games like Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon to indie-hits such as Hotline Miami, as long as it came with a heavy-hitting synth soundtrack, I was all for it. So when I hit the main menu for HyperParasite, I wondered: might I finally get burned out from the aesthetic, or would the retro tunes seduce me like they always have before?
Hyper Parasite is a rogue-like twin-stick shooter developed by Troglobytes Games and co-published by Hound Picked Games. What makes this game stand out from other twin-stick shooters like Enter The Gungeon is the fact that your weapons are the people you inhabit.
A World Under Martial Law
The story takes place in what looks to be an authoritarian America in 1985, where an alien parasite has invaded Earth. The president of the United States declares a state of martial law, believing the alien is after him and his nuclear weapons. So he is letting everyone and anyone, including prison inmates, hunt this parasite down in the hopes of squashing it.
When you start off a playthrough in HyperParasite, you are put into Act 1: Downtown. HyperParasite is split up into Acts, of which there are five. Just like any rogue-like game, the map is randomly generated for every playthrough, as are the mini-bosses and levels inside of it. For example, in one level of Act 1, I came across a drive-in theater where people were making love in their cars. Hitting any car will spawn two to four random enemies, which I found to be clever and heavily appreciated.
A Beautifully Disgusting World
In fact, the environments in each Act have their own bits of personality that fit in with the theme of their Act. Downtown is rugged and filled to the brim with trash, while Asiatown fits in with the architecture of the land it’s inspired from. And even when everything seems like it would be drab, they always add in bits of color to their details, like neon lights, or the strangely clean billboard of the president asking you for help. It’s the little things like that that make me appreciate the environment design.
So when you start off in Downtown, you are one of the several starting hosts that your parasite has taken over. From there, you traverse through the winding and twisting halls of this hellhole to arrive at a level where enemies spawn and you fight your way out. HyperParasite controls fairly well. I had no complaints about the controls or how they are set up. In fact, though they encourage you to use a controller, I found keyboard and mouse to be just as welcoming.
Someone Is Hosting You!
Here’s where the fun part comes. Every Act has its own cast of characters you can possess, some of which are references to 80s pop culture, from the Ghost Hunters of Act 1 to the Special Forces of Act 5. Every character comes with their own set of stats, as well as a primary attack and a special attack, the latter of which will take a while to recharge so you’ll need to be wise about their use.
However, when the health bar on the host goes to zero, the parasite emerges from them in a gory splatter. Thus, you are naked and alone. As the parasite, things change. Instead of health, you have lives, of which you start off with one and can get five total through specific means that I’ll go over later. Along with this, you have a ranged primary attack, and your special attack is possession. With being so weak, it is heavily encouraged to find your next host, because if you die, that’s it for that run.
Since dying is so easy, keeping yourself alive can be a challenge. Luckily, you are given a dodge that will be vital in the moment-to-moment gameplay. Other than that, you have multiple avenues of improving yourself. One of these is energy cracks on the floor that you can use as a way to upgrade one of two, sometimes three, aspects: attack, health, and sometimes parasite lives.
Not The Only One
Early on, you’ll find out you aren’t alone in this world, as another alien species known as the Wito have set themselves up on Earth as merchants spread throughout the map. These stores provide several services, the first being the ability to purchase usable buffs and items, like damage multipliers, drones, and keys to other areas like the sewers, with the money you either scavenge off your foes or grab from destroying boxes and barrels out in the world.
The other service they provide links in with something I spoke about earlier: some enemies can’t be possessed off the bat, which is marked by a lock above their heads. Throughout your run, you’ll encounter Elites, which are just stronger versions of normal enemies. When you kill them, they’ll drop their brain. Yes, a brain. When you collect a brain, you bring it back to a shop, where it will store itself in a container. After that, you pay money to unlock that enemy, thus allowing yourself to be able to possess them in the future. What’s cool is that the enemies you are allowed to possess carry over into your next run, giving you more possibilities at the start of every run than you were given in previous ones.
Plus, if you have a body you’d like to use later, there are boxes in this very same room that lets you store a body. It’s mechanics like these that give HyperParasite more depth than it seems at first, allowing you to strategize what you will do next, especially when the going gets tough when you first enter later Acts, where the only body you can possess is the one you came in with.
And to get to these later Acts, you have to go through the previous Acts’ final boss, which seems to be locked to each Act, where the only differences are the mini-bosses scattered throughout the map. The bosses in HyperParasite can be a challenge, trying to make sure you’re ready for what’s next to come. Though sometimes it can feel like too much of a challenge, as the Downtown final boss is a couple of armored trucks that spawn enemies endlessly, meanwhile their turrets are shooting in all directions, turning the game into a bullet hell. The only time I got through it was when I had an overpowered laser drone by my side. Hell, even the mini-bosses are tougher than you’d think.
What does help me get through these tough parts is the soundtrack. No matter where you are in HyperParasite, the music will always keep you going. From Downtown’s synthesized tunes to the guitar riff-heavy music pounding through the Sewers, the soundtrack doesn’t disappoint. It brings the fast-paced nature of the gameplay, pumping me up so I can take down even the hardest of challenges.
In The End
Although the going gets way too tough at times, I can’t help but continue trying my best. The gameplay loop is fun, addicting and engaging, requiring you to make split-second decisions if things go wrong, all backed by a soundtrack that may not rival that of Hotline Miami, but it comes pretty close. HyperParasite is filled with 80s references without feeling like it’s trying too hard, giving it this silly tone that fits in well to subjugate the overall dark subject matter, making everything feel lighthearted and fun.
For their very first game on Steam, Troglobytes Games did well to bring a twin-stick shooter that I’d call unique. I’ll definitely keep playing HyperParasite, and eagerly await their next project.
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Reviewed by Freelance7 on the Nintendo Switch. Game provided by Troglobytes Games