“Hardcore 2D platformer”. I’ve played many in my gaming career, however I can still sense my Xbox controller’s nervousness whenever I boot one up. This is because it’s normally inevitable that, at some point, I’ll grip it tightly during peak frustration and consider hurling it at the wall. I’m happy to report that this time, I’ve managed to resist the urge.
Anyhow, Exp Parasite is an example of said genre. In it you play as a mysterious parasitic creature, who has been captured by scientists and is put through several different simulations to test it’s capabilities. You’re essentially a lab rat.
You navigate each level by moving across the ground, or “flipping” to move along the roof and invert gravity. There’s no ability to jump, but you will face plenty of obstacles in the form of spikes, lasers and enemies that you will need to avoid. Not only this, but you’ll have to face off against a boss at the end of each level to clear it.
You’ll also find that there are switches that can be flipped, and orbs to find that will fit colour coded locks as you play through the levels. Not only this, but there are jewels hidden within each level that will reward extra lives, and count towards achieving 100% completion.
You start each level with 10 lives, which on the face of it seems generous, but you’ll soon realise they will deplete very quickly indeed. This is partly due to the fact that a single touch from an enemy or environmental hazard will kill you instantly. The levels in Exp Parasite are fairly linear, and not too long, but do get more challenging as you play.
The platforming in Exp Parasite is fun, if not pretty basic. If you 100% a level, you’ll earn hyper cores which can be used to upgrade and unlock skills in the shop. Unlocking new abilities breathes some life into things, such as being able to slow down time, or briefly become invulnerable. There are seven skills to unlock in total, each being more costly than the last.
Not all creatures that you encounter will be out to get you though; the little blue critters can be very helpful and will give you a lift if you land on top of them. You’ll be able to take control of them for a certain segment of the level, to reach otherwise inaccessible areas.
The controls in the game are simple, and work well most of the time. There is the odd occasion, however, where they don’t seem responsive enough for the situation. An example of this is when you’re trying to flip out the way of a fast moving enemy, but the game doesn’t recognise your button push and you immediately get killed. It’s frustrating, but thankfully doesn’t happen too often.
Each level has the usual difficulty options, but the game will default to “normal”, which is probably best stuck to (at least at the start). That’s because Exp Parasite gets difficult, to a point which can err on the frustrating side in some of the later levels (just wait until you’re riding your little blue fella through the spike maze). It was this sequence that nearly made my poor frightened Xbox controller kiss the wall… with force.
Visually, Exp Parasite hits the retro nail on the head. It’s nothing you won’t have seen before, but it does the job – just as its basic but decent enough soundtrack also does. The SFX however are pretty hard on the ears, with enemies producing some truly awful noises that just sound bad. There’s no other way I can describe it really.
Reading the description of Exp Parasite in the Xbox Store, and seeing claims such as “every minute of gameplay is unique” is pushing it a bit. It’s a well-executed tribute to the retro 2D platformer that provides challenge, but it is nothing out of the ordinary. However, at only £6.69 it’s well worth a punt for fans of the genre.
Exp Parasite is easy to pick up and play, but hard to master. It’s fun while it lasts, even if it is frustrating in parts, but unfortunately it fails to ever pull any rabbits out of the hat.