Indie Gems: Paranautical Activity Blows Apart Demons
Indie Gems is an ongoing feature in which we highlight indie games that are worth your time and attention. Think of this as your weekly Indie Game Playlist.
What if Zelda was played like a first-person shooter?
This is the premise behind Paranautical Activity, a procedurally-generated shooter with a rather rough publishing history. Those familiar with Binding of Isaac will instantly feel at home, as Paranautical utilizes a lot of the same features: semi-random dungeons, items which change how you play significantly, and permadeath.
Developer: Code Avarice
Your goal in Paranautical is to clear each room (murdering enemies along the way for glorious coins) and make it to the boss (the red-marked room). You get items dropped from bosses – you can kill non-essential sub-bosses too, if you like – that change your character attributes, such as increasing jump height or showing you were important rooms are. It’s all very Binding of Isaac – minus religious symbolism and from a first-person perspective – and like Binding it’s quite addictive. The thrill of running around a level with two hits left is palpable, and recovering from it thanks to a lucky item or heart drop gives delicious catharsis. When you die, you sigh at your mistake, and then immediately begin playing again to prove how good you are.
Despite being an FPS, Paranautical doesn’t fall victim to the typical FPS conceit of “all graphics, all day.” Enemies and effects are rendered as voxels, and there’s a distinctly lo-fi aesthetic to the whole affair. That’s Paranautical’s primary charm; it feels like someone looked at Zelda, wondered if it would work well if stitched together with Quake, and made it to see how it could be done. It may be very similar to other games in this growing genre – should we call them “Binding-likes?” – but thanks to the perspective, fast pace, and interesting aesthetic, it sets itself apart from the crowd.