Robocop Is The Warmest Place To Hide

HIGH Finally unlocking the famous Chinatown truck.

LOW The game never explains a key power-up mechanic.

WTF I’m not okay playing as Freddy Krueger.

I think it’s fair to say that twin-stick shooter genre was revitalized by a shift into roguelike design philosophy. The encouragement to keep restarting, the quick action, the direct tie into the genre’s arcade roots… most twin-stick shooters are even set in dungeons, which makes the roguish elements feel even more appropriate. I’ve played dozens of twin-stick roguelites now, which is more than enough to say that it’s a subgenre that’s sticking around. This now-popular angle creates a problem, though — how does a title stand out in an increasingly-dense crowd?

HyperParasite‘s devs decided the secret was to embrace ’80s kitch and a central mechanic that doesn’t feel like anything else out there. Cribbing shamelessly from popular horror film The Thing, HyperParasite has the player control a pile of spiky goo — it’s the titular alien that’s determined to wipe out as much of humanity as it can get its tendrils on.

The blob itself is mostly harmless and can be killed in a single hit, so it’s forced to rely on its main power — consuming enemies and transforming itself into them. Absorb a cop, and suddenly the player is wearing a badge and carrying a revolver. Take over a sumo wrestler and they’re pouncing on foes to devastating effect. Is the stolen body taking too much damage? Simply shed it and move on to the next host.

It’s this variety of playable characters that’s HyperParasite’s secret weapon. Each of the five chapters has a different theme, and with it a dozen enemies to use as living weapons. The player can grab low-level goons with no issue, but tougher characters are locked and can’t be possessed right away. Unlocking them is relatively simple — kill a powerful version of that enemy (they’re outlined in red for easy spotting) then deliver their brain to an alien research facility that also doubles as the game’s store. Then spend some coins and the player will be able to body-snatch that enemy in all future runs.

Sixty different playable characters seems like a lot to learn, but HyperParasite does a great job of grouping them into archetypes that play fairly similarly. For example, each of the claw-based attackers follow the same basic rules, so once the player is comfortable using Teen Wolf, it will be easy to master Freddy Krueger.

Those aren’t exaggerations, either — the majority of characters are drawn directly from ’80s pop culture. Whether it’s MacGyver with a nail gun, Shredder taking a break from hassling the ninja turtles, or a level based directly on Big Trouble in Little China, the developers openly celebrate their inspirations while adding an extra layer of entertainment for anyone old enough to recognize the references.

Unfortunately, while the world is interesting and the gameplay is solid, the devs have botched things a little with the difficulty level and unlock system.

While brains and coins are required to unlock characters, both resources are weirdly hard to find. Enemies almost never drop money, so if the player wants to find cash they’ll have to break every barrel and box on each screen — both annoying as hell and a pointless time sink.

Past the first two levels, though, the characters are so expensive that simply scrounging for cash won’t get it done. No, only the amount of money dropped by bosses can make a dent in the bill — or it might if not for the fact that the cash drops seem entirely random. Sometimes I’ll get 500 coins from a boss, and another run will net me 3000 from the same fight. Am I being graded on my performance? If so, HyperParasite isn’t telling.

The ‘shortcut’ system is just as poorly thought-out. Each new area has three doors that connect to other places, and these can be unlocked by finding items in unique rooms. The problem is that there’s no way to know when those rooms are going to unlock, and precious few clues about where to search for the items. I’ve been to the cellars beneath Chinatown half-a-dozen times looking for the cell key but I’ve never found it, meaning that I don’t have a way to breeze past that area on future runs.

As far as difficulty goes, HyperParasite‘s bosses are terrible. All of them are challenging on their own, filling whole screens with bullets and pushing the players’ dodging skills to the limit. This might be manageable, but for the fact that each boss is also joined by two random foes that constantly attack the player as well. So, while I’m busy dodging a helicopter’s gatling gun and missiles, I’ll also have a guy chasing me with a giant hammer and another blasting me with a shotgun.

There’s no way to clear these characters out to get some breathing room, either. The moment any are killed, a new one spawns in to keep the fight going. I understand that they show up so the player can jump into a new body if their host is killed, but new ones shouldn’t appear until the first host dies. If the devs thought these bosses would be too easy without the extra pressure, they’ve massively overcorrected.

Hyperparasite is a blast to play. The sheer variety of characters, each with their own style to learn, kept me coming back hour after hour. I liked the look, the endless references, and the multiple routes through each level. If only the developers hadn’t been so hellbent on making it into such an uphill slog I probably would have finished it! As it stands, it’s just too unfriendly to players and I can’t recommend it.

Rating: 6 out of 10

Disclosures: This game is developed and published by Troglobytes Games. It is currently available on PC, PS4, Switch and XBO. This copy of the game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on the PC. Approximately 10 hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode, and the game was not completed. 1 hour was spent in the co-op campaign.

Parents: This game was rated T by the ESRB and contains Blood, Crude Humor, Violence, Language and Sexual Themes. As cute as the art style might be, this is clearly intended only for adults. It’s bloody as heck with people getting set on fire, blown to pieces, and riddled with bullets. Even the HyperParasite gets into the action, detonating bodies whenever it wants to move on to another form. No kids, please.

Colorblind Modes: There are no colorblind modes available in the options.

Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: I played the majority of the game without sound and encountered no difficulties. All information is displayed via text. Text cannot be resized.

Remappable Controls: Yes, this game offers fully remappable controls.

Daniel Weissenberger
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