The last few years have seen a resurgence in roguelike games as many store pages seem flooded with these challenging (one more run) type of games. HyperParasite appears to be capitalizing on this trend while also taking elements of other popular genres to create an addictive and satisfying gameplay loop.
The gameplay structure of HyperParasite falls in line with other roguelikes, the player begins the run with little health and attempts to get as far as they can in the randomly generated arenas all the while getting stronger power-ups allowing them to traverse further. However, unlike other roguelikes, the player’s upgrades do not carry over to the next run, making death carry extra weight. While it might seem frustrating that the game seemingly resets with no actual progress being gained, that is where the hook of this game comes into play. The unique element that sets this apart from other roguelikes is the player’s ability to infect enemies and then control their bodies using all weapons and skills the infected host has as their own.
When the parasite is not inside of a host, it is highly vulnerable and, unless an upgrade has been found midway through the run, it will die in a single hit. If the parasite dies then the run is over; however, the parasite can infect as many bodies as it needs to keep going. So the gameplay loop is one of infection, battling until death, and infection once again. Due to this vulnerability, it is extremely important for the parasite to be infecting a host at all times. This leads to some frantic mad dashes as the host body will be killed leaving the parasite exposed, forcing the player to quickly find another body to inhabit before it dies.
This infection mechanic is what takes the place of weapons. Instead of going around a map and picking up different more powerful methods of attack the parasite uses whatever weapon its host body has equipped. The various enemies in the game come with a variety of weapons. Melee characters such as the hobo or drunkard have plentiful health bars and can deal massive damage, but the tradeoff is the host body has to be close to attack so if it dies the parasite is exposed and must infect another host quickly or risk death. The projectile-based host bodies such as the cop and the basketball player can stay far away and blast enemies but have little health and can’t take much punishment, but if they do die the parasite has some space to work with. The player will soon find their favorites, and it is always fun risking death by ditching the host body in an attempt to get one more powerful.
The characters are fun, dramatic caricatures; however, the balance between characters seems to be a little off. There is an attempt to balance melee and projectile characters, but any character with a gun appears to have an advantage both defensively and offensively. The drug lord character, for example, has a heavy machine gun that makes quick work of most enemies and can survive through multiple stages while any melee character will struggle to kill more than five enemies without dying.
The stages themselves are incredibly challenging and it will take serious skill and a little bit of luck to make it through an entire area. At the end end of each stage, a boss is waiting to destroy the player’s run. Boss fights act as a normal area with a twist. The screen will still be flooded with enemies that the player must fight along with a boss character with the capability of creating bullet hell type sequences that will seriously challenge the player’s reflexes. The bosses, as expected, also have much higher HP than normal enemies so these areas can take some time to get through. This is another area where character balance can hurt the game. With randomly generated maps the player never truly knows when the boss room will appear; Therefore if the player arrives at a boss with a less than stellar host body, it can be game over rather quickly. Some players may find this challenge fun and engaging while others may find it frustrating.
The game’s environments and characters are ripped straight from an 80’s action movie with streets dripping with neon lights and back alleys that look they are from the set of “Escape from New York.” This aesthetic has been done countless times but HyperParasite keeps it fresh by focusing on the characters and making sure each one feels unique, from ninjas to werewolves, the amount of 80’s cheese is bound to put a smile on the players face.
The soundtrack is also upbeat and fits in perfectly with the theme of the game. Breaks in the action are complemented with quiet electronic tones while big action moments are accentuated by exploding synth-wave riffs that truly make the player feel like an 80’s action star.
HyperParasite seems to be a fun and enjoyable romp that looks to make a unique stamp on the roguelike genre bringing in fresh mechanics to make it stand out from the crowd. With some minor tweaks to melee and projectile balance, this game has the potential to ooze the same amount of cool as its many colorful characters. HyperParasite is expected to release in Spring 2019. They also have a Discord server open for fans and feedback.