Thursday, May 2

Review: Black Paradox [Nintendo Switch eShop]


On paper Black Paradox absolutely has my attention, mixing arcade shooting, some 80s neon nostalgia, and roguelike unpredictability. There’s no doubt it does those things pretty well, and is challenging and at times exciting. That said, the ability to slowly upgrade your ride to steer yourself in the direction of having better runs through chip upgrades isn’t quite enough to make it feel like you’re making progress towards more build consistency that favors you so it misses the mark to be more accessible which is a shame.


In the game you’ll control your spacebound gull wing car, armed with a blaster, to go after various criminal bounties who’ll represent the bosses for each stage. You’ll try to survive through a pretty wide variety of enemy types, asteroids, and craziness and on each stage you’ll get to pick up a random weapon to work with. Since you’ll only be able to keep 2 that makes for some tough decisions as you go as you’ll want to try to have some diversity in what you keep so you can be more effective. After defeating each boss you’ll then have one of two upgrades to choose from, and these two vary pretty wildly in nature and include drones and perks that will help you try to survive.


While the boss fights tend to be the highlight and pretty tough there are runs where the enemies that stand in your way to get to them will take a lot out of you. Cylinders that replenish your health and build your special meter are inconsistent in their availability. Once you build up your special meter you’ll also be able to summon a helper who’ll tend to do some serious damage to help, but you’ll need to be smart about when to summon them or hold on for the right moment. Asteroids can be both a help and a hinderance depending on the situation as they can sometimes hit enemies but keep an eye out for when one is headed towards you since they hurt.


The big wild card in the game is absolutely the weapon pick-ups which range from super-effective to powerful but very hard to use well. I don’t know that there are bad weapons but I would consider ones that need to charge up in some way impractical as the rate you have enemies coming at you delays can be deadly. For tougher roguelikes like this you usually can expect to grind a bit to slowly unlock things that will help in subsequent runs. You’ll have that here with upgrade chips you can buy and then equip (2 initially but you can buy 2 more slots at a steep cost) but overall their degree of influence on things felt a bit too limited. They’re a help but a minor one at best and while being able to outright choose what you’ll get would go too far this lack of assistance mixed with getting weapons or perks that don’t suit you in a given run can be frustrating. Throw in the fact that your somewhat chunky ride is a hair on the sluggish side and there can be some aggravating deaths that feel like they come too quickly.


For people who revel in the challenge of making the most of what you’re given in shooter form Black Paradox is a rock solid challenge and should excite. How much you get out of it will end up being a bit proportional to the degree of your enthusiasm for unpredictability though. While many roguelikes have found ways to help you steer the odds a bit more in your favor over time in this case the help is a bit too anemic. The challenge and style make it fun, its staying power will be a matter of how well you tolerate its consistent unpredictability though.

Score: 7.5

Pros:
  • Diverse weapons
  • Cool power-up / perk options that can be effective when they suit you and align themselves
  • If you’re a fan of unpredictability between runs this delivers it

Cons:
  • Progression overall doesn’t feel like it accomplishes very much
  • Your success is heavily tied to what you’re given as options to work with in terms of perks and weapons
  • The combination of your craft being pretty chunky and it moving slightly too slow can make it hard to dodge enemy fire