Paranautical Activity is a game that has problems in almost every department, what should be a straightforward rogue-like is unfortunately a dull and forgettable experience. The premise is simple, you pick from several different classes with different stats and weapons, and using your chosen class you fight through a random assortment of rooms making your way to each floor’s boss room. Once you beat the boss you can progress down to the next floor and so on.
The first of many problems is the presentation of the game. The art style is completely unappealing and gives the game a very cheap look. The enemy designs are often very basic, amounting to little more than a 3D stick man with only a few interesting designs. Bosses are more varied and showcase some interesting designs where the details can be appreciated thanks to their size. The biggest problem I found is that the designs and colour palette used made it difficult to discern the basic enemies from the background, a fatal flaw in a game that should be reliant on its twitch shooting. It feels pedantic but the enemies and environment blending in together on the Vita’s small screen makes it difficult to play at best and at worst it can feel unfair as you get attacked by an enemy you never stood a chance of seeing.
Poor presentation decisions also extend to the games UI. The HUD along the bottom of the screen is difficult to make out on the small screen of the Vita – the map used to navigate the levels is especially victim of this, it becomes impossible to make out anything whilst playing the game and so is an annoying distraction more than useful. The game does, however, feature a neat music track which makes the experience a little more bearable so it’s not all bad.
Moving onto the gameplay the game doesn’t fare much better. The controls feel loose and it never feels like you’re given the precision you want from the game, there is little to no feedback when shooting enemies either leaving you to guess whether your shots are hitting or missing entirely. It’s an exercise in frustration, especially in later levels where there are many enemies in a room and every shot counts if you want to survive.
Each floor also contains a shop where you can spend gold to gain upgrades. Unfortunately, gold is hard to accumulate – making it a chore to buy the upgrades. To get anywhere near enough gold you often have to put yourself in harm’s way clearing more rooms than necessary. I found it much easier just to ignore the gold and upgrades and just fight to the boss room in the shortest route possible. Doing this saved more of my health for the bosses and I never felt handicapped without the shop upgrades. To further the problem the shop doesn’t explain what the items do, so without risking the hard earned gold you’re never sure just what you are getting and if its ultimately worth it.
The game has some redeeming qualities though, the classes are varied enough and allow you to play in differing ways; the crossbow requires you to pick your shots carefully whilst the cannon allows you to fire more imprecisely while you focus on dodging incoming fire. Run throughs are generally quick to complete meaning you can jump right back in with ease if you weren’t satisfied with the previous run.
There are also plenty of unlockables for you to obtain. The objectives for these are varied and suggest some interesting ways to play such as completing an entire floor without jumping or finishing a room without attacking. The unlocks menu doesn’t provide any real details on what you unlock for your efforts though outside of a name, not exactly helpful but far from the worst problem this game has.
I’m hesitant to suggest that the game has a good flow with its quick run throughs though, every room you enter will require a short load time. Every. Single. Room. That’s a 3 second pause every 30 or so seconds depending how quickly you clear a room. This completely destroys any sense of rhythm the game has and is an annoyance that games in 2016 really shouldn’t have to deal with.
Paranautical Activity has many problems that make it hard to recommend, everything from the controls to the art style feel unpolished. There is a solid idea in here somewhere but, unfortunately, I found it difficult to look past the various problems to be able to enjoy this game.