We meant to cover Paratopic back when it got its initial release ages ago on the indie game site Itch. Frankly, I found it very difficult to find the words to describe it, to give such an impactful yet strange experience justice, all while making it clear that I have had many a pleasant conversation with its creators and may be just a teensy bit biased toward it. Now, a Definitive Edition has hit Steam and been updated to Itch, bringing some new features and content and had me revisiting the same strange fever dream I tried to and failed to write about back in March. I have purchased this game and its soundtrack twice, so if you feel my opinion and subsequent recommendation of this game should be taken with a grain of salt, I wouldn’t blame you.
This will not be a review, heavens no– if I have even the tiniest shred of ethics here, I can’t be trying to give this game a score. I can however in good faith tell you about it. And much like a mysterious ball of twine that just showed up one day and doesn’t entirely consist of what materials you’d expect it to, Paratopic entered the world without anyone ever asking for something like it, yet it perplexes and intrigues those of us who’ve laid our eyes on it.
Paratopic is, on the surface, very vague. Without further inspection, a first playthrough leaves you confused and with so many questions. To be honest, even after finishing it multiple times and reading from the mains brain behind it themselves, Jess Harvey, Doc Burford, and Chris I Brown, I only really have a vague sense of what’s going on. Something strange is happening, perhaps someone is pursuing you, and all the while you’re expected to be… professional. You’ll see a variety of locations, have strangely dull and unimportant conversations, kick down a door and wait for an elevator.
The thing about this game is, I don’t want to spoil it. It’s a game meant to be played through in one sitting. It’s short, oddly charming, and with the added achievements and a few secrets scattered about, you might revisit it and see what different things you can find. The game overall has an oppressive sort of feel to it. From the colors to the music, the world feels familiar but unwelcoming. Graphically, Paratopic takes me back to the days when I’d play games on my PlayStation 1, yet much like the boom of browns and greys in games at the turn of 2010, it’s a dirty and dark place.
Strangely, despite the dark tones, Paratopic has its moments of whimsy. Squirting a bottle of ketchup in a diner or trying to get a drink out of a busted vending machine, these moments and more are in stark contrast and give an excellent break from the otherwise strange and surreal nature of the rest of the game. Many items in some environments are interactable, with most of these interactions accomplishing almost nothing more than just establishing that yes, you exist in this world and aren’t just a pair of floating eyeballs. Paratopic isn’t just strange in its presentation, it is strange because of this level of interactivity with the environment, and how even interactions you have to do to progress sometimes have no bearing whatsoever on the story.
This peculiarity about Paratopic, to me at least, makes it refreshing. Unimportant actions, inconsequential conversations, these are things our lives are made of and aren’t always brought to the forefront in a game. While these aren’t the central focus of Paratopic, these almost time-wasting moments are a breath of fresh air and even if they’re not your cup of tea, they never overstay their welcome.
Overall, I would personally recommend Paratopic. It’s affordable, it’s short, it’s highly experimental and odd, you’d be remiss not to add this game to your library. That, and the creators are some genuinely passionate people who started what I personally would love to see create more experimental games from. Paratopic is available on Itch.io and Steam.