Paratopic is an experimental, first-person horror game developed by Arbitrary Metric and published by Baltoro Games. Similar to the previous Baltoro Games release we covered; this game also features lovely, retro psone inspired visuals.
***Writers Note*** - Before I get fully into this review, I just want to say that I originally planned to do a video review of this game. However, for some dumb reason the developers have blocked the ability to record clips/footage on an Xbox console whilst playing the game. So, you will just have to use your imagination on how the game really looks in motion.
Paratopic is a short, narrative driven horror, adventure game that sees you play through the eyes of three different people. One is caught smuggling VHS tapes across the border (and these VHS tapes seem to have some kind of supernatural powers), one is in a forest trying to take a picture of a rare bird and the final one is a hitman sent to carry out a hit on a man in the back room of a shady diner. As the game progresses you jump between them in short gameplay sections, all of them loosely akin to walking simulators with very little in the way of gameplay mechanics. You have to take photographs, drive a car, shoot a gun (once) and interact with various odd characters.
The dialogue between the characters is very text heavy with a variety of responses to choose to direct the conversations. A lot of these conversations do little to forward the plot but add more to the ambience and overall world narrative – you can ask the store clerk about interesting places around town for example, yet you can’t actually visit any of the places that he describes. As with the game focusing on old school VHS tapes as its story’s main narrative adhesive, it also harks back to the 1990s with its low poly visual aesthetic. If you ever played games like Silent Hill on the PSone then you will know the look I am talking about. Blocky characters, blurred distant backgrounds, simple textures – but combined with the dark, ambient background music (described as an anachronistic blend of modern and outdated production as glitches and textural pads meet synthesis and sampling akin to 1990s Unreal Engine soundtracks) it all just works in creating a truly creepy set of environments to immerse yourself in.
The game itself isn’t too long, taking around 45 minutes to complete a playthrough. There is no save option either, so you need to play from start to finish in one sitting. The achievements are also a weird one in this game. You can unlock them during the game, but they don’t pop until the final credits have rolled. This can be annoying if you are planning to go for one of the specific achievements as barring a quick audio notification that can easily be missed, you have no way of knowing if you actually unlocked it until you play through the entire game. It will take you a minimum of two playthroughs to get all the achievements as you need to choose a variety of dialogue responses, so at least it gives the game some replayability.
The game unfortunately finishes rather abruptly, whilst not really answering or explaining anything. Whilst I understand the short playthrough time was probably chosen for an artistic reason, what feels like half of the gametime is spent solely on multiple driving sections. This wouldn’t be an issue bar the fact they are pretty bland, you drive forward on auto accelerate and all you have to do is avoid clipping the barriers on very long, yet empty stretches of road. These driving sections are cool to complete the first time as the retro aesthetic really shines, but they are way too drawn out and there is a total of three of them in a single playthrough.
Overall the game itself has a striking retro art style that works wonders with its dark soundtrack to create a very unique, creepy and unsettling set of environments. Its just a shame that the game itself is very limited in what it offers. If the game was slightly longer and less time was spent on the bland driving sections so it could be given to other sections of the game to flesh them out abit more, then I feel the game could be truly special. Unfortunately, as it stands right now there aren’t many reasons to go back for another playthrough.
Paratopic was released on 13h May 2022 and is playable on Xbox One and Xbox Series X/SS and can be purchased HERE for £4.59. The game is also available on PC and Nintendo Switch.
We were provided a copy of the game for this review. Big thanks for that!