Inspired by vector graphics used in games in the 1980’s and M. C. Eschers perspective warping iconic paintings, Paradox Vector is a retro inspired – think Quake – Metroidvania shooter. With some fast paced combat, intriguing level design and cosmic horror story, Paradox Vector is Lovecraftiana via Tron whose retro visuals certainly help it to stand out amongst the crowd.
A time travelling experiment sees our protagonist thrust back into the Earth’s early days when the rule of the Ancient Ones had just come to an end. Stranded in an alien complex composed of space warping geometry and impossible angels, you’ve got to navigate your way through nine dungeons to find the Paradox Triangles which will, hopefully, get you home.
Paradox Vector is an intriguing little indie game from developer Schmidt Workshops. And I do mean little. Developed in 3D Gamestudio, an engine I haven’t heard about in years, Paradox Vectors install footprint is tiny – a whopping 98mgs in size – and with a handful of graphic options meaning it ran perfectly even on my aging laptop. Which is always a plus.
Its gameplay is a cocktail of shooting, exploration and puzzle solving, in which the games levels themselves are the puzzles. The Metroidvania aspect comes in the form of finding different coloured keys to open new pathways and new weapons to help navigate the dungeons with.
The games combat is very basic by today’s standards. You point at something and you shoot and hope your reactions are fast enough to get you out of the way from been hit or missing a shot. Many of the enemies are fast and explode on death, meaning you have to be fast as well and aware of the environment you’re in.
There’s actually very little combat in Paradox Vector though. While neither unbalanced nor unfinished, combat feels more like it was designed to help provide a break during all the dungeon navigation. Enemies do respawn after leaving and reentering an area, along with ammo and very limited health pick-ups. Combat may not be overly challenging, but you will still have to pay attention or risk death. I do wish that there was a little bit more combat honestly, along with some more enemy types. But at the end of the day, that isn’t the games focus.
Visually Paradox Vector is also a breath of fresh air from the games either pushing realistic rendering techniques or pixelated platforming perfection. The Tron-style visuals stand out immensely and, initially, were the biggest drawcard for me to this game. It’s not going to push your GPU to melting levels but its minimalist and stylized neon lines amidst black blocks lend an eerie air to the dungeon setting.
The games story and world, very clearly based on H. P. Lovecrafts Elder Things from At The Mountains of Madness, is told through text blocks that popup to set the scene and onscreen text when finding a lore tablet in the world. It left me wanting more, but not because there was too little of it.
The games real stars though, are the dungeons themselves. Essentially mini environment navigation puzzles, finding your way around the dungeons is the games coolest aspect. What starts out very simply in the first dungeon is slowly built upon in complexity the further in you get. Up and down don’t often mean what they should and corridors that look as though they should meet up but take you somewhere else entirely is the order of the day. Corridors that take you to ledges above you while remaining level, pathways that lead down get you to the top of a precipice, turning a corner to find yourself on the ceiling, it’s all par for the course in the Ancient Ones nearly abandoned complex.
With secrets that aren’t readily apparent, you’ll find yourself spending more time exploring the environment slowly to find out exactly where they’re hidden or, as in my case, exactly how the developer managed to pull of some of these cool little tricks without major giveaways.
Paradox Vector may not be the most challenging game you’ll play this year, but it certainly is one of the most interesting and very clearly a labor of love from its one man development team. With its intriguing level design, breath-of-fresh-air retro visuals and a story and world that I would love to see expanded upon, Paradox Vector is a title that you should try out if you’re looking for something that is both old, new and unique in today’s gaming landscape.
Paradox Vector can be purchased here on Steam for £7.19.
This review is written by By M. A. Ligocki
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