[Review] HyperParasite – Nintendo Switch

Written by Richard Strachan
  • Developer: Troglobytes Games
  • Publisher: QubicGames
  • Release date: 03/04/2020
  • Price: £13.99/$17.99
  • Review code provided by QubicGames

Introducing: HyperParasite Nintendo Switch Review

About a year ago, I found myself saying to a friend that I was sick of Roguelikes. I had gone through a phase of buying most of the big, obvious ones over the last few years, and was starting to get a bit bored. For every Spelunky or Dead Cells, there are a hundred others that don’t really do anything different.

When the opportunity came up to review HyperParasite, I thought, “Here we go, another bloody Roguelike.” I had a quick read-up to see what the game was all about, and my interest was piqued! In a sea of Roguelikes, (or Rogue-lites if we are being pedantic,) HyperParasite manages to offer something a bit different and ends up all the better for it!

It came from outer space

In HyperParasite, you play as the titular parasite, which has come from space. The parasite has the sole objective of wiping out humanity by infecting the U.S. President and unleashing the nuclear arsenal. It’s very cheery stuff! The ‘powers that be’ have decided to declare Martial Law in an effort to wipe out the parasite, as paranoia mounts and no one is really sure who is infected. Citizens are given additional freedom which allows them to tool up with any weapons they wish to head out and kill the parasite in an effort to save humanity. This sets the scene for a battle between you as the parasite and a host of military, law enforcement and violent degenerates who want to get involved in some killing.

Invasion of the body snatchers

A parasite by its very nature infects a host body to gain some kind of benefit, from the simplest effect of siphoning resources right up to controlling the hosts body. HyperParasite plays in the same vein as a twin stick shooter, with the unique twist being you can take over the body of any enemies you encounter.

In your initial form, you can roam as the parasite with a basic weak projectile attack. You have a secondary attack where you can zip into any nearby host and control them. This then grants you access to the weapons and abilities of your host.

In the early stages, you find yourself pursued by Cops with pistols, Firemen with axes, and basketball players who can smack you with basketballs, among other enemies. Each of the host bodies plays very differently, and can really shine in certain scenarios. Some are much better at close quarters, whereas others really need a more spacious arena to allow you to get the best out of them. You can burst out of a host body at any point and take over another enemy, which allows you to be tactical as you approach different scenarios, and to adapt while new waves of enemies approach you which have more appropriate skills.

Each character has a secondary attack which modifies or powers up the primary attack. The basketball player can jump for a huge slam dunk, which allows you to hammer the attack button during the animation to power it up and increase the damage. The police officer, on the other hand, can power up his gun to fire more powerful projectiles briefly. The secondary attacks have a cooldown timer, which means tactical usage is important. Cooldowns can be reduced by finding or buying various power-ups.

The body possession mechanic keeps the core gameplay changing as you play, and keeps everything really fresh. The controls are nicely tuned, and everything feels really smooth, whether you are running around as a hobo with a shopping trolley ramming it into your opponents, or spraying down hordes of enemies with your “little friend” as a familiar-feeling 80s drug dealer.

Die Hard

Initially, you are unable to possess every enemy. Instead, you can grab the brain from some locked enemies and earn the ability to possess that enemy if you return it to a central lab area. The brains are stored in a vat, but the ability to control that character isn’t quite unlocked at that point; instead, you need to pay in cash to finally access them. You find money throughout the levels and can pay any loose change you have towards gradually unlocking some of the more expensive characters. Naturally, the more a character costs, the more powerful they will be when you finally gain access to them.

This is amplified when you gain access to some of the miniboss characters, each of whom are based on characters from classic 80s films, from Rocky to Teen Wolf. It is extremely empowering to go from being grossly underpowered against minibosses to eventually being able to go straight into a room and possess them without a struggle and then turn their unique abilities against the goons around you. The game has 60 characters to unlock, so there is a huge amount of variety and longevity, but the cost of obtaining each character can be a little high. The unlocks persist between runs, so you have the slow, gradual power curve as found in most Rogue-lites.

On top of purchasing characters, you can also use money to unlock abilities and tools to gain access to different paths through the procedurally-generated levels. The first level includes an alternate route through the sewers unlocked by purchasing a key in the shop area.

Each level has a formidable final boss battle which can be a bit of a struggle if you go into it with the wrong character and abilities, so planning (and a little bit of luck) is key. You find a range of single-use power ups within the levels which can help turn the tide, but going into a boss battle as a hobo with a shopping trolley can be soul-destroying, as in all likelihood you’ve spent the last ten minutes with very little prospect of success.

Power-ups and money are lost upon death, so these types of unfortunate runs can be pretty frustrating, but that’s par for the course with these games.

Back to the future

The game is set in an alternate timeline version of the 1980s where World War Three has recently concluded. The 80s theme is pretty heavily embraced, with arenas thick with the glow of neon and the soundtrack comprising of driving synthwave. HyperParasite manages to nail the feeling of the 80s, or at least the crystallised retrospective rose-tinted view of the 80s so prominent in pop culture these days.

Visually, the game is fairly basic, looking not unlike the original Grand Theft Auto or Chinatown Wars. Despite the simplicity, it does look pretty cool. Having spent my formative years in gaming playing on the SNES and N64, I am a stickler for pixel art and simple 3D graphics. HyperParasite nails both, with the gameplay taking place in a fairly simple looking (but effective) 3D engine and the menus showing off some very characterful pixel art. Now, I might sound like I’m being critical of the art style, but I did actually like it. It definitely comes across better in action than it does in stills!

The simple visuals and brilliant synthwave soundtrack work perfectly with the gameplay, tying together a brilliant package.

The game runs nice and smoothly when docked, and there was no real visual downgrade in handheld, but I did feel like the frame rate was a little more stuttery at times in handheld. Thankfully, this wasn’t significant enough to really impact on the gameplay experience.

Final Thoughts

HyperParasite managed to woo me very quickly and turn me from a jaded cynic of the Rogue-lite genre into a big fan. The ability to control so many different characters allows you to approach encounters with multiple strategies and keeps the game feeling fresh as you unlock more and more hosts. The game controls really nicely, and the crunchy, violent combat keeps the moment-to-moment encounters engaging and satisfying. The option to play cooperatively is there for those that want it, but I had a great time grinding away on my lonesome.

Pros

  • Huge variety of characters to control
  • Satisfying, splatter-filled combat
  • Nice synthwave soundtrack

Cons

  • Graphics may look a little simple for some
  • Slight stuttering in handheld

Verdict
HyperParasite is a fun twist on the Rogue-lite genre. It nails the 80s aesthetic and combines it with tight and satisfying gameplay. Well worth picking up!

4/5

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