Paranautical Activity is a first-person shooter that has procedurally generated rooms filled with monsters to kill but does very little else to be interesting or fun to play. While it borrows a lot of its visuals from games like Minecraft, it has a very lackluster approach to first-person shooting within its horror-like setting. Beyond that is nothing more than a very hollow experience that is both bland and buggy. Games like Paranautical Activity are meant to be played through multiple times for a different experience each time you do so, but it can be very difficult to do so when what is there isn’t fun enough to justify diving back in again.
There may be nothing inherently wrong with having a cube-like aesthetic, very similar to Minecraft, but it becomes an issue when it’s hard to make anything out on screen. Paranautical Activity is a very dark game where a lot of what you see blends together all too easily, making it hard to distinguish an enemy or object from a random pillar. Even if you boost up the brightness of the Nintendo Switch, it can still be hard to make out what you are looking at while playing. While the system is docked and playing on a television screen, it still is hard to see everything clearly. This can be a real problem from the start and make everything else that goes wrong with Paranautical Activity all the more frustrating.
Alongside the visual mess, Paranautical Activity is a game littered with bugs and design issues. At the start, you can choose your weapons and immediately get thrown into a dungeon, which is different each time you begin playing. The controls are similar to any first-person shooter, which is as basic as you can get. However, moving around and firing your weapons feels sluggish and often times doesn’t convey if you’re affecting enemies most of the time.
The map on the bottom of the screen is nearly undecipherable when playing in portable mode, with no option to make it bigger or bring it up on the screen when you pause. While in docked mode this doesn’t become an issue, it can still be difficult to play normally and figure out where to go next while in portable mode.
The worst problems in Paranautical Activity come from the enemy attacks, both from small baddies and larger bosses you run into at certain points of the dungeons. Enemy attacks feel as if they automatically track as you move and may not even be completely on target when they damage you. Even worse is when you can hardly discern where an enemy’s location is on your map, only to be constantly damaged and killed by something behind you without any warning.
The same issue can be said for explosive objects placed in the area, which have a very inconsistent blast radius and amount of health they take from you when exploding. You do have various bombs and other items at your disposal to help get around and overcome issues like this, but this problem piles up so much throughout your time exploring the rooms that it ultimately becomes a real fun killer.
If you’re able to muster through the technical issues and nonsense, and somehow complete all of the floors in the dungeon, then you can play through two extra modes that offer alternate spins on the gameplay. These change up some of the rules and other aspects of the game, offering a harder experience overall. However, if you didn’t like going through the game the first time then you shouldn’t expect to enjoy doing so in these modes. The frustrating parts of the game are made only worse with the extra stipulations.
There are also unlockables you can open up while playing through each mode, but it becomes difficult to see some of them open up, let alone activate any of the abilities you gain from doing so. It would’ve been great to have options to turn some abilities you unlock on to have them from the start, or even choose a custom loadout that uses them. Unfortunately, that isn’t the case and it makes playing Paranautical Activity feel like a waste.
Paranautical Activity is not a game that you will enjoy very much. It has way too many design flaws and bugs that will cause anyone who plays to be frustrated. What’s here is an incredibly shallow and meager experience that feels incomplete. When you can’t even see what is on screen clear enough to play normally, there is clearly an issue that needs addressing. You’d be far better off playing other first-person shooters that have a lot more things, like better visuals and gameplay, going for them.
This review is based on a digital review code for Paranautical Activity for the Nintendo Switch, provided by Digerati Distribution.