We’re starting to see more roguelike shmups – not shooters, mind you, but “shoot-em-ups” – make their way to market. These include Steredenn: Binary Stars, as well as the Sky Force games. But none are as delightfully twisted as Black Paradox, the latest from Digerati and Fantastico Studio. It certainly makes you grind for your efforts, but rewards those that are persistent enough to stick with it.
The game is only seven stages long, but don’t get it mixed up. Black Paradox is wildly difficult, meaning that you’ll be working your way through each space target that you hunt after. And in a DeLorean that flies through space, nevertheless. Along the way, you’ll have to deal with a handful of enemies while finding an occasional power-up, and activating the Black Paradox to get some secondary firepower for a little while.
Black Paradox gives you a general firing weapon, but it’s the secondaries that will save your butt, ranging from a gun that shoots musical notes to a shotgun. They vary, so you can’t really pick and choose. But most of them are helpful, provided that you dodge incoming fire long enough to stay alive. That’s easier said than done. And if you lose, you’ll have to start all over again. No save points here, sadly.
Health pick-ups can save your butt every once in a while, but it would’ve been nice for Fantastico to throw us more power-ups. At the very least, you can buy upgrades and try again and power up your ship the next few times around. Just remember, it takes time. You can also set up upgrades through chips that can be applied to your ship at any time. However, you’ve only got so many slots at first, though you can open up more.
While the game is tough, it’s got a lot going for it; Black Paradox benefits from solid gameplay that will keep you coming back, even if the bosses are heinously difficult. The power-ups really go a long way, and activating the Black Paradox at the right time has a neat strategy to it.
You can also play with a friend in co-op, and the game actually benefits greatly from it. You can work together and actually score twice the power-ups and health perks as a result. Just…don’t get greedy.
It helps to keep that second player around, though you can always bring them back in the next stage if you survive long enough. The music in Black Paradox is a blast, too, utilizing a synthwave style batch of 90’s tunes that fit right in with the neat color designs and cinemas. It’s almost as if it knows it’s a blast from the past and is taking pure advantage of them. It’s really good.
As for the visuals, the ship designs are imaginative; the game’s speed is just about right; and the cool destruction level never lets up. It does get a little flashy every now and then, but nothing that goes too far over the top.
If you already have Steredenn, you might be wondering if you need something like Black Paradox. I think you do. It may have a similar formula, but its style is completely its own, particularly with its music and visuals. The gameplay is good fun too, provided you don’t get frustrated too easily by the hellish difficulty. Give it a go and you’ll find this flashback to be just your speed. 4/5 Bibles.