I have enjoyed the spate of recent games that see you taking the role of the baddie. Several have done this twist exceptionally well and on the surface, Hyper Parasite is one of them. This twin stick shooter sees you able to control any of the NPC’s in the game and attack everyone with bespoke moves. It is a shame that this excellent premise doesn’t quite play as well as it sounds.
At the start of the game you are a measly parasite with no health and no real abilities. As soon as you infect and take over a character in the game though, you enjoy guns, bats, special attacks and certain health benefits of that type of character. You are free to leave that host body and go it alone or try to jump from body to body so that you can adapt to your situation. If say, you need more speed – picking the fat dude isn’t going to help but maybe the roller-skater will be better suited! Of course, that may give a trade off of not being as strong but it is up to you how you go into battle.
Each level is randomly generated each time with modular rooms and mini bosses although the order of themes stay the same throughout. This 80’s b-movie apocalypse setting will always start off with basketball courts and dumpster fires before moving to Chinatown but the levels layout will always be different. Each area has its own unique set of characters that will appear in groups to take you down. Getting to see how they attack you helps you understand how they’ll play when you control them. Hyper Parasite isn’t a complete free for all though – it wants you to grind to unlock the ability to shift into body types and it is here where the gameplay loop is exposed and feels drawn out.
Somewhere in each level is a greedy shopkeeper who keeps a circle of characters that you can pay coins for to unlock. The issue is that if you die before getting to the shop, your run was for nothing. You might unlock certain body types and then they might not appear in level generation either. The cheaper ones are the weakest and the expensive ones are a huge grind because the characters do not cross over from level to level. So a character in level 1 may require 4000 coins, you might get about 250 coins top in level 1 but if you move on and do really well and get 700 coins by level 3 – you can only pour those coins into unlocking characters available in level 3. It some ways that absolutely makes sense but I found that the lack of post-death return to a shop to at least feel like you were making progress was a hindrance. You see, at the start of each level you reach, you’ll be overwhelmed and die quickly as the step up between them can be quite large. So its back to the beginning to grind through. You’ll know and be bored of level 1 and still have characters to unlock and until you get the last few, you won’t feel like you are beefy enough to take on level 3 for example. In the meantime, you’ll be making small dents into the characters in level 2’s selection but some of them are step downs from the beefiest level 1 characters and you don’t feel like the grind to get the best in level 2 is worth it. I feel like I may be overly complaining but Hyper Parasite spreads its excellent premise far, far too thinly.
The other reason it may feel too thin and tiresome is that the overall game speed is also a bit slow. Whilst that can be helpful early on in the game to get used to how everything works. It then means that later in the game, the difficulty is down to huge life bars and an overwhelm of attacks being lobbed your way at once rather than feeling skilful. It is a minor issue compared to the monotony issue above but they go hand in hand. If moving and dodging is a bit of a slog in what is a giant coin grab drive, it feels a little off-putting.
There are things that I really enjoyed about Hyper Parasite though. The whole theming and humour of the game sells the late 80’s b-movie vibe nicely and the synthwave soundtrack and neon pixel graphics help that along too. There are a ton of characters to swap into if you can unlock them and they do handle and play differently – genuinely changing up your playstyle too. I think that is possibly Hyper Parasite’s best selling point as it is what intrigued me about the game and it delivers on it. I just feel like it makes you work too hard for too little. Maybe I needed to get good.
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Review copy provided by the developer.