It seems almost fortuitous that as I’m speeding through the fog on my morning train trapped in a carriage full commuters heaving with a miasma of disease, that Hyperparasite should land in my inbox. This tales of toxic body snatching mashes the sensibilities of a rogue-like brawler with a thirst for world domination, and we get our tentacles on an early build.
Hyperparasites is a twin-stick shooter, in the vein of Binding of Issac, and the creation of indie outfit Troglobyte Games. This Italian developer briefly exposed the general press to early mutations back in 2017, but it has taken until now for us to get our hands on a pre-alpha strain. Set in the 1980s, Hyperparasite finds the human race just getting to grips with the end of World War III. Earth hasn’t had it so good and things are somewhere between Blade Runner and Blood Dragon. It’s all a bit synthwave apocalypse. In a world full of dark streets, neon strip lights, and unfriendly faces, the locals have more serious concerns with the arrival of Hyperparasite’s main character.
The game’s own anti-hero is a globule blue infection, bent on world domination, and it’s up to you to guide this mass through the last of humanities defenses. A series of stages lie ahead of the Hyperparasite, each filled with a mix of law enforcement and whatever degenerates were free. Cops, hobos, assassins, and the odd eccentric professor are some of the characters that fill the mean streets and filthy sewers that you’ll frequent. Getting around these pixel art backdrops is not particularly difficult. Like any twin-stick shooter, movement uses either a mouse or controller is intuitive enough, allowing the Hyperparasite to slide, dash, zap, and grab unsuspecting victims.
Once the parasite has it’s tentacles around the appendages of an unsuspecting victim, things start to get interesting. As the parasite, players will not progress very far. It might be a deadly disease, but this blue beastie is incredibly squishy and the only way to survive is to infect your opponents. Nabbing an unsuspecting assailant or two, the parasite can take on the form and abilities of over 25 opponents. This can range from a brutal left hook to a standard-issue handgun, or even a deadly cross volley serve. It also provides access to a range of special abilities, each of which can give some fantastic flexibility for approaching your task. Even more importantly, however, these unfortunate few also imbue the base parasite with their own health pool, making your enemies your extra lives.
It’s a twist that has the potential to open up some interesting mechanical decisions and inject a lot of replay value. I have to admit crashing through police officers and fireman with a supermarket trolley full of trash is exceptionally fun. Each of the game’s trash mobs comes with its own special ability, playstyle, and set of utilities. These never get particularly complex but are distinct enough that you could be firing off a pistol one moment then slicing through bodies the next. The constrained hp bar of these mobs means that you need to keep on your testicles if you want to utilize the locals as more than just disposable cannon fodder. A series of tight environments and some aggressive AI make for frantic action as you consume, and discharge, waves of incoming victims. The aim of all this anarchy is to overcome the remaining human defenders until the hyperparasite’s influence has spread across the globe.
However, with such a cool idea the chaotic melee of mobs takes a little getting used to. Right from the off, the action in Hyperparasite is unrelenting. AI is obsessively aggressive, wandering across downtown to come to pick a piece of the action. This means combat can quickly devolve into a run n gun scenario. Players can end up keeping the squishy parasite on the move, training human forces around the map, and the AI will doggedly run around in circles trying to catch you. It’s cheesy but it quickly becomes the best way to get through the game. In general, Hyperparasite pushes players into reactive choices, opting to grab the first route out of trouble and avoiding the parasite form whenever possible. Unfortunately, Hyperparasite’s aggressive AI and the vulnerable parasite undermine the game ’s potential complexity forcing players to grab whatever they can, relying on quick wits rather than carefully crafted plans to get out of a sticky situation.
This is not the final product, however. Hyperparasite is likely to mutate into something else before is released to an unsuspecting public, and it really has potential. The retro aesthetic is incredibly cool. The desolate urban wastelands of downtown and beyond are crammed full of oddball characters and dramatic action. The musical tone is crammed full of synth, fitting the period style perfectly. While there is clearly some balancing to be done, this is only a demo. Hyperparasite has the potential to spawn some incredible twin stick adventures. We won’t see the final form of this game for a little while, but if you’ve caught the bug you can back Hyperparasite on Kickstarter now.