I hope that I never get tired of the synthwave deluge. Inaunthentic as it may be to the 80s as they actually were, the burnt neon tones, awful fashion and the dark, aggressive synth beats are entirely my jam.
The latest to tap into this rich and lurid vein of pseudo-nostalgia is HyperParasite, a twin-stick shooter from Italian indie outfit Troglobytes Games. It’s still relatively early in development, but the developers have been kind enough to share their current prototype build with the world. Only one level, but thanks to the magic of procedural generation, it might be worth a few spins.
The big gimmick (and story, I suppose, although it’s not much more than couple lines of blurb on the game’s page right now) is that you’re some sort of vengeful mutant parasite, hopping between bodies as your work your way ever-closer to your ultimate target. Effectively, this is a traditional lives system, but with a clever twist that on death, you possess the enemy nearest to you, forcing you to mix up your playstyle if you ended up an enemy type different to the one previously inhabited.
There’s a lot to like about the HyperParasite at the moment – the graphics are surprisingly readable despite the grungy aesthetic, never leaving me wondering where I am and what threats are around me. I especially like the limited texture colour palette recreating the look of early software-rendered 3D worlds. The soundtrack is downright excellent, as you can hear in the trailer below, and most of the moment-to-moment shooting feels nice as well, but I can’t help but shake the feeling that it’s caught halfway between wanting to be a bot deathmatch game and an arcade shmup.
Aside from a recharging power attack that the parasite imbues its host with (VERY powerful – often room-clearing if you possess an SMG or machinegun character), a player-controlled character adheres largely to the same rules as rank-and-file enemies. This sounds balanced on paper, but the forgiving health bar that the player is granted can end up feeling excessively spongy when you’re trying to clear out two waves of six enemies a pop in every room. Just a gut feeling, but I feel that the game should be leaning harder into those Smash TV inclinations. Many more enemies, but more fragile.
Outside of that, the game is an interesting blend of familiar elements. Those who played Housemarque’s Dead Nation (and its pseudo-followup Alienation) on consoles will feel oddly familiar here, with melee being almost as effective as ranged fire thanks to generous hit-stun, and lengthy reloads being the limiting factor of ranged combat. Housemarque’s clever explosive item markers make a return as well, with a shot red barrel radiating a warning outwards before exploding, letting savvy players corral enemies into the blast radius while still leaving time for an escape.
There’s definite potential here. The procedural map generation, planned progression mechanics (stubs of which are visible in the UI at present) and additional enemy types being added to the mix on successive replays makes for a distinct blend. While I might prefer a few more expendable ‘popcorn’ enemies to chew through en-masse, I still enjoyed my three runs through this prototype while getting a feel for it. Maybe you will too.
You can try out the HyperParasite alpha free on Itch.io. You’ll need a dual-analogue gamepad of some description, as mouse/keyboard controls haven’t been implemented yet. Hit the game’s site for more information.