Paratopic Review

Ambiguous, gritty, eerie and leaves lots of unanswered, but is it any good? Here's a Paratopic review for the Switch.

The Switch is arguably the best console for smaller indie titles. Just look at the eShop library, and it’s like a mini-PC when it comes to low-key, unheard of titles that deserve your attention.

Paratopic is no stranger to attention, having won the Excellence in Audio category at the Independent Games Festival Awards in 2019 – and rightly so, it’s brilliant. 

But how does the gameplay fare? Excellent. We’re looking at a somewhat abstract narrative that supposedly shifts in time, asks a few questions, but never honestly answers them, and that’s a selling point.

Paratopic Review – Nintendo Switch

David Lynch is always the go-to film director for the absurd, but he’s arguably one of the most well-known brining dream-like scenarios that don’t make sense to the conscious mind, but resonate with your psyche that question whether you’re a psycho. That’s a watered-down explanation without going all academic and meaningless, but that’s how Paratopic sat with me.

Much like a dream, segments play out in the game in a seemingly linear fashion. Just as it offers clarity, it shifts to another time and place, possibly a different protagonist, and despite being none the wiser, it’s just… wonderful.

You could jot down dreams of dragons or an ex from so many years ago and try to comprehend the meaning from a textbook by a white witch on the menopause, but sometimes we don’t always need an explanation. If you do seek an answer, you can debate about it with like-minded people, thus continuing the narrative after it’s supposedly finished. A refreshing aftertaste and testament of a good story.

Paratopic - Pro
Always a pro. Source: Steam

Is this a cop-out for a review of Paratopic? Not at all, but breaking down every scene with my interpretation will not only ruin the experience, but also corrupt your viewpoint, or at the very least, you’d disagree. What can be said is you play a smuggler tasked with transporting some ominous videotapes.

The character models in the game resemble the N64’s Goldeneye and looks better suited on the PlayStation One than a current-gen. But when did that stop the Switch, and with a catalogue dominated by pixel-art dungeon crawlers and platform titles that are ‘inspired by’, I’m glad that Baltoro Games took a chance to bring Arbitary Metric’s game to the Nintendo.

If graphics mean a lot to you, then forget about Paratopic. I love the grungy aesthetics that look like one of those video nasties that are represented in the story. The low-fi resolutions are the visual equivalent of plugging in an electric guitar and whacking the overdrive to the max – it’s raw, distorted and visceral. And no, I’m not a teenager – overdrive is cool.

Unsettling Mood? Sounds Excellent

The soundtrack is practically perfect. That’s not just the tunes, but the ambience too. Conversations are mixed with white noise and often inaudible, but now and then, like an analogue radio, you’d try tuning in to a conversation picking out the odd keyword.

For most, I’d assume that would be torturous – no consequences for crashing, nobody to engage with, and aside from a few random items appearing on your passenger seat without any fanfare, nothing happens, yet I loved it.

In essence, Paratopic is a walking simulator (I hate the term) and the polar opposite of a similar title in the genre, The Suicide of Rachel Foster. In the latter, everything is tidied up with a couple of alternative endings. Paratopic also offers up some incentives for a replay on this 45-minute experience, such as in-game achievements and alternative narrative paths. Still, there’s never a conclusion that offers full closure.

Paratopic - Drive
Just drive. Source: Steam

Through the road trip element of the game, you get to speak to various NPCs with the option to choose from a dialogue tree. I do believe they serve a purpose, but for the majority of the time, you can experiment with each answer without consequence.

These interactions are as uneasy as the overall vibe of the game, with characters talking about the most mundane of topics, juxtaposed with scenes where you’re carrying a camera around taking photos of strange artefacts in the skies or wielding a gun as if you were about to play a spot of Doom. The original one.

There Doesn’t Have To Be A Conclusion

Coming full circle, I’m a David Lynch fan, and despite writing an essay on the Moebius Strip from Lost Highway, I seldom dissect his films looking for a purpose or seek the same experience as another because it’s the consensus. It’s art; it’s in the ether, it’s free for interpretation. 

The same as Paratopic. While I don’t believe it’s a layered story about the disbandment of the Spice Girls and how the price of kale has inflated to ludicrous amounts and smells like stale farts, if you think it’s that, go for it.

Paratopic - Snap
Not a Pokemon. Source: Steam

Sometimes creative people can fluke their way in creating something shite only for a critic to add value through deconstruction. Paratopic isn’t shite; it’s enigmatic, gritty and at times, unsettling. 

If you didn’t play it on the PC, or haven’t heard of it until now and think it looks bad or you want something a bit more linear, save yourself the time. For those with an open mind and want to play something unique, albeit very brief, go pick it up on the eShop.