Paranoia probably comes second to guilt as one of the worst things to have. Well, athletes’ feet and haemorrhoids aren’t great either, but let’s keep on track. Wait… I think someone’s watching me. Paranoid might not be the best game for someone who has bouts of paranoia.

Madmind Studio has raised the bar since the preview – this first-person horror leads with eye candy more than the immeasurable ‘we’re inside your head’ moments. Before starting the game, there was a warning to update my Nvidia driver due to conflicts, and it wasn’t wrong – it was choppy. Switching to my laptop with an AMD card… now.

In Paranoid, you play as Patrick. His family have mysteriously disappeared, and his mental health is rapidly deteriorating. The first step is to get out of his apartment – scattered with crushable cockroaches and general filth, and get some meds from the pharmacy. First, you need your house keys.

Paranoid Game Review - Ortega
Ortega!!!! Source: Steam

After switching on more cassette players than any one person should ever own, irrespective of the 80s setting, pulverising bugs with my fists and peeping at neighbours who like to scrub in the shower in their underwear, I managed to trigger a long-winded setpiece and get into the corridor.

Believing the lift to be broken, I walk upstairs, peer through a peephole outside of a locked apartment, and then teleport to the other side. Crash. Unable to do anything, I reset Paranoid, clicked continue, and restarted from the beginning instead of following on from the last scene. And then another unskippable cutscene. There are no manual saves, just checkpoints, and the time I wasted looking for keys doesn’t warrant a milestone.

Never mind, the outside looks pretty decent apart from plenty of glitches – walking through objects and being unable to interact with items. I haven’t had this much fun since Stray Souls. These glitches are making me paranoid. 

One thing that is supposed to make you uneasy is the incessant voices Patrick hears. Rather than unsettling, they’re irritating as they’ll talk over important dialogue, so it’s advisable to have subtitles on. The same goes for the TV in his apartment, which stays at the same volume wherever you are – walls and all. The TV was a bonus; I watched some amusing clips by the developers and a Roger Corman film as if I were playing Stone again. It might have been better to stay in.

Paranoid coming to Steam
Source: Steam

I had thought this was a walking simulator, so after lots of fisticuffs, I looked back at previous articles to confirm that Paranoid has ‘dynamic, intense, and brutal combat’. It’s a bit like Condemned, as you can apply executions on enemies when they’re least expecting it and use numerous weapons. 

A lot of the technical aspects put me off. Every time I exited the game, a crash report appeared. It’s trivial when it only crashed once, but that doesn’t excuse all the awkwardness of being unable to interact with objects or getting someone in a headlock from behind, yet they’re four metres in front of you.

The voice acting was ok. Patrick was a bit too gritty for me; I’d have preferred him to be more vulnerable and on the edge. Still, it works for the most part. Paranoid’s story is pretty decent and is a redeeming factor for its flaws. When they work, the visuals are excellent, with some visceral atmosphere (I recommend keeping the game dark, even at the sacrifice of missing items – the lighting is awesome). 

The 80s vibe was also welcomed without being too cliche with hairspray and neon. I’d be interested in watching some millennial streaming when it comes to operating the phones in the game. On that part, Paranoid is probably best played with a controller, as there’s a fair amount of interaction and combat in the game to keep you on your toes.

I like the premise in Paranoid, but it’s overly literal at times. Absence creates presence, so it would have been cool if the game toyed with you rather than be in your face with the voices, eyeballs and excessive cockroaches. I think a subtler use of sounds and focusing more on the whispers that Patrick hears would have been better than repeating: “Your teeth and my fist have a date”. Or something along those lines.

I’ll briefly hold off on the recommendation due to the glitchy parts. Stray Souls was sorted, so it might be done when I click ‘publish’. Outside of that, Paranoid is a concoction of What Happened and No Sound Mind. If that appeals to you, give this a look.