There are two kinds of people in the world – people that will love Paradigm, and people that can’t stand to see perfection. Paradigm is everything that it needs to be – uncomfortably strange, genuinely hilarious, oddly touching and highly memorable, all at once. For a game that stars a deformed, vaguely European mutant and his sentient tumour, that’s no mean feat. Paradigm feels like a sexually-charge love letter to the point-and-click adventure genre, with the game peppered with wonderfully unsubtle references to the classics. Taking inspiration from the Maniac Mansion and Monkey Island games, as well as almost everything in between, Perth-based games developer Jacob Janerka crafts a bafflingly original and hilariously charming story in Paradigm.
The game starts innocuously enough, with titular mutant man-thing Paradigm having to save his local power plant from nuclear meltdown, while his companion, John 3000, a very Australian, sex-starved computer complains about his lack of action. All Paradigm wants is to work on his ‘phat beatsies’, but through a series of unfortunate and unexpected circumstances, he’s instead thrust into a quest that seems him acquiring drugs from a video-game obsessed drug dealer, arguing with a sentient turnip and kidnapping the wife of an angry cone-headed man. Words really can’t quite encompass the brilliance and weirdness of Paradigm’s harrowing tale, or its many twists and turns. From preventing the destruction of the world, the tale shifts to focus on the rise of the evil Dupa Genetics, and their mysterious role in Paradigm’s existence, keeping players on their toes for the entire journey.
Throughout his quest, Paradigm meets a variety of strange specimens, from the aforementioned sentient eggplant named Doug, who provides the player with a wonderfully extended beatboxing intermission, to an lonely and unfulfilled water cooler, a double denim bridge troll, and even a living candy machine in the form of Olof, the candy-spewing sloth, who serves as the main antagonist. The voice acting for Paradigm is frankly brilliant, and features a range of inspired performances, with Paradigm himself a definite standout. Genius comedic timing paired with the skills of the voice talent behind the game lends itself particularly to the humour of the game. Quite simply, Paradigm is one of the wittiest and best-written games you’ll play this year.
A simple interaction system allows players to discover various objects, secrets and Easter eggs littered across the lovingly rendered landscapes of the game, with the ‘pick up’ directive creating some delightfully awkward situations. Often, I would be scrambling for a solution to a puzzle, only to accidentally end up hitting on the nearest sentient water cooler. I mean, I guess we’ve all been there before. Gameplay is also peppered with a variety of mini-games, like the particularly delightful Post Apocalyptic Dating Simulator, which allows you to romance a handsome man-duck hybrid, a sentient toaster, or a man with noodle hands, known as Noodle Hands Nelson. Another delightfully rendered pixel game, Boosting Thugs, sees you taking on the role of a common street thug as he compliments his enemies until they gain the confidence to follow their dreams.
The score of the game is delightfully surreal, with sound designer Jonas Kjellberg absolutely knocking the synth vibes – sorry – the phat beatsies of the game out of the park. The music, coupled with the gorgeously detailed landscapes and locations of the game make for a wonderfully surreal and offbeat atmosphere that really defines the game as wholly unique. If one were to attempt to encapsulate the aura of the game, it would be filled with ridiculously large glam-metal wigs, a collection of sexy spandex leggings, and a hefty dose of jazzy synthesiser. In the future of pop culture, you’ll find Paradigm occupying cult status somewhere between glam metal and the Dada art movement.
The challenge level for the game is balanced somewhat effectively, and while it avoids straying too far into difficult territory, some puzzles proved to not be challenging enough. While the game provides a range of difficulty levels, even at its highest setting, some puzzles are solved too easily, particularly with hints and a full walkthrough for struggling players. When the going gets tough, help is provided by Paradigm’s sentient head tumour, which provides a variety of clues for solving any particularly difficult puzzles, and directs players to a provided walkthrough. While this does allow players to focus on their quest in saving Paradigm from the evils of Bupa Genetics, I feel that it does have a minor impact on the game’s story, and diminishes the brilliance of the storytelling mechanics.
Paradigm is a charmingly self-aware game, with Paradigm himself often complaining about his developer, the layout of the game, and the tasks that he has to complete. He points out flaws and problems with everything from the story, to the game mechanics, and the characters that he meets. In the eyes of this reviewer, his complaints are almost entirely unfounded, as Paradigm makes for a brilliant adventure game that’s almost sure to be the indie cult hit of the year.
Score: 9.5 out of 10
Highlights: Original story, great humour, strange characters, simple gameplay, brilliant voice acting, beautifully rendered graphics
Lowlights: Some weak puzzles
Developer: Jacob Janerka
Release Date: Out Now
Platforms: PC/Mac (Linux TBA)