Rogue-like games are nothing new on the Nintendo Switch and developer Digerati decided to bring its Steam released First-Person Shooter Paranautical Activity over to the console. What you have is an intriguing concept with incredibly poor execution and wasted potential.
Imagine if Minecraft had all the color and life sucked out of it, then someone switched off all the lights and handed you the most inadequate gun possible. You’ve just imagined Paranautical Activity and the nautical theme seems to loosely show, in the dank and lifeless supposedly underwater settings, enemies that look like rejects from a Gremlins movie. Their movements are some of the worst animations I’ve ever witnessed and they literally mirror everything you do. Credit where it’s due, at least there are a decent amount of different enemy types, but you will still see the same ones over and over again. When you finally encounter something vaguely interesting, its moves will be so unfair that you’ll wish you’ve got yet another room filled with some type of bloody blob monsters.
In a rogue-like First-Person shooter, surely the guns and weapons will be a redeeming factor, right? Unfortunately, the weapons fire the most pathetic projectiles I’ve ever seen and they’re combined with a sound effect that wouldn’t be out of place envisioning the worst thing you could listen to. Thankfully, Paranautical Activity runs smoothly and while you can’t see what you’re doing half the time because of the overall darkness, you can take solace in that it stays at a steady 30 frames-per-second.
Controlling your character is incredibly twitchy with you going from almost not moving to a massive arc that sends you past your enemy. I found that side strafing and shooting was the only way to hit an enemy. You move at a very slow speed and jumping is clunky, but fortunately can be tweaked in the settings which doesn’t end up helping very much.
Your goal is simple: go from room to room clearing them of enemies, collecting the coins your enemies drop, and moving on to the next floor. This type of gameplay structure was done very well in more recent rogue-like FPS titles like Immortal Redneck, which had the best parts of procedural generation with some handcrafted level design. The levels in Paranautical Activity resemble the inside of something like a shoe box, except less interesting. Platforms block your way and seem too low, while stairs randomly cross your path, and it all feels barely put together.
Enemies are constantly bombarding you with fire and don’t even seem to reload and just repeatedly shoot or chase you until you are dead. Death comes quick and fast, and unfortunately not in the skill based way, but in making the enemies move faster than you could possibly imagine. Bullets seem to home-in on your position no matter what you do and this becomes much more frustrating.
Sometimes, I died on entry to some rooms without ever even knowing what had happened. There are shops in certain rooms you can use to buy weapons or weapon upgrades that don’t really make that much of a difference. Regardless, you most likely won’t have enough coins to make any purchases when you do arrive so there’s not much to worry about with the lackluster upgrades.
When starting a play through in Paranautical Activity there are multiple characters to choose from and you can tell the developers tried to make it funny. For example, they named one character David Bowie because he starts with a crossbow, but this just isn’t humorous. He only starts with a crossbow so it must be powerful, but alas, it’s too hard to use and made the deaths even more frequent.
Finally, the music in Paranautical Activity is incredibly loud and just doesn’t seem to end. Each track punches you in the face repeatedly at volumes way too loud for the rest of the sound effects. It was very much a shock to the system and made me want to mute my Switch. There was a moment of relief when a song would end and mixed with a feeling of trepidation and dread at what monstrosity of a track would come next. However, Paranautical Activity never seems to disappoint when it comes to conjuring up new and painfully bad music and just felt out of place. The Sound effects were also dire and did nothing to elevate the experience.
Overall, Paranautical Activity has a ton of replay value, if only it was actually fun to play. I was trying my best to say something positive about the game, but just can’t with the title as it is. I will say that the developer and publisher, Digerati, make some fantastic games, so you should definitely check out what other titles they have available or are soon coming. It’s hard for every game be enjoyable, but Paranautical Activity fails in just about every area.