It’s weird how quaint a roguelike feels these days, considering it was only a few years ago we had titles like The Binding of Isaac and Crypt of the NecroDancer dominating the indie space. Of course, their monolithic popularity was eventually toppled by survival sims and battle royales, but, every once in a while, you’ll still see a roguelike pop up and surprise you. That’s exactly what HyperParasite does.
Aping 1980s action films, HyperParasite sees you roll around as an amorphous blob hell-bent on ending the world. Each run includes its own enemies, power-ups, and level structures that reset on death, in true roguelike fashion, but the big gimmick of the game is you can hijack enemies. By absorbing a baddie into your gooey mass, you can use their weapons and wield their corpse like a meat shield to protect you from enemy fire.
The combat is excellent. Each potential victim’s weapons radically change how you play, from the basketball player’s ricocheting shots to the Ghostbuster’s plasma beams, meaning you’ll often flit between forms to handle specific situations. Fights can become bullet-hell levels of hectic, and so chaining together attacks to keep your soft, slimy bulk safe is a vital strategy.
The boss encounters are also incredibly well done, feeling daunting but not impossible. It took me a good few hours to beat the first area’s final boss, and it was only once I’d learned the area’s possessable victims inside-out (literally…) that I started making headway against them. Each stage is littered with minibosses, too, which provide a hefty challenge with great rewards.
HyperParasite’s biggest flaw is in its presentation. While the pixel-art style isn’t awful, it also isn’t particularly inspired or unique in its execution either. Then there’s its tone; the game not only makes a few pop culture references to sell its eighties setting, but it also uncritically adopts some of the more problematic aspects of the era. The only Black enemies in the first area are basketball players, and the ‘Asia Town’ segment is so full of racial stereotypes it’s hard not to cringe. In a game all about becoming the enemy, a lot more work could’ve been put into making the enemies not rely on tired, inappropriate visual shorthand just because they came from the era being paid homage to.
It’s easy to look at HyperParasite and dismiss it as a game that desperately wants to be Hotline Miami, but to do so would be wrong. Dated representation aside, this is a solid roguelike shooter that shows there’s still life in the genre yet.
When the bullets are flying, HyperParasite turns into a gruesome dance of space goo and enemy chunks. Throwing yourself between enemies to possess their bodies and turn them into meat shields never gets old.
Let down by its aesthetic, HyperParasite is still a ruthlessly challenging and fun roguelike shooter.
Genre: Shooter/Roguelike | Format: PC (tested) / Switch / PS4 / Xbox One | Developer: Troglobytes Games | Publisher: Troglobytes Games, Hound Picked Games, QubicGames | Price: £13.99 | Release Out now