The Wii U lacks substantial representation from a few genres – the first-person shooter, for example. Although over-saturated on most consoles, I do enjoy playing first-person shooters because let’s face it: they are fun and a great way to kill some time. Paranautical Activity looked like a cool game that I would enjoy: retro-style graphics and insane enemies mixed with first-person shooting, but there’s a few issues that make the game hard to recommend.
Let’s get the good things out of the way first: Paranautical Activity is a really unique game graphically. Some people may not appreciate the retro-inspired Minecraft-like graphics, but I thought it was pretty unique and an interesting touch, which in the stagnant first-person shooter genre is a breath of fresh air. Enemies are really unique and creative – like Doom-inspired demons to massive whales, because why not? It’s a game that doesn’t take itself too seriously, and I applaud that.
The gameplay style is decent too. It’s more of a roguelike game in which you choose from a pre-set weapon layout and go about a level trying to clear procedurally generated floors. Each floor has a boss battle, rooms with enemies, and also a gift shop where you can purchase different weapons. After clearing a floor and defeating a boss, you then go to the elevator and proceed to the next floor, rinse and repeat. It’s straightforward, but it works in this style of game, I feel, and keeps things mostly streamlined.
The game controls fine as well, if not a bit on the slow side. I had to adjust the stick sensitivity for aiming and moving almost all the way to the max to get a comfortable control movement speed, which I thought was a bit strange. The game also has a good selection of controller options, with Wii U GamePad, Pro Controller, or Wiimote and Nunchuck available for whatever your preference is.
Sounds like a decent game right? Well, let’s talk about the main issues the game has before we jump to that conclusion.
First and foremost there are some really strange loading and framerate hiccups. The game seems to take an abnormally long time to load, and when entering a new room there is usually a very noticeable hesitation and enemies take a few seconds to load. It kind of ruins the fast gameplay when you are constantly clearing a room on a floor, and becomes a issue pretty quickly into the game.
Next up is the music, which is pretty subjective. The game uses a dubstep soundtrack, which is okay if you are a fan of the genre, but it doesn’t really seem to fit the darker mood of the game. I would have liked something a little darker and creepier, but if you are a fan of dubstep, the quality of the music is good. What isn’t good is the volume, which is obnoxiously loud and can’t be turned down, only off.
Finally, the most damning problem with Paranautical Activity is the difficulty: it’s just insane. I’m not against hard games, and I usually can enjoy them, but this game is just relentless. There are no continues – die once, and that is the end of your game. There is also no save system, so once again, die once, and that’s the game. Considering most of the layouts give you limited health to begin with, it makes for a frustrating experience, especially when there are 8 floors to clear, and permadeath is just a few seconds away. It doesn’t make the game challenging, it makes it border-line insane to try and continue.
Paranautical Activity isn’t a bad game, it is just is very flawed. Sadists and FPS fans looking for something quirky and somewhat enjoyable might get a little amusement out of the game, but it’s hard to recommend it with these glaring issues for most gamers.