Parasite Pack is a bit of an odd title. It appears to be a collection of two retro titles, but on closer examination you will soon discover that is in fact two modern games that were designed for (and in fact recently released on) older consoles. Now they’re available on modern platforms in one affordable pack.
Are they worth playing, or should we call the exterminators?
Many thanks to the publisher for the review code.
OPENING A CAN OF WORMS… AND FLEAS
As normal with game collections, we will be offering mini reviews for the titles contained within. Both are presented in a similar 8-bit fashion, with some charmingly simple visuals and chiptune music. There may not be many music tracks on offer, but each game’s main theme is enjoyable enough to listen to as you work your way through.
Both games also offer rewind and save state functionality; however, the latter is extremely well hidden, requiring you to press and hold the start button for a bit before the save menu appears. This bizarre choice resulted in me playing and losing the majority of my progress in Flea until I figured out how it worked. Considering the length of each game, this is definitely something you will want to use to break up game sessions a bit.
The first title plays a little bit like a traditional splatormer, such as Super Meat Boy or They Bleed Pixels, but with a slight twist: as a flea, you’ll constantly bounce around regardless of whether you’re moving or not. This small gimmick makes a huge difference to how you would normally play a game like this since you need to time your jumps to avoid spikes, enemies, and other obstacles as you make your way to the end. Typically levels are a single screen affair, but every so often you’ll encounter an auto-scrolling boss fight where you’re being chased and you have to dodge everything at high speed. These boss fights are fun, but the auto-scrolling can make timing your jumps more difficult, making them a needlessly obnoxious at times. As such, these sections may prove to be a refreshing break for some people, and a gruelling chore for others. Personally, I was rather mixed on these sequences, but they also didn’t lessen my enjoyment of the game either.
Over the course of the 80 main stages, you’ll need to use your skills to survive. The bounce may be the key ability, with a low bounce achieved by tapping B, but later on you will gain some new skills too to help you get around – the most notable of which is a dash move that really helps reduce the difficulty in the later parts of the game. Whilst your moveset may not be huge, levels do throw in constant new gimmicks to help keep things fresh.
It’s a fun formula and charmingly well presented. Save states and rewinds make things easier for those that may find things too difficult, but hardcore platformer fans can try to get through with the limited lives available. Lives are done rather well in this game too as collecting blood vials scattered throughout the levels can be traded for more lives with certain NPCs. These vials are everywhere meaning that you should always have more lives than you’ll likely ever need providing that you try and collect as many as you can. It’s a nice risk vs reward system as you attempt to rack up more lives whilst navigating obstacles that will likely make you lose some in the process.
Flea isn’t a perfect game, as I found some of the hitboxes to be a little bit inconsistent. Some of the spike hitboxes were way bigger than the sprite itself, whereas others don’t have hitboxes at all! Thankfully controls are pretty tight for the most part, meaning that frustration is kept to a relative minimum.
TAPEWORM DISCO PUZZLE
Unlike Flea, Tapeworm Disco Puzzle – as the name implies – is more of a puzzle game. At first glance it resembles something like Snake as you move your tapeworm in one of the four cardinal directions. You’re not constantly moving like in the mobile classic (well, except for the boss stages) and you can move through the levels at your own pace as you plan your course of action. Your tapeworm has a limited length, so you’ll need to make sure you choose the optimal paths; tapes can be collected to increase your length, but sometimes you may find it more beneficial to be shorter in order to avoid certain hazards.
Your objective usually consists of picking up musical notes, but there are other possible goals too. Sometimes you will need to guide the flea to his blood vials, or perhaps help another constantly moving bug who is seeking a doorway placed in the level. Friendly parasites need to remain safe, so you’ll also need to protect them from spikes and other foes. There’s a lot of variety to the levels, with new things being added every 20 levels or so. Over the 120 levels, you’ll encounter quite a few tricky puzzles but I never found any to be overwhelmingly tough – unlike some of Flea‘s stages.
It’s also worth noting that not only is the game longer than Flea, but it’s also presented far better too. Visuals look far more varied, and there are also numerous cutscenes that pop up every so often with some really charming artwork. That’s not to say that this game has more story, as both have a very minimal narrative, but Tapeworm Disco Puzzle definitely feels far more polished. As a splatformer fan, I was expecting to like Flea more, but this one ended up being my favourite of the two.
Parasite Pack offers two vastly different 8 bit games for a very cheap price. Whilst Tapeworm Disco Puzzle is far more polished than Flea, both games have some great design and offer a lot of fun. Whilst it may be best played in short bursts, this may be a nice one to grab for fans of either genre.