Platforms: PC (Steam and itch.io)
Release Date: September 6th, 2018
Reviewed On: PC (Steam)
Developer: Arbitrary Metric
Publisher: Arbitrary Metric
Paratopic is a game from the three developers at Arbitrary Metric. A short game, it only clocks in around 45 minutes to an hour, depending on your pace. Paratopic is an interesting game and a bizarre game, one that’s difficult to write about at first glance due to its short length. Yet the more I replayed Paratopic, the more I began to notice and understand. Having played through Paratopic multiple times, I’m ready to attempt to talk about it. Let’s take a look.
In Paratopic, you play as three different characters: an assassin, a smuggler and a nature-loving photographer. Each has a role to play and the game happily jumps from one perspective to another with no warning. As a result, it’s sometimes difficult to tell which of the three you are following, adding a layer of mystery into every interaction. You don’t know these people’s backgrounds, you don’t understand the complexities of the world. Should you answer a weird gas station attendant truthfully, or lie (sometimes about the most innocuous of things)?
Everything in the game is reminiscent of rural America. From the skylines to the buildings, walking through the woods and pacing an apartment, it all has an eerie sense of both comfort and perversion. It wants to be welcoming but it isn’t quite right. It’s like a dreamy world that you want to be lost in, yet it’s hiding something sinister around every corner. The entire world is captured at a single moment in a state of decay. Faces waver and blur, so you just can’t make out who is who.
Everything in this game is intentionally modelled to replicate PS1-era graphics, making this a very interesting throwback. As a result, there’s a constant distortion effect, as the heavily-pixellated images in the distance blur and waver. It’s not something I’d like to see for a very long period of time but for a shorter game designed to be completed in an hour, it works really well.
Using this style, Paratopic also accomplished something no other game to my knowledge ever has: it perfectly captures the sense of driving at night through America. The twilight haze, the lights, the winding roads as night encroaches, it’s perfectly done.
The gameplay is extremely simple. For the most part, you’ll just be walking or driving, occasionally interacting with the odd door or condiment. As a result, it’s nicely at odds with some interesting uses of shooter mechanics. When you do get your hands on a gun, loading it bullet by bullet instills a sense of tension.
Paratopic‘s audio design is subdued. The music, much like the world, is weird and distorted. There’s a hint of synth through tunes that help to set the mood, especially with sudden shifts depending on the urgency of the situation or the character you’re playing as.
Every voice in the game is distorted, much like the world around it. At times, you can almost make out what is being said or pick up certain words before it reverts to gibberish. As such, you will be dependent on the subtitles in order to follow everything.
I’m still not exactly sure what to think of Paratopic or how I feel about it however, I’m pretty sure that was part of the idea behind its design. It’s a collection of ideas in an unnerving world that I wish I better understood. At just $5.49 USD, if you’re okay with shorter, weirder games, this is absolutely worth checking out.