Paranautical Activity Review

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Title: Paranautical Activity
Developer: Digerati Distribution
Platform: PlayStation Vita
Game Type: Vita
Download: 340 MB
NA Availability: Digital Download
EU Availability: Digital Download
PSTV Support: No

How exactly would you gauge the PS Vita situation on first-person shooters?  You’ve got a couple big name titles, like Borderlands 2, Call of Duty Black Ops Declassified, and Killzone Mercenary, but there aren’t a lot of other recognizable titles.  Sure, there’s a few more when you go into third-person shooters like 2013 Infected Wars and Resident Evil Revelations 2, but you’re not going to find an abundance of shooters on the system.

There is always the option to use Remote Play for PS4 shooters.  On that note, I can say that the new Doom game works wonderfully with Remote Play.  I played a good half of the game on my Vita without any issues.  But we don’t go around saying PS4 games release on Vita because of Remote Play.  I just kind of stare and mentally slap people across the face for saying that kind of thing.

Smaller developers is where we look for more shooters on the Vita.  Duke Nukem 3D got a PS Vita version which runs surprisingly well.  Being a fan of that style of game, I really got into it.  This past week, another first-person shooter has come to the Vita, in the vein of Doom and Quake.  Here is my review of Paranautical Activity!

Story

This game has no story, so this shall remain blank.

Gameplay

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Now, who thought of using a sickle as a primary weapon in a shooting game?

This is a randomly-generated first-person shooter.  The base gameplay is like any FPS game, but it has a lot of randomly-generated elements.  In a way, it’s like The Binding of Isaac, but in the form of a shooter.  At its base, it’s a first-person shooter, though, so we’ll leave it at that.

There are three different game modes to play through: Classic Mode, Hardcore Mode, and Infinite Mode.  Only Classic Mode is unlocked from the start, so you need to beat prior game modes to unlock the next.  There’s also a section where you can check what you’ve unlocked and various game settings.

Once you start a game, you will be at an open elevator in the middle of a room.  Your task will be to navigate the various rooms of each floor to find a boss room (labeled by a pentagram) which guards the elevator to the next floor.  Finding the boss is as random as everything else.  It could take you 2 rooms to find it or 8.  But that is the main goal.  Find the boss, kill it, and take the elevator to the next floor and repeat until all floors are cleared.

There are many different types of rooms you can encounter, which is where the random element comes into play.  The majority of rooms are battle rooms that spawn enemies as soon as you enter.  In these rooms, all of the exits close until you’ve taken down all of that room’s enemies.  Boss rooms do the same thing.  You go in, the boss spawns, and you fight until you die or it dies.  Then, the exits open up for you to navigate onward.

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So, why am I in an elevator, and why am I going up to get out?

 

The special types of rooms, other than Boss Rooms and the different battle rooms are mostly Shops.  When you defeat enemies, they will often drop money and health packs.  Health Packs, of course, heal what you lost in damage, but money is used in the shop.  Shops have different items.  Some have power-ups and useable items that can give you special effects, while others have weapons that you can trade out your current weapons for.  After all, who wouldn’t give up a shotgun for a mini-gun with infinite ammunition?

This brings up classes and combat.  There are many different classes you choose when you first start, and they dictate your speed, health, defense, and most importantly, your arsenal.  Each class has a main weapon with infinite ammunition and a super weapon with limited ammunition.  All classes play differently from the Tank class that has a shotgun and civil war-style cannon to Davie Bowie that only comes with an infinite Crossbow.

The way you fight is generally like other shooters.  Point your cross-hairs at an enemy and shoot until they die.  Normal weapons have infinite ammo, so there’s no point in conserving anything.  Whereas, the special weapons have very limited ammo that takes some time to build back up.  I generally save all special weapon ammo for bosses.

The last thing is items.  Like Binding of Isaac, there are lots of items that give you various enhancements.  Some are dropped by bosses and some bought from the shop.  These enhancements could give you a double-jump, increase your speed by sacrificing armor, increase your health by sacrificing speed, or something completely different.

A complaint I have, however, is the variety of “random” rooms the game has.  In Binding of Isaac, there are so many combinations, you could play the game hundreds of times and still never get the same exact rooms.  In Paranautical Activity, there really isn’t that much variety.  In each run, I see at least a few of the same room with the same enemies and same bosses that I saw the run before.  It is great your first 5 runs.  But once you’ve done a good 20 runs or so, you’ve seen pretty much everything there is to see.

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Here is a fine modern re-enactment of Ahab vs Moby Dick.  Now with shotguns

Now, difficulty.  This isn’t an easy game.  First of all is the fact that there are no checkpoints.  You die, you start over from Floor 1.  This is a generally accepted rule of this type of randomly-generated game.  Each enemy has patterns and so does every boss.  Even if you’re familiar with FPS games, it’s going to be difficult at first.  But, the more you play, the more doable it gets.  You just have to remember you’re going to be dying and starting over a lot.

Time is hard to gauge.  A master at the game can probably do a full run in Classic Mode in about an hour, give or take.  Accounting for difficulty curves and adjusting to the game, I would gauge it more at several hours.  Not all at once, though.  Like Isaac, I see this as a good pick-up-and-play game for Vita owners.  Pick it up for a run or two when you’re bored or out in the world and only have a few minutes of free time.

Controls

The controls for the Vita differ from the PS4 version.  And to state it for those wondering, this is not compatible with the PlayStation TV, despite having button controls for everything in the Vita version.  It’s something I’m going to speak to the publishers about to try to get going in a patch, if I can.

Moving around is done with the Left Analog Stick and moving the camera with the Right Analog Stick.  The D-Pad is only used for navigating the pause menu and the title menu.  X is only used in the menu screens.  Square is used for nothing.  Triangle lets you switch weapons and Circle lets you toss bombs.  Finally, the L trigger lets you jump and R trigger fires from your guns.

I don’t really have complaints about the control scheme, but do about how it’s explained to you.  Basically, it’s not explained to you.  Nothing is.  You start the game and you’re thrown under the bus.  No control explanations.  No progression explanations.  No nothing.  You have to figure out everything yourself.

Presentation

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Mothra vs The Tank Class.  Godzilla can get a few pointers from this.

I’m sure you’ve seen all of the online discussions already, about how terrible the presentation is.  How the frame rate is awful, the visuals are awful, and there needs to be a million patches made to the game already.  I know, because I commented on one said discussion on r/Vita the first day this game was out.

Visually, I honestly don’t have anything to complain about.  The developer’s goal was to create an FPS with a very pixel, minecraft-like presentation, and that’s done well.  I’ve compared the Vita and PS4 versions and they look about the same.  PS4 is slightly more smoothed out, but the Vita version looks fine on its own.

Performance, however, does need some clarification.  The PS4 version runs at 30 fps.  The PS Vita version does too, sometimes.  I’ve seen a lot of situations, though, where the frames drop a fair bit to around 20 fps when playing the Vita version.  Most of this happens to me when you’re going into a new room or moving the camera horizontally.  Another main aspect of the frames dropping is when bosses die.  To generate the mass amount of money that some bosses drop, the game freezes for a second or two and then resumes.

Note that it just drops about 10 fps or so.  The game is still playable, and I plan to keep it on my Vita.  Just know that it does have drops and won’t be a flawless experience.  If this game were PSTV Compatible, I’d be able to show you exactly how it plays, but until a patch comes from the devs, that won’t be possible.

Summary

Paranautical Activity is an interesting mix of classic Quake gameplay and The Binding of Isaac.  It certainly isn’t perfect with a lack of variety of random elements, no explanation of how to do anything, and some minor performance issues needing to be patched soon.  However, it is still a decently fun FPS for pick-up-and-play sessions on the Vita. 

7/10

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  • Lester Paredes

    Hopefully they can patch it and iron out all the rough spots. Added PSTV support would be nice, but no deal breaker. I may pick this up later on, as there are far to many games coming out this month for me and my wallet is begging me to stop. Saving my pennies for Odin Sphere, Grand Kingdom, and Ateleir.

    • PSTV Support is the big one for me. No PSTV Support is the only reason I have my PS4 cross-buy copy downloaded. I’m hoping they can add it since there’s buttons for everything.

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