With HyperParasite we body shift, stealing the abilities of foes in this intense twin-stick rogue-like. While Curious Expedition puts us in charge of a team of valiant adventurers, dealing with everything from dissident to incensed dinosaurs. Yes, peril is exceedingly prevalent across these two recent Switch releases.
HyperParasite, Troglobytes Games, $17.99
From Neon Chrome to The Binding of Isaac, there’s an abundance of quality, twin-stick-based, rogue-likes. Taking inspiration from the ‘80s B-movie classic, The Hidden, HyperParasite delivers distinction from its action-driven brethren. Players assume the role of a parasitic organism, capable of infiltrating different human bodies, seizing control of their actions, and generally wreaking havoc. But unlike most similar shooters, a wealth of moment-to-moment decisions ratchet up HyperParasite’s intensity.
Initially, you’ll start of game of HyperParasite as an inky blue blob able to shuffle around urban environments. Walking around to different areas of the procedurally-generated map will trigger waves of enemy attackers and seal the exits. Although you’re able to execute a dash while in parasitic form, you’ll otherwhile quite vulnerable. Fortunately, a trigger press brings up a possession cone, and when a suitable host is in your immediately vicinity, you’re able to seize control, implanting yourself inside them.
Once the process is started, the host’s body receives damage, but you’ll still have to be careful because HyperParasite’s humans can only withstand a few hits. On the upside, you’ll also obtain their offensive ability. Some of the these are traditional, like a cop armed with a six-shooter. Others are darkly comic, like the homeless guy who can bash into people with his shopping cart or the angry punk who can use a chain like a whip. Each potential host carries a secondary skill. The cop, for instance, can increase the size and power of his bullets. These abilities are powerful but also limited by a cool down timer. Your fragile human body encourages players to shift control from one host to the next. But take damage while in parasite form and you’ll lose one of your three starting lives.
Like any respectable Rogue-like, there’s loot. In this case, you’ll occasionally discover perks that can bolster offensive or defensive capabilities. Money picked up can be used to purchase elements like shields or medkits. Brains are occasionally left behind by defeated foes. Bring that back to HyperParasite’s shady marketplace, and you’ll be able to unlock new potential hosts, contributing to the metagame.
Although the title was already impressive in Early Access, the final build shows a number of improvements that contribute to enjoyment. Previously, the difficulty level rose a bit too rapidly. Mercifully, face a more uniform escalation of challenge. Not only are the boss battles quite fun, but you’ll face off against host characters culled from 80’s lore, from a satirical take on a Philadelphia boxer to a basketball-playing werewolf. Pleasingly, all the action is set to a driving synthrock soundtrack, while VHS-like aesthetics help solidify the context.
But HyperParasite’s best traits is one of its more elusive qualities. Like any respectable twin-stick shooter, the action is delightfully frantic, forcing players to keep moving, dodging, and shooting as foes converge on your position. But when you inevitably take damage and revert back to your parasitic form, things become even more feverish. When this happens, it’s all too easy to panic, and experience disheartening setback. But practice, and you’ll gradually survive during this reoccurring crisis. These snap decisions are pivotal and potent and help HyperParasite not feel like it’s merely leeching ideas from its peers.
Recommended for: Those seeking a new twist on intense twin-stick shooting action.
Curious Expedition, Maschinen-Mensch, $14.99
Bless the absurdist simulation. Ever since 1991’s Civilization depicted Abraham Lincoln earning a venerated place in history by sending a spaceship to the Alpha Centauri system, I become hooked on games that delivered delightfully preposterous alternative realities. Evidently, Berlin-based Maschinen-Mensch is a fan of this brand of whimsy, as Curious Expedition casts historical figures like H.P. Lovecraft, Marie Curie, and Johan Huizinga as 19th Century colonialists, all striving to expand the reaches of the British Empire.
If that’s not weird enough, there are also unlockable characters like internet personalizes PewDiePie and Waypoint editor Austin Walker. All participants enter into one of those high-brow Victorian-era competitions to secure the largest inventory of artifacts, vying for a colossal statue built in the honor. Although Curious Expedition doesn’t hint at future students trying to topple these monuments of brash imperialism, that’s not to say the game doesn’t have its own wry sense of humor. On the contrary, expect Charles Darwin’s survey party resort to cannibalism to survive, or watch Tesla try to lead a team of belligerent alcoholics in this madcap rogue-like.
After selecting your commander with distinctive traits like combat or linguistic aptitudes, you’ll pick from one of several far-flung destinations to commence the rivalry. Whether you opt for a desert or dryland setting, you’ll guide your party across a procedurally-generated hexagonal map. Here, sanity is your most precious resource, with travel steadily sapping at your resources. Let it completely expire and bad things start occurring, from member mutiny to gangrene stemming from a delirious misstep. While the game’s context might be three centuries removed, this is probably the closest players might get to an interactive version of Herzog’s Aguirre, the Wrath of God. Essentially, things will go downhill exceedingly fast and the entertaining is trying to circumvent a party wipe.
Each voyage tasks you with locating a Golden Pyramid, but locating the temple is probably the least of your worries. Instead, you’ll have to micro-manage a myriad of variables, from food supplies, as well as the health and contentment of your exploration party. You’ll be able to rest and swap goods at local villages (which emerge from a fog of war) as your team draws near. But the natives don’t always appreciate a bunch of thieving outsiders sleeping in their settlement. Every time you steal from a shine or temple, you’ll increase their ire and sporadically race the wrath of an erupting volcano. Like The Oregon Trail, adversity is pervasive and smaller issues routinely turn into deadly ones.
Naturally, there’s combat and you’ll have to contend with hostile birds, bears, and even dinosaurs. Conflict is handing through a multi-roll dice race, with spots replaced with guns, swords, eyes, and hands. With tabletop game-like strategy rooted in dice combos, battles are tough and frequently pay out paltry dividends, in line with the game’s stark worldview. Unfortunately, exploration of caves and temples isn’t quite as nuanced, and feels more like a Choose Your Adventure book than a pen-and-pencil game. But save for this imperfection, Curious Expedition is a trek worthy perusing, especially if you like surmounting near-impossible odds.
Recommended for: Masochists craving a quirk-filled recreation of Victorian-era colonialism.