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Brief Impressions: Paranautical Activity

BLARRRGH!

The CMS is full, and John commands me to play a game for the rest of the afternoon. And you know when John is bellowing out commands, you don’t just sit there. No, I darted out of my chair, had a nice long shower, popped out to the post office, grabbed some lunch, looked at some cat pictures, had a nap, and answered John’s IMs about Game Of Thrones actors. Now you might think I’m taking advantage of him, and that his authority is somehow being challenged. Not a bit of it! No, I procrastinated because my choice of game for this afternoon is Paranautical Activity . And it scares me.

I’ve had Paranautical Activity on my PC for a few months now, but I’ve kind of been avoiding it. Mostly because it looks like this. That is a whale.

And this. Whatever the hell that is.

And also this. I was shooting at a giant moth.

And I didn’t think I had the words to describe it. I mean, I could say it’s an FPS with randomised levels and randomly provided weaponry. But that doesn’t touch on the fact that Paranautical Activity is like a Music For The Jilted Generation era song made into a game. With a soundtrack to match.

At the start of each game, a tiled level is generated and you’re dropped into it with one weapon. Each room you come across provides a discrete challenge. There’s no planning ahead: the door slams behind you, the monsters drop in, and you start running for your life while blasting. Enemies are brainless, attacking according to whatever patterns they’ve been programmed to follow. You just need to keep ahead of their shots, hoping they don’t clip you and bring you one step closer to death. It is hectic, and with the right gun, say a shotgun or a machine gun, it can be a lot of fun. Dodging demonic blasts and moth’s whatevers is mostly a case of circle-strafing around the room, leaping over obstacles, and dodging the odd little hooded creeps that populate corners. Stand still and you’ll die in seconds. You move speedily, and that can be further augmented with a few pick-ups that’ll boost jumps and your running speed. These are dropped by mini-bosses, or can be bought with coins (dropped from enemies) in the level’s gift shop. There are anti-pick-ups, too.

For the small amount of space each room has, there’s plenty of variety in the walkways and monsters. It’s aimed squarely at those with an itch to have an inconsequential, high-octane blast. You could be fighting a demon one minute, or a flopping whale mini-boss the next. You could be six hearts full and circling a hopping skull boss, then ten seconds later it’s all over. You die, you lose your progression. Simple as that.

It’s good. I kept coming back for more, and suspect if I hadn’t stopped to write this I’d still be furiously clicking away at this oddly rogueish FPS. It does have one major downfall: the randomised weapon given to you at the beginning can dictate how much fun you have. For some reason it got fixated on giving me a crossbow. I hate the crossbow. A sluggishly loading slow projectile weapon isn’t a fun gun to use in this environment, and it kept happening. I took to restarting the game instead of playing with it, and it happened a lot. But it didn’t stop me playing. It just slowed me down.

It’s out now on Desura, and it’s also hoping to be up on the Steams as well.

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Craig Pearson

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