When a body snatching alien parasite invades Earth in an alternate, straight-to-video 1980s world, the badass, eyepatch wearing US President – who curses and takes no crap from anyone – declares open season on the invader.
Normally, a neon drenched, B-movie style twin stick shooter of this type would cast you as the plucky human defenders, looking to take down the parasite by any means necessary (with ‘by any means necessary’ here meaning: with extreme violence and a range of weaponry) – but instead, Hyper Parasite sees you taking on humanity in the guise of the squishy alien itself.
The parasite itself is a relatively weak form, so you’ll need to possess and control the pesky humans that are looking to take you down before you reach the President and gain access to the nuclear codes. This being a game with roguelike elements, however, things aren’t quite as simple as they seem.
Possessing specific types of human can only be done if you’ve already managed to harvest the brain of that character type. Even then, you’ll also need to have purchased the character from the friendly shop on the stage you’re on – using coins dropped from enemies (and sometimes found in bins or other bits of destructible scenery).
These shops offer respite from the frantic, brutally difficult twin stick shooting of the rest of the stage; here you can purchase the aforementioned characters to inhabit if you happen to face them in the wild, as well as consumable power ups and keys that will allow you access to different parts of the stage. In a neat touch, if you enter the shop in the form of the human who’s the current ‘Customer of the Month’ (who’s shown adorning the walls of the shop on a poster), you’ll get everything – including characters – at half price.
It’s no easy task to purchase some of the characters, either. Though you’ll lose your accrued cash if you die (and you will – A LOT), you can use the captured DNA storage as piggy banks of sorts, pumping your cash into them to be saved between games. Very little else is saved when you restart – you’ll start in the random form of a character you’ve already captured for use, but you’ll be starting at the beginning of the randomly generated stage when you die, every single time.
Though levels are randomly generated, they all have a few things in common, in that they all have a store, they all have a mini-boss or two on your way to defeat the stage’s boss…and they’re all rock solid, brutally challenging in their difficulty. There’s a huge number of pop culture references in the bosses and characters in general too – I had a great deal of fun spotting these – be sure to also keep an eye out for the amusing movie poster pastiches dotted around the scenery too.
Make no mistake, however, Hyper Parasite is not for the easily dissuaded. It’s ridiculously hard – it took me a very long time to get anywhere near defeating the boss on the first stage and even then it took me a good few tries to actually beat it. Though a stage gets easier the more you play, the first time you attempt a newly reached level you’ll struggle, due to the fact that you’ll need to start collecting a new set of characters all over again.
Thankfully, the core gameplay loop is hugely addictive and compelling. It’s helped along by superb pixel art visuals, clear wit in the script and an absolutely phenomenal 80s-style soundtrack. Despite the ludicrous difficulty and sometimes frustrating design (which is especially apparent when you have a dearth of character options at the beginning of any given stage), Hyper Parasite is an incredibly enjoyable game that isn’t for everyone, but hardier players who do succumb to its brilliant audiovisual charm will find lots to enjoy here.
Disclaimer: I was provided with a code for Hyper Parasite for review purposes.
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