Paranautical Activity Review (Switch)
''Paranautical ''Not So Much'' Activity''
Paranautical Activity is a first person shooter developed(Originally by Code Avarice) and published by Digerati. Using arena styled combat that dates back to the good ol days of DOOM and Quake, Paranautical Activity tries to rekindle some of that old magic. But does it succeed?
Usually I start off all my reviews with the a summary of the the games story, but this game in particular drops you right into the heat of battle and directly into the action without any story whatsoever. You abruptly start off with a choice of 4 different weapons to choose from in order to start your run through the game. Some are more useful than others(situational), but I found I had the most success with the shotgun myself(The Tank). The hardest weapon in the game to use however, was the David Bowie crossbow(that's the real name), because of the accuracy needed to wield it and with it giving you very minimal health when choosing it. So a lot of the time you will find yourself...Under Pressure(hehe).
The other weapons you're allowed to pick from are both the Dy-no-mite weapon and the Gorton. The dynomite weapon allows you to shoot bombs at your opponents, It's extremely slow with its firing speed but it's damage is the strongest out of all the starter weapons. The last weapon of choice is the Gorton and this weapon allows you to use or throw a bloody hook and scythe around towards your enemies. It's speed is one of the best there is but it's overall stats for fire rate, damage and health are abysmal and I suggest staying away from it at all costs.
Now that you know what weapons you have to choose from, I'm going to tell you a cold hard fact, are you ready? ok, well they're all basically useless, that is right. This might seem confusing, but I will try my best to explain. You see enemies in this game are either very small and low to the ground, tall, or fly and shoot projectiles at you. All weapons are made to be used against a specific enemy in the game and not all weapons are effective or easy to use against every enemy on their own. The dynomite weapon might be useful against mid ranged enemies but you can't accurately hit flying ones. But with the shotgun, you have to get up close in combat, and when you do get close, you always take damage and you will always get hit. This is one of the major problems with the balancing of the main weapons, but there is a way to counter this.
The best way to counter this is to search the floors for new weapons that are scattered throughout multiple floors. But it's very hard to figure out where these weapons are because just when you think you've found a location of one, you realize, oh wait this game has procedurally generated levels, uh oh. Yes that's right, the floors in this game are completely randomized and you will never experience the same thing twice,sounds cool right? well yes and no. It is cool if you look at it from the perspective of it being a brand new experience every single time you play it, but it's also where the game becomes extremely unbalanced due to the completely randomization of the game.
The negative downside of procedurally generated floors in Paranautical Activity is the enemy balancing. Since this game operates off a perma-death mechanic, which means once you die, you start all the way back from the beginning and lose everything,then upon dying all levels reset and enemy placement is changed. When this happens, enemies you fought early on that may have been easy, are now replaced with floor 5 or 6 enemy types.. and what does this mean exactly? it means you're screwed and have no chance of completing that floor unless you reset or restart the game and hope you get a good and easy randomly generated level to start in. It's such a headache.
As I hinted at earlier in regards to the weapons you find scattered throughout hidden sections of each arena styled level, these are the weapons that will determine how long you last in the game and how many floors you make it up to. I personally got this green machine gun that was mid tier powerful and shot really fast, it helped me stay alive for the majority of the game. But I can not tell you where to find the weapon for yourself because again, all levels are randomized. Hell I wasn't even able to find it myself again, such a bummer! But it is what it is.
The game also requires that you upgrade your own stats by finding and buying new upgrades, grabbing coins off fallen enemies, and grabbing pieces of dropped heart off enemies that will boost your heart count(hit points),etc. But even when you think this is going to be fun, it too becomes sort of a burden on you during your play through. The reason for this is when you find the secret gun shop room to buy new power ups and upgrades, the power ups listed in front of you in the middle of the room do not tell you what they do or what their effects on you will be. That's right, its a blind buy and you have to hope for the best. So the 30 min you've just spent fighting through hordes of enemies can all mean zero if you spend a chunk of your hard earned money on a power up that lowers your movement speed(yes this is real).
But hey, how is upgrading your hit points via hearts a bad thing? Well by in large it's not a huge deal, if you manage to stay alive long enough then gaining more heart pieces can be essential to combating higher floors and going through each boss fight easier. But this is where the precedurally generated levels rear its ugly head again, for you see you can get 15 or so hearts on an ''easy'' run due to having easier rooms spawn for you, but as soon as you die and all levels are randomized again, your first starting room could be enemies that you just saw on floor 6,this is annoying. This is where the game is extremely unbalanced, if you start off your new game with floor 6 enemies, you only have like 4 hearts and you can not beat these enemies with the fire power at your disposal..so what do you do? die or reset the game and hope you get an easier randomized level the next time.
Finally I want to talk about the enemy balance. I know I've touched upon it just a little bit above, but I just need to give one last input in regards to it. There are multiple enemy types, enemies that range from wizard like creatures that shoot projectiles at you, demons that shoot projectiles at you, fast ninja's, flying enemies, etc etc. I have no complaints about the amount of enemies in this game, hell there's like 40 something in total, so there is a good variety...but... there's a catch. The hit detection is way off base, you can be feet away from an enemies projectile or swing and it will still hit you, while you yourself have to be at a specific distance in order for it to even register against the enemy and even when you register a hit to an enemy, the game does not indicate you have hit them. That's right, they don't flinch, they do not grunt, nor do they flash a color, you just have to take a guess and hope for the best. The worst enemies you will face in this game that is guilty of all of this, are the sharks, you can not run from them, they're too fast and if you jump in the sky to run from them and try to hop away, they're too fast and still hit you.
Oh man. That was a lot to talk about. But I do not want to end this on a totally bad note because that's not my style. With every game I usually manage to find some redeeming qualities that give the game some sort of character, and that still holds true for this game. Yes I did talk bad about this game an awful lot, but when the game actually works and feels balanced, there's actually a good time to be had here. When you find the right weapons and start going floor to floor destroying these enemies and boss fights, it feels like a Minecraft version of DOOM. The controls of the game are very responsive too and the floatyness to your jumps when moving around makes it feel a bit like Unreal Tournament. The music is pretty bad ass and completely fits the theme they were going for in this game as well. So there are SOME good things to be said here.
My final thoughts after playing Paranautical Activity ended with the feeling of disappointment. I find it disappointing because I sincerely see what the developers were going for with this game and at its core with its mechanics and overall idea's, in that respect, it does have a solid foundation. However, the unbalanced game play, bad hit detection, unbalanced generated levels, confusing power ups, and weak starting weapons, completely kill any momentum this game could've had. My hope for the future is the game gets patched and the imbalances are tweaked because there is a fun game to be had somewhere deep inside. But until that happens, unless you're really really curious, I can not recommend this game until that time comes.
Paranautical Activity is out now on Nintendo Switch
*Review code provided by Digerati