Using enemies to serve as both your shield and spear makes for an interesting gameplay mechanic. However, the need for grinding, as well as the time needed to get into later areas, winds up harming much of the fun factor.
Type: Single-Player, Coop
Genres: Twin Stick Shooter,
Developer: Troglobytes Games
Publisher: Troglobytes Games
Release date: 3 April, 2020
Editor’s note: we gave the developer a preview of this article and asked for his feedback. His responses are included.
I was completely unaware of HyperParasite’s (HP) existence, until the developer contacted Save or Quit about reviewing the game, with a statement that it’d be well-suited for, “Someone who eats Enter the Gungeon and Binding of Isaac for breakfast.” Intrigued, I checked out the store page, saw that it had a respectable number of reviews and overall rating, and decided I’d throw down on that sort of challenge. Especially since I’ve not actually played those two games that had been referenced. I’m skipping breakfast and taking this game to lunch.
HP is a twin stick shooter, rogue lite, with you controlling a fairly weak parasite. It can kill enemies, but any attack takes away one of your lives, and you start each run with only 1. At the earliest possibility, you’ll want to inhabit a suitable host, since if the host dies, it doesn’t impact the parasite. Plus, host bodies have a range of offensive capabilities which are much stronger than the parasite’s, and can make use of skills you obtain. There will be situations where you’ll purposely self-destruct a host because you find another one that suits your needs better, which sometimes means destroying the injured body you have to replace it with a fresh one. Even if an enemy is damaged, when you take it over, it’ll start at full health. I’ll mention that although there are upgrades and skills to find, there are no permanent stat increases. Each run has you start in a random host body, with no boosts. In this review, I’ll only address how HP plays in 80’s Mode, as that’s the default mode to play in.
So, how do you get stronger and make progress then? By being a good parasite, of course. At first, you’re surrounded by enemies that are useless to you, because they have a padlock icon over them indicating you can’t possess them. What you’ll want to find are elite enemies, marked with a red ring. You can never possess them, but if it’s not a host you’ve already unlocked, killing it will produce a brain. With the brain in tow, you’ll take it to the shop, where you can spend money to unlock that body. From then on, as long as it isn’t an elite, you can possess that enemy as often as you want or need. This won’t seem significant for a while, because it takes time to work your way through all of the enemies in an area. However, once you’ve obtained all of the host bodies in a location, you’ll realize how significant expanding your repertoire was. With every enemy around you able to become a new host, you’ve essentially gained infinite lives. This only pertains to each individual zone, of which there are 5, so this advantage is moot each new zone you get to, wherein you have to start from scratch again. It’s an interesting take on this genre, and I really like the creativity of it.
Although there aren’t permanent stat increases, there are upgrades available that’ll spawn in zones at random. Your 3 options include extra parasite lives, attack power, or more health for the host body. It varies, but occasionally they’ll have additional effects, such as greater movement speed or luck. I don’t know why, but some of them won’t have the option to get another parasite life. I tend not to worry about getting more of those until about the 3rd area myself. Also, there are a variety of power-ups that drop. The yellow-ringed ones restore health or reset your special attack timer. Green-ringed ones offer you a one-use item that can increase your damage or restore health. The most useful ones are purple-ringed, as they remain with the parasite no matter how many times you change bodies. The effects vary, but the best ones are Vampirism, which drains health for every enemy you kill, and elemental DoT, with frost, fire, and lightning having the best effects compared to poison and bleeding. Only one elemental DoT can be in effect at a time, so if your host has one that conflicts with this attribute, the host’s effect will predominate. It can still be worthwhile keeping a good DoT though, because when you get another host, you’ll have this available to use then.
It’s possible to play this game with the keyboard, but as a twin stick shooter I found it worked quite well with a controller. As expected, movement is controlled with the ‘L joystick’ while aiming attacks is done with the ‘R joystick.’ Interacting with objects and picking up skills is done by either tapping or holding down the ‘A button,’ while ‘B’ backs out of menus. Holding down ‘X’ will purposely self-destruct your current host body, and ‘Y’ activates your green items. The ‘R trigger’ fires your weapon, which can be held down to maintain constant fire with certain hosts, and ‘R bumper’ reloads firearms. ‘L trigger’ activates your special attack, while ‘L bumper’ is your dodge roll. ‘Select’ brings up your map, from which you can teleport to rooms with the black hole image on them, and ‘Start’ brings up the menu.
At the start of HP, an opening cutscene plays out, with the POTUS warning people about an alien parasite stealing bodies. Ironically, you find out the goal of your character from the target himself, as you want to take possession of the POTUS and launch the nuclear arsenal to wipe out all human life. With intelligence agencies determining your goal but not your exact location, everyone has been given free range to wipe you out with extreme prejudice, though I don’t know how they recognize you as the parasite while you’re inside the host. Plus, whenever someone would determine where you are, why not call in a nuclear strike on that area? Because there wouldn’t be a game, of course!
Maybe I’m missing something obvious, but the game’s graphics don’t scream 80’s to me the way others say. The various host bodies are certainly references to media from that time, but the visuals otherwise make me think of games made within the last few years. If I’d seen this on a gaming site in 2017, it’d have blended in with the rest. It’s not a pixelated game, and there are details present in each environment, such as the litter, trash fires, and neon signs in the Downtown area. However, I don’t care much for the graphics, as it has a washed out look to me because the edges don’t look crisp but somewhat blurred, and the backgrounds are quite random with their colors. Seeing a tiled floor made up of similar colors yet without any sensible pattern, that also have different lighting levels and splotches across them, makes for a weird effect.
I find the title theme unpleasant, as it has a strange pitch to it. Otherwise, I think the music is reasonably good in HP. When you’re exploring stages without enemies around, the game plays a calmer track. However, when you’re locked in combat, it speeds up and plays a more aggressive song. The music does change for each new zone, but I don’t recall there being a variety of songs in each area. HP would benefit from more versatility in the music selection, especially with how much you replay the same spots.
- I like the variety of enemies in the game, including some of the creative weaponry used. For instance, the basketball player who chucks an endless supply of basketballs, or the ex-FBI agent who shoots a paperclip gun.
- As you accumulate even just a few bodies in an area and start recognizing room set-ups, you’re able to take control of situations rather easily. In spite of not having gotten stronger run to run, you still feel more capable.
- There are currently 2 game modes available, with plans to release other modes in future updates.
- RNG plays too much of an influence on your chances of success. It determines whether you’ll have access to the shop timely enough to make proper use of it, whether the skills you find are amazing or lame ducks, whether enemies drop health refills, whether you have access to the host body that’ll give you a 50% discount, and whether you’ll earn enough money to buy a body you need since money drops are luck-dependent.
- Quite a few aspects of the game aren’t explained clearly. For instance, what luck has an effect on or what resistance does, which items do or don’t carry over as a permanent object such as the subway ticket, which order you need to navigate alternative routes in, how you’re supposed to get past barriers like the garbage dumpster or the void, etc. [I]
- Since all money is lost when you fail a run, and buying host bodies is the only way to cause a permanent effect, it’s very easy to make a decent run, but make no progress whatsoever from it. Considering the cost of host bodies in later areas, the amount of money that drops is rather sparse too. [II]
- Enemies spawn randomly, and sometimes will appear right behind you. This can lead to them getting cheap shots, even though you’re otherwise paying attention to what’s going on around you.
- Wito’s shop sells 3 green items, of which you can only have 1 at a time. However, though you have 3 different purple slots, he only sells 1 at a time. How sensible.
- I know what you mean, but it’s part of the game also to explore and discover. Increasing the Luck, players will notice more drops from enemies and destructibles while the damage remains the same so Luck affects drop rate and no, for instance, chances of critic or damage.
You may have noticed that some characters have 4% Luck and you can decide to pick all the upgrades with Luck. Having 20% Luck will fill the map with items and other drops; you will easily carry +30K coins at Act 4. I call those Lucky Runs. Since a Reject is available from the start of the game, in any moment you can start a LuckyRun.
Same with Resistance: there are upgrade with +x% Resistance and you can prefer to choose these because you plan/hope to snatch a character with high Resistance too and not to lose it.
Items are explained in the Items Almanac.
Permanent objects are needed either to enter in sublevels or to use shortcuts to skip levels and boss fights. For instance, the metro ticket allows you to skip Double Trouble from the metro in the Old Sewers.
- You can start a LuckyRun, place just half of the money requested to unlock the characters, and return with a “Customer of the month” to unlock all of them for half of the price.
There are 3 Skills per Main Level and another one in the sublevel: Wito sells only 1 skill, very expensive since Skills are permanent (in the run). Still, you can use the Customer of the Month. I used this a lot in Act4 and 5.
You can also store the Customer of the Month to buy/unlock cheaper.
- There are consistent items in each main area: Wito’s shop, at least 3 upgrades, 1 secret item, 1 mini-boss, and 1 elite enemy. Secret items will be hidden in regular background objects that flash white when they’re hit, but won’t break from regular attacks. However, they break when hit with a special attack. When you unlock the mini-boss host body, unless it’s one you really like using, it’s better to kill it to see which skill it’ll drop. Sub-areas, like the sewers, will never have a shop, and should have 1 upgrade, 1 secret item, and 1 elite enemy.
- Though you will be outgunned and in tough situations, enemies are easy to manipulate. If you get out of their line of sight by taking cover, they’ll pause before rushing toward you, which is a great opportunity to turn the corner and blast them. When fighting against a boss, you can position them far away from where you want to go, draw their attention so they attack the spot you’re at now, and run over to the boss. They’ll pursue you, but they’ll be momentarily delayed.
- Putting bodies into storage allows you to access them from any other Wito shop within the same run. So, if you’ve not unlocked a host body in the 3rd area, you can have spare bodies waiting for you once you get there. Also, upgrades you obtain are not constrained to the host body you had when activating them.
At first, when I saw the slight decrease in hosts in upcoming zones, I was somewhat disappointed that the greatest variety existed in the very beginning. However, as I put more than a dozen hours into HP across a number of runs, I was exasperated by how many remained. The unique gameplay of this rogue lite in turn creates a unique downside. Since the trade-off you make for not having permanent stat upgrades is access to an endless pool of spare bodies to inhabit, the start of each run starts playing the same way each time, as a boring routine [III]. Although the overwhelming advantage shifting to your favor is fun at first, when you have to kill every enemy to clear rooms and get to the next zone, it gets old quick [IV]. It’s still possible to screw up and die, but you’d have to either be careless or get stuck in a bad situation.
Other rogue lites would have buffed you enough that you’d breeze through these early areas so you could get back to a later section to make progress again, perhaps teleporting you to that area directly. Since you don’t have that increased power, which you’ll need for those later areas you haven’t taken over yet, you have to make each run count by finding all the upgrades and skills that you can. This creates gameplay that becomes tedious and stagnant as you play through areas that you’ve long since conquered, spending so much time just getting to an area where you can start working on making progress again [V].
[VI] This is what made me give up on going further with the game. Not because it was too hard, but because investing so much time just to put a few drops in the bucket in later areas was so unrewarding and frustrating. By the time I quit, I was able to consistently clear the first 3 bosses, and had taken down the 4th boss on my first attempt fighting it. Without a way to shave off some of this needless repetition, I’ve no interest in playing this further. While I played this game, I had a roller coaster of emotions, but I’m relieved that I’m done with it. At least, until they make more updates, and potentially bring it into a better state.
- The permanent stat upgrades are replaced with the possibility to start with ANY of the unlocked characters and/or with the possibility to swap to any Act1 OP character quite soon.
Since you randomly start the run with any unlocked character, even a mini-boss, even from the third or four Act you can “destroy” Downtown in 10 mins or less.
Of course exploration will rewards the player but it remains free: you can find 2 upgrades, snatch the mini-boss (or kill it for the Skill) and decide to head to the Boss Fight or to skip it (Metro in the Old Sewers).
- Many (perhaps all…) topdown twin-stick shooters have locked rooms to clear.
Some special attacks, from “high-level” characters, allow destroying a wave of enemies in one click.
Luck can help to find instant Special Attack recharges.
- If it happens that you start with a strong character from the following Acts, you can breeze through the early areas, although I prefer to check always the sublevels.
Again, exploration remains free and there are shortcuts to “speedrun” a run.
- Regarding the last paragraph, I am happy that you managed to take down the 4th boss at the first attempt: that must have been some nice Character/Build/Skills working in synergy and of course made it possible thanks to your skills.
I am sorry that “some runs were unrewarding and frustrating due to the few drops in the bucket.” Some LuckyRuns would have helped you to unlock more or perhaps some shortcuts are still secret. Some people are happy to finally unlock and snatch their favorites characters from the ’80s, but I guess that this is personal.
I had many people testing the game: I love how they learn and enjoy jumping from a host body to another, using the core mechanic of the game and suddenly they try to keep alive specific characters, mostly a MiniBoss as much as possible as it happens in “traditional” games, then changing their approach according to what they have progressed. Those who played HyperParasite have felt new emotions due to need to adopt different gameplays and to embrace rare, even unique mechanics. We are happy for this.
I really like and appreciate your feedback. I can read that it comes from a roguelite lover and from a person able to judge if and when a game like our risks to become unappealing for some reason. Reading the feedback, I guess that you have discovered and used pretty much all the mechanics of the game, also combining them in many runs. Anyway, perhaps some things did not occur due to the procedural generation.
As a premise, when starting a run in a roguelite I think: what I will try to do in this run and what do I hope to find, being open to change plans if it turns out that the random generation is not in my favor. My colleagues at the studio do pretty much the same and somehow, unconsciously, HyperParasite has been developed in this fashion.
Thank you again for playing HyperParasite and you can reach me anytime.