Paradox Soul is the brainchild of a Kickstarter campaign led by developer Ritual Games back in 2017, having entered the world as a quick PC game. Earlier in July 2019, publisher Ratalaika Games breathed new life into the metroidvania and released Paradox Soul on the Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vista, and Xbox One.
Straight from Ritual Games’ mouth, Paradox Soul “takes hand holding and throws it out the window.”
Player one awakens as Dr. Alli Rose in front of a mysterious lab in Iceland in 1987. Bloodied and littered with lifeless scientists, the lab appears to have been taken over by robot-zombie-human-looking-things (I couldn’t ever tell what exactly they were), rabid dogs, robotic miniature spiders, and rogue computers. Without a single hint about what happened here and no sign of human life anywhere, Dr. Rose has no choice but to travel deeper and deeper into the labyrinth-style laboratory and fend for her own life along the way.
The 2D graphics and techno music are likely to give retro gamers a blast from the past. Paradox Soul is just about as ‘80s as it gets. Plus, the whole “mysterious lab in the ‘80s” setting gives some serious nods to Stranger Things, so fans of the Netflix original series might be interested in checking this out. I also saw some similarities to Inside, Playdead’s puzzle-platformer adventure game with pretty much the same concept except in 3D.
Paradox Soul disregards any type of plot-line in favor of focusing on gameplay alone. There wouldn’t be anything wrong with that if it weren’t for the fact that the gameplay alone isn’t particularly strong. It’s mind-numbingly simple — travel left and right through each room, jump, and shoot enemies — which can get a bit repetitive and, well, boring. Player one has endless lives and ammo, so dying frequently isn’t a problem. You will respawn in the same room. Now, therein lies the only difficulty to the game — you will die frequently.
It’s important to note here that there are three difficulty levels in Paradox Soul — easy, normal, and hard — with the default setting being normal. Here, your health will max out at two, meaning if you get hit by an enemy two times, you’re out. The easy level gives a max of four. Particularly sinister players can opt to hike it up to the hard level, which gives you a mere one health before death. If you can make it through the lab without getting hit even once by an enemy, you deserve all the trophies in the world and I bow down to you.
Enemies have a lot more health than you do. There’s also no way to regain health, so sometimes it’s just better to let yourself get killed and start fresh. Not all hope is lost, though — you’re more likely to survive longer if you find the several weapon upgrades throughout Paradox Soul, which adds a nice touch of variety to an otherwise mundane process.
As someone who gets frustrated when I have no idea in hell where I’m going, I like to have a decent map handy. Be warned, the map in Paradox Soul is a bit startling at first because it looks like a wigged out Excel sheet (I genuinely thought my console crashed and gave me an error screen for a moment). However, after some careful observation, you should find that it’s pretty straightforward to read.
The lack of plot throughout Paradox Soul becomes blatantly obvious when an apparent “plot twist” appears at the end, but it’s not at all as shocking as it’s probably supposed to be because you had no idea what was going on in the first place.
Overall, Paradox Soul is an excellent metroidvania for gamers who want a quick and easy trophy-grabber. With just a bit more depth, it would have the potential to be an attention-grabber, too.