It is truly impressive just how many games Ratalaika Games manages to port and release on such a regular scale. However, the frequency of their output means that their library of games seems quite inconsistent in terms of overall quality. So where exactly does Paradox Soul fit? Is it one of their better titles, or does it fall short of expectations?
Paradox Soul is a Metroidvania, exploration based, 2D shooter which sees you assume control of Dr Alli Rose, a scientist who stumbles across a dangerous, abandoned research facility filled with rabid animals and sinister robots. Naturally, Alli can’t just ignore a situation like this, and it’s up to you to find out what exactly happened for the facility to end up in this state. Now I know what you’re thinking, this initial premise is fantastic, but unfortunately, the rest of the game just can’t live up to it.
Gameplay consists of you navigating your way through the relatively linear research station, taking down some nasty enemies along the way. You begin with nothing, with the game actually throwing you into the thick of things fairly swiftly. You have to figure out the controls on your own, which thankfully isn’t too difficult, and you’ll get to grips with things pretty quickly. You soon find a gun with which you can defend yourself, and this is basically the entire crux of the game. You’ll move through similar looking environments, ducking for cover and shooting enemies. Quite a lot.
Unfortunately, Paradox Soul gets repetitive very quickly. The enemies remain pretty much the same barring a few somewhat interesting bosses, and once you’ve made it through the first 10 to 15 minutes, you’ve pretty much seen all the game is going to offer. It’s honestly a real shame.
Pretty much everybody you encounter can be dealt with in a few shots, so there aren’t many alternative options to mix up your death dealing. It all feels very bland, very samey. Your health bar sits in the top left corner of the screen, and whittles down with every hit you take. You’ll have to be careful, because Alli isn’t very resilient, and can only take a handful of shots before dying. And once you die, you’ll respawn at a checkpoint, although the system itself feels a bit random and inconsistent. It never sets you back too far though, so death never really feels that meaningful, which is a bit of a shame considering how easy it can be to die.
Initially, I was intrigued by the game’s deceptive difficulty, but quickly realised it’s not that punishing – although maybe I was a bit silly to expect a Dark Souls type game. Either way, Paradox Soul occupies a weird space of being simultaneously a bit frustrating, and also not challenging enough.
You’ll discover useful items along the way that will aid your progress, including special key cards that will open up new areas of the map. Other discoveries include special abilities that help you access new areas, including weapon upgrades that increase your efficiency in combat, and double jumps for certain tougher to reach locations. These all work well enough, and add a little bit of diversity to an otherwise straightforward experience, but it’s just not enough. Speaking of the experience, it’s only a couple of hours long at most. Paradox Soul isn’t lengthy, but it feels like it, and not in a good way either.
I’m completely torn on both the audio and visual side of things too. On the one hand, the music and the 2D aesthetic fit the tone and vibe of the environment and story well, but on the other, they’re also not that noteworthy either, if that makes sense. None of it really stands out in any unique way, which is kind of symptomatic of the rest of the game unfortunately.
In terms of the achievement list of Paradox Soul on Xbox One, it is solid, with a good portion of the list dedicated to tasks that you’ll complete naturally as you play the game, as well as for overall story progression. It’s a nicely balanced list, and not one where you’ll have to go miles out of your way to get things done if you want to complete the entire list, so it’s perfect for a spot of achievement hunting.
Unfortunately though, even with those achievements, Paradox Soul is a mediocre disappointment. The initial premise is inherently intriguing, but the blandness and repetition of the gameplay ensures that it soon becomes an entirely forgettable experience. In fact, it’s a bit dull, repetitive and doesn’t leave much of a mark. There isn’t anything substantial here, and I’m sure there are other titles available on the Xbox Store for a similar price that are worth a bit more of your time.