Paratopic is a short, experimental atmospheric horror game developed by Arbitrary Metric and released for PC on Steam and itch.io on 6th September, 2018. It tells the story of three different people in different times and the same place. One is a smuggler bringing VHS tapes across the border. Another is a birdwatcher. And the third is an assassin.
...and that's all we can really tell you. Due to being a short experience, Paratopic is better left experienced. The whole thing takes about half an hour or so to complete. As such, all spoilers will be untagged. You have been warned.
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- Ambiguous Disorder: There's definitely something off about the smuggler's handler and his weird fixation on professionalism. At first it may just seem like the game being quirky and random, but then every other character you interact with (the neighbor and the two gas station attendants) seems reasonably normal.
- Ambiguous Ending: Threefold.
- We don't see what specifically happens to the birdwatcher, but her body is found skinned and impaled on a metal pole, implying she suffered some horrible fate.
- The smuggler has his contraband found and nearly confiscated by the police, before said police accidentally watch the tapes and mutate. As the police officers body contorts into nothingness and his head turns into a television, said television drops to the ground and displays the cryptic phrase "BE SEEING YOU FRIENDO". This implies that the smuggler has messed up bad by getting caught, and whatever force is compelling him to smuggle the tapes is coming for him next. And considering a "tape demon" is seen following his deliveries, it doesn't look good for him.
- The assassin manages to kill the handler and trace the birdwatcher's death to the power site, but leaves before the police arrive. What happens next is unknown, but considering that she sounds rather shaken up it's possible that her assassin days are over, and that she's a direct target of the conspiracy now.
- Ambiguous Situation: The game is deliberately vague as to exactly what's going on, and no clear explanation is ever provided.
- Anachronic Order: The scenes are not presented in order, which can be deliberately misleading, such as implying the assassin is being briefed by the owner of the diner, when it's really the smuggler being briefed.
- Body Horror: Bad things tend to happen to anyone who watches the tapes. The border guard has his head turn into a TV before his body withers and vanishes, while the smuggler's neighbor has her head split open like a flower. However, the dialogue of the smuggler's neighbor indicate that in some circumstances they act like a drug instead, and it takes special circumstances (or watching a particular tape) for things to really "pop". The "tape creature" also decapitates and skins the birdwatcher and impales her body on a pole, but this is more gory rather than unnerving.
- Boom, Headshot!: What happens if you kill the handler by shooting him in the head while playing as the assassin. There's even an achievement for this.
- Demonic Possession: Maybe what happens when you watch a tape.
- Eldritch Abomination: The "tape demons" (or possibly aliens) who pursue the smuggler, and kill the birdwatcher. They're shadowy beings whose mere presence causes technology to freak out, and they seem to obsessively consume the material produced on the tapes.
- Made of Plasticine: Shooting the handler in the body will cause his entire arm and shoulder to be partially ripped off his torso.
- Meaningful Name: Paratopic is not a real word; broken down into its components, "para" means "besides" or denotes alteration (as in paramilitary or paramedic, aka like a military or medic but different) while "topic" means subject and is derived from the Greek word for "place". So the title could either mean "an alternate place" (or alternate reality), or literally "to change the subject" (which fits with the frequent scene changes and Anachronic Order).
- Noble Demon: The assassin is, well, an assassin, but she is after the tapes and takes time out to recover the birdwatcher's body even though it might be safer to pretend she was never there.
- Nothing Is Scarier: The birdwatcher's story has little to nothing happen for most of it, slowly building dread as she wanders into a place she really shouldn't be...
- Retraux: The game is presented in a deliberately pixelated, low polygon style reminiscent of the early PS1 era, with liberal use of effects such as VHS-like artifacting.
- Right for the Wrong Reasons: The second gas station attendant (who seems to believe in aliens like the first attendant) believes that the ruins of the power company's plant were given over to aliens as an offering. Something not of this world is definitely occupying that site.
- Snuff Film: One interpretation proposes that the deaths of whoever go messing about in the Power Company's neck of the woods are done to make these, and the recordings become the smuggler's tapes. For what purpose is unknown, but it's implied that the tapes are "feeding" the demons somehow.
- Villain Protagonist: Subverted. While her name implies dastardly deeds, the assassin is arguably the most heroic figure in the story, taking down the tapes and collecting them so that they don't fall into the wrong hands. The only person she kills is the smuggler's handler, who is either heavily involved in the tapes or is outright a demon. She also calls the police to have the birdwatcher's body recovered, rather than leave her hanging there for the crows.