It’s time to bust some outlaws in Boba Fett style! In Black Paradox, the new title from the Italian studio Fantastico Studio, you play as a bounty hunter after some of the worst criminals of the Galaxy: the Hellraisers. Get into your DeLorean-like spaceship, Star Phoenix, arm yourself with some of the deadliest weapons of the universe and prepare to chase them throughout the cosmos in this fast-paced roguelite horizontal shmup published by Digerati.
But don’t you dare think this is going to be an easy task: 60+ different enemies await in these stages ready to show you that defeating the Hellraisers is going to be a pain in your space arse! So put on your helmet, pilot, and enjoy the view while we review this game for you!
- Visuals: My, my… You guys really put some effort in this games’ visuals, didn’t you, Fantastico Studio? Black Paradox has some of the most beautiful and most impressive visuals for a shmup I’ve played in recent years. The pixel art style used here, the retro palette of colors inspired in the 80’s neon colors, the visual effects of guns and explosions and the insane level of detail of spaceships just show how much dedication the team had for this baby! And let’s not forget to mention the background of each level, with some space visuals that would make even cap Shepard proud! Well done, boys… Well done!
- Audio: Complementing the incredible visuals of this game is the spot-on soundtrack and audio effects! Lasers, missiles, explosions… No sound seems odd or out of place in this game! Well, actually one does, but we will talk about it later. The music also has a retro vibe that walks that extra mile to help you immerse in this mission. Kudos for what you did here, guys!
- Get ready for trouble! The game is a classic shmup with levels crowded with enemies ready to take you down and large bosses at the end of each stage – your bounty prizes! Every enemy you defeat earns you some very important cash that is necessary to buy upgrades for Star Phoenix, your ship, at the garage. Your ship can equip up to four mods (you start with only two slots and can buy two extra slots, which helps a lot!) that, besides giving your ship a special ability (like shooting backwards, recover life and others), increase one of its four status (health, fire rate, speed – that works as maneuverability – and attack – that works as the damage). Unlike the guns and drones that you lose after each game over screen, these mods always stay with you. And now we’ve mentioned weapons…
- Star Phoenix’s arsenal: Fantastico Studio did spend some time developing weapons for this game! There’s a huge arsenal available for you right from the start of the game. But there’s a catch: in each one of the stages, you have the opportunity to pick only one random weapon from a specific enemy ship. And as you can carry only two weapons at the same time, to pick it up or not it’s totally up to you and your playstyle. Do you like to stay out of trouble, far away from your enemies? Maybe the laser gun or radial gun are your best options. Do you prefer to take things close and personal? Maybe the flamethrower or the circular saws will be your weapons of choice. Or do you prefer to cover the screen with your shots, even in exchange for some mobility? So maybe the dart guns will do the trick. Or, who knows, maybe you like to blow things and see the world burn? In this case, we better talk to the closest psychiatrist and take these matches out of your hand… Anyway, as you can’t select the weapons that will become available for you, it’s better to try all of them and get the hang of whatever you get between the 20 different weapons. Just remember that if your ship is destroyed, you are back to stage 1 with only your initial weapon. But wait, this isn’t all: you ship has a rage meter that, when full, can unleash your special ability, the space-bending move called Black Paradox. No, I’m not spoiling the fun here and describe it to you, but just keep in mind that it can be the difference between life and death in boss battles and later stages.
- Helping drones: At the end of each stage, after you defeat the boss, you can grab an extra help to Star Phoenix in the form of upgrades to your base status or one of thirteen different drones to help you in your quest. Drones have different abilities that can give you a HUGE help in the battlefield, like replenishing your health, attacking enemies or protecting against enemy fire. Once again, since there are many different options randomly available for you, the best you can do is to try them all. And, when you find the ones that better suit your strategy, ask Lady Luck to bring them for you.
- Your enemies: With more than 60 different enemies ready to destroy you, your life is never going to be easy throughout your adventure. Especially at the end of each stage, where you must face the Hellraisers lieutenants. Their ships are very distinctive from any others you will face, each one in the form of something awfully peculiar: prepare to face dinosaurs-like, pirate ship-like, horse-like and many more odd-like ships.
- Co-op adventure: Although I didn’t have a 2nd player to try the game with me this time, having the option to play in 2 players local co-op is a plus for an already great game. After all, who doesn’t love to play side-by-side with a friend?
- Too easy for you? Before I forget, the game also has a hardcore boss rush mode to unlock, increasing its life-span. But I’m not going to lie to you: I was unable to beat it and try this extra challenge. There’s enough challenge for me in the normal mode!
- Co-op adventure… but only local: At the same time, I love being able to play along with a friend in the good and old couch co-op, I understand not everybody has this option. So, adding an online co-op mode would be great to the game as well.
- Voices: The one and only thing I didn’t like about Black Paradox is the voice used to announce your enemies. There’s a strange effect over it that quickly makes it annoying (especially after retrying the same stage for the nth- time). Please, give me an option to disable it!
Score: 92% The shmup genre has been receiving some very good entries these last years, but none of them is so well-designed, challenging and interesting as Fantastico Studio’s Black Paradox. Seriously. For me, this is the pinnacle of space shooters, visually and content-wise speaking. I can only praise the developers of this little jewel and hope that they don’t hesitate in bringing a sequel to this title in the near future. If you are a shmup fan, go ahead, my friend. This game totally deserves your attention!
Developer: Fantastico Studio Publisher: Digerati
Played on: Xbox One X Also available on: PC, PS4, Switch
Time to beat: Guessing around 10 hours if you don’t die too much (like I do) Achievement difficulty for 1000 Gamerscore: Not all that difficult if you are a skilled shmup player – which I’m not.
Perfect for: Shmup fanatics!
Xbox Game Store link: Click here
With a history of gaming that goes from his old man’s Atari 2600 to his Xbox One, Rafael or RAF687, our Brazilian editor, has a love for games as old as he can remember. He has already spent countless hours in many consoles (Mega Drive/Genesis, Sega Saturn, PS1, PS2 and Xbox 360) and is always ready for more (as long as his wife is asleep). Raf has been writing for LifeisXbox since 2017, with a passion for games of almost all genres – though we know he has a special place in his heart for RPGs, racing games and anything that includes pixel art. Writing about games has always been a childhood dream to Raf, dream that he has fulfilled reviewing games for you here. You can drop him a message at Twitter, Facebook or Xbox Live at any time.