HyperParasite Review: Mullet Hell
Like many derivative works that borrow the same aesthetic of oversaturated neons and a Street Fighter-esque soundtrack, HyperParasite feels like it would be right at home at an arcade.
Squarely nailing the niche demand for stylish yet uber-hard top-down shmups, HyperParasite introduces a sweet new mechanic that allows you to jump into a new host's body upon death, giving you a chance to indefinitely prolong your life if you've done the groundwork to build up your arsenal.
HyperParasite Review: Mullet Hell
As an alien parasite capable of snatching bodies for your own survival, HyperParasite drops you into a city full of humans who won't go down without a fight. Cops, papergirls, and even the homeless are out for your blood.
While the deliberately-tough mechanics made me tap out plenty of times across the eight-or-so hours I spent with it, I can appreciate HyperParasite's dedication to its core gameplay loop. This is pretty standard rogue-lite stuff: You get stronger in-between each death, both by furthering your place in the progression system and by furthering your own player skill.
It does, however, have some problems that stopped me from digging as deep as I'd have liked.
While you're in control of a character, you get access to their abilities, stats, and health, but when you're in parasite form, it only takes one hit or one shot to kill you and reset the entire game, which is frustrating because when you begin playing HyperParasite, you're limited to a small variety of characters. This makes it harder to stay alive and use the battlefield to your advantage, at least until you unlock more of them.
To raise your chances of success, you'll need to grind and unlock new, more powerful hosts. There are two parts to this, and it does feel rewarding when you get what you need back to the shop and fully unlock the next character.
You first need to grab a brain from an elite version of the character you'd like to unlock, then you need to bring them back to the shop before you can even begin making progress. The issue with this is how easy it is to die before making it to the shop, potentially sending you back to the start of the chapter without retaining any of your coins or upgrades.
The second part involves collecting coins by beating enemies and breaking open barrels as you move through a zone, then redeeming those coins at the shop for permanent progress toward the characters whose brains you've collected. While it feels like a natural way to spend your hard-earned coins, it makes other expendable upgrades feel like a waste of time and money.
It's great that you can immediately make a dash for the final boss battle of each of HyperParasite's five acts if you want, but it's sort of pointless as you don't stand a chance without unlocking the full cast of characters that you're able to control. Adding insult to injury, your progress is essentially reset every time you enter a new chapter, starting you from ground zero as you grind out the full cast of characters.
There are five total chapters in HyperParasite, each of which has a different theme. It's too bad that they all overstay their welcome by the time you're done with them, part of which is due to the amount of time you'll find yourself grinding for coins, which you redeem at the shop for upgrades and progress toward unlocking the next character.
You'll never run across the exact same room twice, however, as HyperParasite procedurally generates its world each time you die and restart. In each of its five levels, you move through several procedurally-generated rooms and collect coins.
On the Nintendo Switch at least, the graphics run smoothly in terms of framerate, but they do look a bit grainy, even with the option for higher quality graphics toggled on. The sound effects are a bit cheesy and repetitive, but that's okay because HyperParasite already feels a lot like a parody. That is, at least in terms of the retro 80's style that it derives a lot of its ideas from.
HyperParasite Review — Bottom Line
- Tons of great challenge
- Five acts to play through
- Funny take on retro 80's kitsch
- As an actual parasite, I feel adequately represented here
- Progression system feels a bit exploitative and grindy
- Each act gets repetitive after a while
- Cheap sounds and visuals
HyperParasite is the kind of game that will ultimately attract a cult audience of hardcore Gungeoneers and Souls-like aficionados. It offers tons of challenge, much of which is legitimately balanced to make you feel as rewarded as possible when you finally overcome a tough section.
However, some of that challenge feels artificial in practice, making it much less accessible to the type of (filthy) casuals who would probably be parasite fodder anyway, had they been born inside of the universe that HyperParasite takes place in. But still! While the players for whom HyperParasite was created will find plenty to love, this one isn't for the light-hearted.
[Note: A copy of HyperParasite was provided by Troglobytes Games for the purpose of this review.]