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Paranautical Activity Reviewed by Cyril Lachel on . Paranautical Activity has all of the right pieces for a great first-person roguelike, but the execution is all wrong. The graphics are bland, the deaths are cheap and the cool power-ups are few and far between. The brief moments of inspired action are not enough for me to recommend this underwhelming shooter. Rating: 40%
Paranautical Activity
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Paranautical Activity Paranautical Activity Paranautical Activity Paranautical Activity
  • Review Score:

  • C-
Between the upcoming release of Doom and indie gems like Bunker Punks and Devil Daggers, old school first-person shooters are currently all the rage. Adding more fuel to the fire is Paranautical Activity, a fast-paced shooter that mixes throwback gameplay with the fun and frustration of a traditional roguelike. It's a combination that is occasionally exciting, but the experience is all but ruined by cheap deaths and ugly graphics.

Instead of setting things up with some sort of story or cinema, Paranautical Activity simply drops you in to a randomly-generated stage filled with rooms teaming with monsters. Although it's not especially clear at first, the goal of the game is to clean out each room, defeat the boss, board the elevator and move on to the next floor of demonic creatures. It's your job to get your nameless first-person hero all the way up to the eighth floor and complete the game. But beware, this is a roguelike, so a single death will send you all the way over to the very beginning.


At first this task will seem impossible, but it won't take long to start picking up power-ups and new abilities. Beyond the typical boss fights, there's an optional battle on each floor that is worth a valuable new item if won. You will also be able to buy upgrades in the shop and find them in challenge rooms. Best of all, these items will stack, giving our hero a tremendous advantage going through the floors.

It's hard to overstate how important these new abilities and power-ups are. They can be more than just health and strength boosts, occasionally going as far as to turn the game on its head. Literally. One item will replace the usual jump with a move that flips the gravity and has us running on the ceiling. There's also a power-up that sends giant saw blades up from the ground after every attack. Another item will tie your health to the number of bombs you're holding. You'll also run into the typical double jump and Super Mario-style ground pound, but those aren't as interesting.

These abilities are even more important when you realize just how limited the hero is from the jump. We choose between a limited amount of character classes, each with a primary and secondary weapon. Initially we're limited to a crossbow, grenade launcher, sickle and shotgun, but we'll eventually be able to unlock more along the way. You'll also be able to buy new weapons at the shop, expanding the amount of firepower in the game.

Paranautical Activity (Xbox One)Click For the Full Picture Archive

There were moments when everything in Paranautical Activity clicked and I could see what the developers were going for, but those instances are too far and few between. This is an obnoxiously frustrating game filled with all kinds of cheap deaths. It's common to walk into a room only to be immediately bombarded with shots you aren't able to see. Lengthy runs would get cut short because a boss traps me in the corner or a land shark sneaks up behind me. At least 80% of my deaths left me angry.

It doesn't help that it's rare to find the coolest power-ups and abilities. As exciting as it is to run across a move that changes gravity, most of the plays are straight-forward and boring. It's not that gaining a double jump and sticky bombs isn't helpful, but once you've seen how crazy the game can get, it's hard to play it normally.

To make matters worse, the randomly-generated stages all start to look the same after a while. Everything appears to be set in a giant warehouse, so the walls, floor and ceiling are the very definition of bland. We also don't see much change to the environments, which makes every playthrough feel incredibly repetitive. Even effects like ice and snow look cheesy and don't do enough to change the look of the stages.

Paranautical Activity (Xbox One)Click For the Full Picture Archive

Visually, the game attempts a weird throwback aesthetic that never looks right. All of the enemies are constructed out of what looks like 3D pixels, almost as if they were built with Legos. This works best on the larger boss creatures, which are easily the highlight of Paranautical Activity. But even then, this is an interesting artistic choice that never worked for me.

Paranautical Activity has all of the right pieces for a great first-person roguelike, but the execution is all wrong. The graphics are bland, the deaths are cheap and the cool power-ups are few and far between. The brief moments of inspired action are not enough for me to recommend this underwhelming shooter.
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