Paratopic is a delirious game-as-trip, most resonant at one o’clock in the morning after a late night coffee you should never have had. Narratively disjointed, temporally muddled, its fuzzy-VHS jump-cuts are a welcome shock to the gentle amble of the walking sim. The game moves from one clip to the next, one mundane space to another: a diner, the lobby of an apartment, a gas station. A guttural mood-piece, its atmosphere blends skittish paranoia with contemplative pauses. Grubby lo-fi visuals effectively exhibit a world of urban decay and industrial grime – muddy wallpaper, cracked floor tiles and rusted shipping containers doing just enough to kindle a dark imagination.
Some of Paratopic’s best moments are on the road, driving at night whilst the radio mumbles in the background. A comforting monotony that could only be enhanced by a light drizzle and the beat of windscreen wipers. A chromatic dusk looms above the city – sunset and pollution – as your car crawls past lampposts and squat buildings.
The game makes spectacular use of “gibberish”, with the radio talk-host and other characters employing a handful of “proper” words before rambling on nonsensically. Try it yourself.
As body horror grates against alien conspiracy, you find yourself strolling through a pleasant wood. These were my favourite sequences, and are where the sound design excels. As the wind whistles, leaves rustle and birds caw in the distance, the soundtrack builds – discordant with alien pulses – and Paratopic’s feverish tension finally comes to a head.