Black Paradox review
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Black Paradox review

Our Review by Campbell Bird on November 15th, 2018
Rating: starstarstarhalfstarblankstar :: EVERYTHING OLD IS NEW AGAIN
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Black Paradox is essentially a retrowave version of Steredenn. It's fine, but definitely familiar.

Developer: Fantastico Studio

Price: $3.99
Version: 1.0
App Reviewed on: iPad Air 2
Graphics/Sound Rating: starstarstarhalfstarblankstar
User Interface Rating: starstarstarhalfstarblankstar
Gameplay Rating: starstarstarblankstarblankstar
Replay Value Rating: starstarstarblankstarblankstar

Overall Rating: starstarstarhalfstarblankstar

Black Paradox is a weird release. It’s definitely a game with its own style, but it feels an awful lot like Steredenn. Both are side-scrolling space shooters with a sort of pixel art look and some procedural generation in their levels. What’s more is that both have heavy musical influences to them, though Black Paradox has retrowave stylings where Steredenn is metal to the core. While both follow similar templates, Steredenn is the better-feeling game, making Black Paradox seems like an also-ran, despite being a pretty solid shooter in its own right.

Similar shooters

In Black Paradox, you control a spaceship that looks like a converted Delorean through a neon galaxy blasting away at other 80s-inspired baddies, all while synthesizers blare away in the background. You control your ship by swiping around on the left side of the screen and shoot by tapping on the right side. You can also pick up new weapons by tapping twice over drops and swipe up and down on the right side of the screen to switch weapons.

This touch control scheme works surprisingly well for a shooter on mobile devices, but that’s not so surprising considering it’s already been proven to work in a previous game. If you sub out all the retrowave descriptors in the paragraph above, I could have very well been describing Steredenn, as it has the exact same control scheme as Black Paradox. These two games also have a surprisingly similar structure, where players clear waves of procedurally-generated enemies before facing off against bosses, picking up a random power up, and repeating the whole process over again.

Retro redux

The biggest thing that sets Black Paradox apart from Steredenn is its retro-futuristic 80s aesthetic. Aside from that though, this game does depart from Steredenn’s design in a few key ways. First is that Black Paradox follows a set progression of bosses whereas Steredenn’s bosses were more random. Every time you clear the first wave in Black Paradox, you’ll always end up fighting the Insane Brothers, followed by Shadow the Space Cowboy, etc.

When you defeat these bosses, you clear bounties which earn you cash, and this cash can be used between runs to buy upgrades for your ship. This is also pretty different than Steredenn, which felt more like a true roguelike in that it didn’t provide a way for you to earn unlocks or other powerups to make subsequent runs easier. There are some other, smaller differences between these two games, but this roguelike vs. roguelite divide is probably the most significant.

Not metal enough

Given the similarities between Black Paradox and Steredenn, I spent a lot of time playing both games for this review. In putting myself through that experience, I almost always came away feeling better about the time I spent with Steredenn than I did with Black Paradox.

Steredenn just feels like a tighter game, and its also got bonus modes like Daily Run and Arena. Although Black Paradox does have a bit more progression to it, it just feels like there's more to do in Steredenn, which--by the way--feels a bit tighter when it comes to controls.

The bottom line

Black Paradox is a solid space shooter that suffers from being too similar to a better game. If you don’t already own Steredenn, there’s no real reason to check out Black Paradox first. If you prefer a more retrowavey vibe in your space shooters though, I can see why you might want to give this game a try.

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