oprainfall@GDC IMPRESSIONS: HyperParasite

Monday, May 4th, 2020

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HyperParasite | Title

Editor’s Note: Due to the postponement of GDC, oprainfall has taken it upon themselves to help provide coverage to developers who were going to showcase their games there. HyperParasite is one of those games.

Somehow I had a feeling I’d get roped into covering HyperParasite for the oprainfall site. After all, I like indies and rogue twin-stick shooters, and HyperParasite has all those elements. And to be fair, initially I thought I might really enjoy playing through the game. It starts out with a delightfully twisted introduction, narrated by a president of the US that looks like the love child of Reagan and Nick Fury. He tells you about a dangerous alien body snatcher that has landed on Earth. It’s capable of forcibly taking any human host, providing it armor and new abilities. According to the president, the alien’s goal is to steal his own body and use the nuclear football codes for nefarious aims. While the term “unreliable narrator” kept flashing through my head as he spoke, I thought the introduction did a good job of setting the tone and stakes. And did I mention you get to play the game as that nefarious alien menace?

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At first blush, I love the premise of HyperParasite. Running about, causing mayhem and stealing new bodies sounds both empowering and delightfully bizarre. Unfortunately, the execution of that formula is where the experience started to fall apart for me. The tutorial seemed pretty understandable, and then the moment the game threw me into the actual adventure, I forgot some of the key controls. Namely, I didn’t quite remember what button allowed me to snatch a new body, and that was exacerbated by the game’s UI. It clearly shows which moves you have available at the top of the screen, along with the corresponding button prompts. The problem is, your parasite’s secondary attack, mapped to ZL, is actually how you steal bodies, but the X button is called Parasite. So I naturally thought X was how I stole bodies, and instead it’s just how you dispose of your current host. Suffice to say, the confusion is partly my fault, but the UI didn’t help things much.

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In general, combat works pretty well. You have a standard dodge in all your forms, and each body you snatch has different primary and secondary attacks. For example, there’s a class I refer to as Globetrotters which throw basketballs or charge up for more powerful attacks, and there’s also Donut Eaters, police that can shoot bullets and spend some energy to fire big bullets as well. Each area in the game has a whole bunch of distinct classes, which is great. Especially when you watch otherwise normal humans inexplicably rising from the sewers to kill you. But there’s a catch. To be able to snatch a body, you have to steal a brain first. I know that sounds macabre, and it’s even weirder in execution. Sometimes when you beat a foe, their actual brain will start following you around. If you make it back to Wito’s all purpose creepy alien shop with the brain, it will run up and unlock its class for you. Then, you have to spend cash to fully unlock that class. You have to do this with every single class in every area in the game, and this is where I started to grow fatigued. I’m all for challenging rogue twin-stick games, but I’m not a fan of unnecessary grinding. And I quickly learned HyperParasite is incredibly grindy. Especially when you realize that every new area you unlock basically has you starting over from scratch.

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I didn’t like this formula for body snatching. I understand that it would be too easy to just steal anyone’s form on a whim, and I don’t want a pathetically easy game. But I still feel like this method took away all the allure of alien body snatching, and made it a chore instead. When I unlocked the second area, Asia Town, I quickly took so much damage from ninjas, fan girls and sumos that I lost my current host, and was rapidly overwhelmed. And since you can only warp to Wito’s shop after you’ve found it in a new area, this started to frustrate me. I wish instead HyperParasite made it so some enemies had more or less resistance to possession, instead of locking them all behind a in-game paywall in effect.

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While I loved the visual flair in the intro, that sadly doesn’t translate at all to the rest of the experience. I found the overall aesthetic dark and muddy, and lacking in detail. It was also challenging to accurately read the enemy health bars for some foes, notably the mini bosses. These are very powerful minor enemies that can often do things like heal themselves or deal burn damage to you. And the regular bosses aren’t a joke either. I only got past the first, called Double Trouble. It starts easy, with you attacking two stationary police vans. Then they start discharging human menaces and begin to fire on you with gun turrets, and things get out of control fast. I can only imagine how hard the other bosses are in HyperParasite. And again, I’m not adverse to challenge, it’s more the balance that struck me as off.

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I think HyperParasite has the bones of a good game, and just failed to execute the premise properly. Instead of being a powerful alien shapeshifter, I was a weakling only able to take bodies with sufficient cash. Furthermore, the basic alien goo form is really fragile, and can easily be destroyed with one solid hit. Even though you can use DNA pools to boost your stats, it just felt as if the entire experience was unfairly weighed against the player. I really hope that the developers for the game take this coverage to heart, and use it to make this a better game. Cause it had the potential to be really great, and I hate complaining about indies, but this one just felt incredibly rough.

About Josh Speer

Josh is a passionate gamer, finding time to clock in around 30-40 hours of gaming a week. He discovered Operation Rainfall while avidly following the localization of the Big 3 Wii RPGs. He enjoys SHMUPS, Platformers, RPGs, Roguelikes and the occasional Fighter. He’s also an unashamedly giant Mega Man fan, having played the series since he was eight. As Head Editor and Review Manager, he spends far too much time editing reviews and random articles. In his limited spare time he devours indies whole and anticipates the release of quirky, unpredictable and innovative games.