Paratopic hurts my brain, it is everything right about the X-files, dragged through Twin Peaks and viewed through a filter made of various shades of toxic waste.
This review was amazingly hard to write, not because there was nothing to say, but because there’s too much.I’d love to dive head first into the plot and have anyone else whose played it throw their ideas and conspiracies at me.
I want to start just by talking about it in the vaguest sense, Paratopic is a confusing intertwining of three related (I think) story arcs;
A female assassin with a target, stares out the window as a almost demonic voice talks to her casually about murder.
A man who owes a favour has a job to fulfil, delivering video tapes across a border.
And finally a girl with a camera going for a walk in the woods, suffering the weight of brutal ambience.
Visually, Paratopic is ugly. Not bad, purposefully ugly. It’s taken it’s looks from good PS1 era horror games, which were also ugly in the same way. This lack of beauty fits it’s style and narrative like a freshly talc’d up gimp suit. It’s dark and brooding, saturated in colour and somehow seemingly devoid of it and even finds the time for some nice bouts of gore.
The filter that layers this game does so beautifully, it’s horrible yellow-green, brown and speckled with rusty orange here and there. It genuinely feels dirty to look at, faded and mouldy, like the windows of a long abandoned factory. And very much to it’s credit, in terms of drawing the player in, there’s no HUD.
Then there’s the audio. It’s weird in that I can only really describe it as an experience in crisp dissonance. The audio has a dirty reverb and crackle that lays in wait at the edge of your mind, fraying the hem of your brain. The music and sound cues are really well designed, you’ll notice it when you hear the first bout of conversation. The language is one you know and somehow you can’t take it in, I found myself reading subtitles to understand and then moments later my brain would catch up to the distorted audio.
The radio in your car is a perfect example, you can hear it, there are no actual words being spoken…I think. I can’t tell though, it sounds like the radio is on in the background while your having a more important conversation so you’re trying to tune it out, but there’s no important conversation. You sit in the car in silence thinking you can make out what’s being said, I’m sure I could make of real words and yet I’m fairly sure that none of it was exactly English.
The stories are connected, at least loosely. I think the key to understanding the way they intertwine is understanding what’s on the VHS tapes. Think Pulp Fiction, everyone is linked by the briefcase and yet while you know that, you don’t know shit because you don’t know what’s in the briefcase. The questions you acquire far outweigh the answers you get in return . And that makes me love it, I know so little after playing the game. I’ve seen a bunch of things, I understand what’s important and yet I have no idea how or why.
Hopefully this review hasn’t confused the hell out of you. If you like Cronenburg and Lynch, If a mystery can call to you and if you wan’t to play a game that feels perfect in it’s sound and styling. BUY PARATOPIC.
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