I want to start by saying that point and click games aren’t usually my cup of tea, being British things being my cup of tea are just the way that I like them but Paradigm falls into the category that I place Deponia and its games into. The not really the format id have gone for but damn well glad I did. There so much about this game that appeals to me both in its style, its writing and even the puzzles although some of them did require a tad bit of cheating. The point and click adventure by Jacob Janerka recently hit the steam marketplace and garnered some real popularity after a crowdfunded campaign of support for it online in communities like Tumblr which drooled over its pixel based art style and for the reasonable price of £9.89 (it had 10% off) who was I to refuse giving it a chance.
The tale of Paradigm takes place the idyllic city of Krusz, made idyllic by what appears to be some kind of nuclear disaster that has resulted in a diminished population sprawling with mutants and the mentally unhinged (here’s looking at you Cone Man). the core game revolves around what it calls the ‘Prodigy child program’, that vowed to create the perfect children for the rich and famous (primarily those that didn’t pursue arts degrees) so they didn’t have to leave their fortunes to ‘unworthy’ successors. Safe to say the program fails and the prodigy child program spawns Paradigm. Blessed with not a lot of brains and a gargantuan talking tumour attached to the side of his head the game follows the adventures of this intrepid dimwit as he stumbles through world ending nuclear meltdowns, an attempt to take over the world with glam metal and wrestling and a candy spewing sloth with severe daddy issues. Overall the story is a blast. You’ll go through some weird adventures supported by a cast of extremely well written and personality filled characters that just love to refer to some of the greatest parts of popular culture. My personal favourite is the John 3000 unit at the start of the game. Nothing says post apocalypse like a former dating show computer given a thick Australian accent and an unquenchable thirst for the ladies. In general, the game gives its characters even those fleeting ones enough personality and charm to feel an attachment to them. For example, there is a part of the game where you are forced to deal with a severed leg and you know that its well done when even the leg of a character has character of its own. In terms of the games lead Paradigm, he’s a lovable idiot. A bit of a cliché in terms of adventure games (reminds me of Rufus from the Deponia series only less self-obsessed) but you feel yourself warm to him as time goes on. His simple desires and love for the beatsies are endearing to me. As the game progresses we do see some depth to Paradigm in the form of witty dialogue and his solutions to certain puzzles such as trying to steal the head from the wife of “The Cone” which sounds morbid until you realise he’s married to a mannequin with a drawn-on face and even now I’m still not sure it explained why she could talk? Paradigm advances most though in his interactions with other characters like Doug, John 3000 and Olof (I particularly liked Olof and thought his design work was impressive and his character writing was very high level)
The art style is pixel based but without closer inspection to the game you could mistake it for something else. It’s a very fine use of pixel art. Unlike games like Undertale which relied on a styling close to the old SNES games the developer for Paradigm has opted for a more detailed approach. The results of this choice are evident in the worlds detail which for a pixel art style I’m very impressed by it. The retro look is retained and reminds me of the old point and click games from the late 1990’s (tear filled nostalgia moment as a reminisce my now fleeting childhood) and how they were the cutting edge of their time. The two base locations for Paradigms setting are the as stated town of Krusz and the home base of the evil (pseudo evil) Dupa genetics corporation, the ingenious creators of the Prodigy Child program. Both locations set themselves apart from each other in their respective styles, size and most notably colour choices. The areas in the first act are very natural feeling in terms of colour choice and design. It gives a very rebuilt from end of world theme to it (aside from the drug dealers house That is pure bling) whereas Dupa has a very corporate feel to it again very fitting just like Krusz that makes you feel more like a trapped office worker than an end of the world survivor and I like that detachment between the environments making them unique and distinct from each other but at the same time they retain the style that keeps them connected. You don’t feel like you’re in a whole new world at Dupa. When looking at the art style a games soundtrack or musical score almost always comes to attention. Paradigm doesn’t really have a soundtrack per say though so the primary focus of my attention in terms of sound design must be the Voice Acting work. The VA cast for Paradigm is rather diverse for what appears to be a game on a moderate budget with talents coming from the USA, Australia, UK and several eastern European countries (I know that’s a blanket term but going through every VA to determine their exact nationality is effort that my student ass can’t really afford). The Aussie John 3000 is by far my favourite in terms of the cast. His lines just ooze what stereotypical Australian man and it fits the character so well. His dialogue and involvement in the story are pushed to a higher plain with that dry sarcasm and wit. When you reach the point that *Spoilers* he tells you that he faked the reactor meltdown to get you to leave I can’t imagine it being quite as enjoyable if it had been done by say an American VA, maybe by the same VA for Doug although I can’t really recall if they are the same person. Overall the characters’ voices all have a distinct unique quality to them which is semi rare in small games these days as budgets constrict that kind of diversity unless you happen to know a lot of arts students in which case you’re luckier than I ever was.
core gameplay, it has to get tarred with the same brush I used for night in the woods. The gameplay is present but its basic. The only difference here is that as an adventure point and click game that its meant to be this way. You can click to interact with objects in a number of ways including, talking to, looking at and using items in the environment which happily can lead to some real nuggets of golden dialogue and some sharp wit. Outside of the standard stuff for this kind of game you have the talking tumour that is your ever-present companion. The tumour acts as the games help system. If you get stuck then it can provide you with a vague clue as to what it is you need to do to advance from this scenario or… if you pressure it and flatter it a little it will give you the URL for the games walk-through which for unknown reasons google didn’t really feel like giving me (I know… walk-through’s are for the lesser folks but I’m bad at these games and I really wanted to see the end). In dialogue scenes, you can see clear and distinct lip movements which I must admit are generic. They try to fit the scenes as best as they can but it’s clearly visible that they aren’t custom to the dialogue, despite this though they add to the conversations all the same. The semi generic approach enhances the dim-witted nature that a lot of Paradigms dialogue has and when he gets an equally laughable response it has the same effect. In some of the games few serious moments though I feel it takes away from the conversation but as these moments are incredibly fleeting you can’t really hold it against it. The games payoff which in all point and click and by extension every game ever (personal view) should be the cherry atop your Bakewell tart is great. It leaves you with that feeling of accomplishment and safe in the knowing that the story and all its points have been rounded off. It has for comedic effect a rather nice touch of allowing the player to cycle through alternate endings to the game that poke fun at some other games, TV shows and even somehow manages to make glam metal seem like a fascist cult. The game isn’t overly long but I’ve been made aware that’s usually the case for the modern adventure game and the fact that from my own time as a developer lengthy games generate bills that would make even Stevie wonder cry at the sight of them ($40 million for Andromeda is funnily enough pocket change for a AAA title). The length can be forgiven easily.
Summing up my experience with Paradigm is an easy one. I loved almost every aspect of this game from the artwork to the voice acting to the writing. The puzzles are well done and are just tricky enough for a challenge but also not too difficult that you spend ages trying to figure out what to do with an instant tree growing seed (unless you are me and awful at puzzles). The story progresses nicely although I do feel it could have had a little more length. Maybe a short middle act? But that’s just a small bug bear really. For the price I paid, the product is of excellent quality and well worth an afternoon to play through. If not for the format then for the dialogue. I dare you to play this game and not enjoy the writing, or the truly great beatsies on offer. I do hope this gets a lengthier sequel if the Developer gets enough demand (for which my name shall be attached to such outcry cos I need more sick beatsies Mr Janerka … Paradigm 2.0)