I first discovered both of the games included in the newly released Parasite Pack thanks to Evercade.

Flea! was included on the excellent Indie Heroes Collection 1 compilation and Tapeworm Disco Puzzle was the very first Evercade Vs Game of the Month – a chance to download and play a game free of charge for a whole month.

However, both titles have been around in various forms prior to their Evercade exposure. Lowtek Games ran a successful Kickstarter campaign to release Flea! on the NES back in March 2020, with Tapeworm Disco Puzzle following suit (on NES, Dreamcast, PC and Playdate) earlier this year.

Flea! is a hardcore platformer, starring Henry (the titular parasite) – who can’t stop jumping on his journey in, on and around a massive beast. Hit the ground and you jump automatically – which means you have to keep on moving, as you make your way through whatever giant creature it is that you’ve decided to explore. Deadly traps, obstacles and enemies are deviously placed throughout each screen – and there are boss stages at various intervals too. It’s a very challenging, but maddeningly addictive game that’s tough but fair. It’s got a lovely, authentically 8-bit visual style and bags of character, as well as plenty of off-kilter humour. New elements are layered on a bit at a time and each level is an inventive, unique challenge that can sometimes have you tearing your hair out…but always coming back for more. With 80 levels and tons of surprises that unfurl as you progress, just Flea! alone is going to keep you very busy indeed!

However, also included in the Parasite Pack is the joyous – and again, pretty challenging – puzzler Tapeworm Disco Puzzle. The lovely pun in the title refers to the worm DJ who lives in a tape, trying to keep the dancing fleas in his night club(s) safe from harm. It’s a little bit like Snake – with your worm having a limited length (expandable if you collect new tapes) and needing to avoid obstacles and deadly enemies, or perhaps catching fleas before they fall into traps themselves. Your worm’s specific length is important; sometimes, you’ll have to dive back in the tape and emerge from a different hole in order to reach certain objectives or save specific fleas from their doom. It’s a spin-off of Flea!, with lots of little references to the previous game – but plays incredibly differently. It’s just as addictive and crazily difficult at times too, with some boss stages that’ll have your palms getting increasingly sweaty as you struggle to progress.

With save states and password systems, the difficulty level of each game is eased somewhat – and avoids the issues found in ‘real’ retro games, whereby you might lose all of your lives and be right back to the first level again. At least when you make progress through some properly hardcore levels in the Parasite Pack, you know you can pick it back up again without having to struggle through those stages again. Both games have lovely visuals and excellent retro soundtracks; as they originated as games that would play on genuine old school hardware (on cartridges too!), they have a really authentic aesthetic that makes them feel like lost classics of the late 80s.

The Parasite Pack is also priced so low that it feels like a steal – especially when you consider that both games offer such a huge amount of content and game mechanics, with each title feeling like it refuses to stop evolving until the end. They’re inventive, charming and cleverly designed ‘new retro’ experiences – and I can’t recommend the Parasite Pack highly enough.

Many thanks to PR Hound for providing me with a code for Parasite Pack for review purposes. Parasite Pack is available now on Switch, PS4/PS5 and Xbox consoles.

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