Let’s be open about it from the start: Black Paradox is a side-scrolling shoot ’em up set in space. If your first instinct was to sigh, I can totally understand that. This is a pretty popular combination among indie devs, with only a few titles really worth of notice. Personally, I knew I would be going in with particularly high expectations.
Yet the title has been in early access for a few months already and the Steam community is reacting positively to it. After a brief match alongside its authors at Milan Games Week 2018, Black Paradox had definitely caught my attention. I wanted to dive back into it and see whether Fantastico Studio’s project could fully meet my demands.
And thus, here’s how it all went down!
A Firefly In Space
Disregard the story; the armaments; the enemies. The most important thing in a bullet hell is your toon’s ability to move when they’re asked to. Whatever character you are playing, they should feel both maneuverable and agile. After all, nobody wants to stick around when there’s a wall of plasma coming their way. Once you hit that button, you expect your virtual counterpart to dash into position.
Black Paradox easily passes this first test with flying colors. Despite their bulky car-like appearance, the ships felt surprisingly nimble to the touch. The controls were crisp and allowed me to dodge most of the incoming attacks. The experience further improved as soon as I plugged in my Steam Controller. Although the device isn’t officially supported yet, the game had no problems adapting to this new configuration.
Within 30 minutes from the start, I felt confident enough to push the limits of this indie shoot’em up. I cranked up the volume and began exploring the world of Black Paradox. This is where I discovered that the game features both temporary and permanent power-ups; two mechanics that I feel we should spend a few words on.
Charged Up And Ready To Go!
The former come as collectible packages that you’ll encounter as you travel through the levels. These contain mostly weapons and will last either until you switch them for something else or you meet an early demise. There’s a good variety of tools that you can use to vanquish your foes, although having to rely on random drops rather than a proper shop gives each run more of an RND feel than I would have expected.
Fantastico Studio further added a twist to their collectibles, giving each gun the ability to influence the match beyond its sheer destructive power. Equipping a giant death-ray, for instance, will slow your ship down; while other arms might invert your controls or behave in an erratic way. Although some players voiced their concerns about how unpredictable the system would be, I believe such an approach adds new challenges to the game; ultimately making every attempt truly unique.
Permanent upgrades, on the other hand, are indeed for sale at the in-game store. You’ll be able to fit your ship with up to four chips, all of which influence the vehicle’s base stats or give it special abilities. The upgrades are paid for with credits that players receive each time they best an enemy and randomly appear on the shelves every time you visit the store itself.
I’m sincerely a bit conflicted when it comes to the efficacy of these chips, however. While some of them do impact the experience in a major way – with effects like regenerating HPs or higher tolerance to damage – most seemed way overpriced for what they offered. This is something the development team might want to keep an eye on, especially as the game grows to become even more challenging.
Look Around… Take It All In!
Finally, I feel I would do Black Paradox a disservice if I didn’t talk about the many opponents and environments I’ve come across in my time with the game. The enemies I faced were indubitably tough but never as impossible as their brethren in other titles. Even in the most complex sections of a level, I never felt like I had no other choice but to take a hit.
The most prominent feature about the bandits you’ll shoot down, however, lies in their uniqueness. The models are discernible enough to let you remember exactly how each of your targets behaves. This is a major feature in a game that relies on perma-death and no checkpoints, as hitting the game over screen still leaves you with a few valuable lessons.
On top of a solid enemy variety, Black Paradox also introduces us to 7 bosses; each with their own attack patterns and AI. We’ll start with a couple of low-grade lieutenants and can make our way to the top of the food chain. Each take-down brings us one step closer to the Big Boss and also lets us earn a good chunk of change for our shopping list.
All of the battles take place against a handful of the most beautiful backgrounds I’ve ever seen in a bullet hell title. The designers clearly cared about the final appearance of their game and rendered the world to the best of their ability, making great use of pixel art. The results are appealing, polished, and sincerely fascinating! A catchy synth-wave soundtrack does the rest, allowing the players to experience a thoroughly captivating environment.
All of what we saw until now would already make Black Paradox a hard title to pass on. This is an extremely content- rich shoot’em up that is still marketed as an early-access product and that could subsequently received additional updates. The people at Fantastico already went one step further and added a split-screen co-op mode to their game, so that you’re able to enjoy the adventure alongside a friend.
While we can’t guarantee that the updates will be regular in nature – especially since we know that the team is already working on their next IP – we still want to give Black Paradox our patented thumbs up. If you made it to the end of today’s review, now is the time to visit the game’s Steam Page and add this title to your collection. Trust us; you won’t regret the purchase!