Don’t watch the tapes
Paratopic sticks with you. It’s the kind of game that lingers, haunting the dark corners of your mind after its credits roll. There’s something off about it in a delightful way; the atmospheric fever dream of low-poly horror imagery shows, but never tells.
It doesn’t take long to complete Paratopic. It’s easily finished in a single sitting, running between forty-five minutes to an hour, depending on your desire to soak up every detail of its world. At times it seems like an homage to Thirty Flights of Loving distilled through the lens of Silent Hill. Paratopic moves from one scene to another quickly, obliquely jumping around in its narrative as if to confuse and disarm, while its ominous and synthy soundtrack pushes you forward. Don’t expect to understand everything you see; there’s mystery at its center.
But its intentionally-confusing form is also the game’s greatest asset. Paratopic feels like the video game version of some forgotten midnight movie. Its characters speak in non sequiturs and garbled sentences, teasing small pieces of information about a world gone mad and illicit VHS tapes. Scenes of violence and macabre images are intercut with dreamy driving sequences. There’s an insidious air to the whole thing, building the game into the kind of uncomfortable art that’s impossible to tear your eyes away from once it starts.
Frankly, it’s difficult to even write about—so much of what appears on-screen deserves an unprepared view and room for personal interpretation. Paratopic‘s brand of horror is experimental and gritty, the exact kind of thing that there should be more of. If you’re into horror games, surreal experiments, Lynchian motifs, creepy soundtracks, or low-poly art, it’s worth checking out.
Paratopic‘s available on Itch.io.
[Disclosure: G.B. Burford, Paratopic‘s writer, is a friend of mine and in the past, I’ve contributed to his Patreon. My thoughts aren’t influenced by that; it’s just a damn good game.]