• Paranoia: Happiness Is Mandatory review by Rick Moscatello

    Old school hard core fun

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    An unfairly weak splash screen...

    Many decades ago, a tabletop role-playing game called Paranoia was published, and it was unlike any other. Instead of being in a fantasy world filled with dungeons and dragons, Paranoia is set in a future dystopian world ruled by Friend Computer.

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    You'll spend much time standing in front of Friend Computer

    Friend Computer wants you to be happy, anything less is treason. Treasonous characters should report to a disintegration chamber at the first opportunity. Friend Computer wants other things, too, and denial of what the Computer wants leads to termination in one form or another.

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    People on your friends list are more likely enemies...

    Your character is a Troubleshooter, a special servant to the computer, doing special tasks like hunt down failed R&D projects (or should I say all R&D projects?) or investigate evidence of secret societies or whatnot (being in a secret society is, of course, treason). You don’t gain levels, but you do gain security clearance, starting with Red, then moving to Orange, and Yellow, and so on up to the Ultraviolet clearance held by High Programmers. This clearance determines much of what your character can do in the game world, from what you can buy in vending machines to where you can go. Moving in an Orange zone when you’re Red clearance is treason, but only a little, and you can clear it by going to a Confession booth. Your character doesn’t have a class, but he will have a mutant psychic power—having such a power is treason, of course.

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    Vendy way you want it, that's the way you need it, vendy way you want it...

    As one might guess from reading about Paranoia, you’re pretty much doomed for eventual execution, if not death from a myriad of ways. It’s not that big a deal, as you’re a clone. Death just means waking up as a new clone (the original tabletop game has you starting with six clones, if memory serves…), although you can shuffle your abilities a bit. It’s a little tedious running back to wherever you died (if you died mid-adventure) but I suppose it beats the alternative. If you died in middle of a fight, perhaps the next clone will be a bit more combat capable, and a quick stop at a vending machine will restore your gear (vending machines are more like Star Trek replicators here).

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    A central hub; reading side chatter can be fun.

    Since getting killed is a feature not a bug in Paranoia, and since most players are accustomed to “oh, I died, guess I’ll load up my last save…” gameplay, Paranoia’s default and only way to play is ironman mode. Every decision you make needs to be weighed as all consequences are permanent, or at least as permanent as your current clone. I wish the game were a bit more forgiving; I accidentally clicked on a poster on the wall regarding secret societies, but had a blaster in my hand…so I shot it, and received demerits for “unapproved vandalism.”

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    Ooh, a disintegration chamber. Maybe later, after I've done some Treason.

    This isn’t a game to be played seriously, one is intended to sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride—to a great extent, this is a linear railroad adventure (more accurately, sequence of adventures), but at least it’s a good one. The artists and developers have done a fine job of capturing both the look and feel of the old RPG, and I wasn’t disappointed with how they set up a world which, on the surface, appears to be a perfectly functioning society filled with a happy citizenry, but with the slightest scratch, reveals a corruption that further investigation will reveal is incredibly deep, with virtually every clone/citizen being a traitorous mutant with superpowers, membership in one or more secret societies, and regularly engaging in behavior that should lead to instant termination.

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    A stash by your bed can store contraband. Storing contraband is Treason!

    While the dialogue and setting are solid, combat is a bit of a mess. You mostly just shoot wildly and hope for the best. Seeing as things often degenerate into battle, things needed to be improved here. A further distraction is combat is it’s in real-time—I’ve always had a problem with games where you have to control multiple characters simultaneously in real time, especially in this game where efficient use of mutant powers can dramatically impact a fight. A fully turn-based system would have been far better than putting powers on 15 second timers.

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    Crossing the yellow line while wearing a Red jumpsuit is Treason!

    Fans of the old tabletop game or RPG players looking for a really different experience will find this a decent addition to the collection, even if the basic graphics, lack of an open world, and no real customization will certainly frustrate players looking for a broader or more modern gaming experience. Bottom line, this would have been a classic, great, game in 2000, but is a bit lean for 2019.

    Overall Rating: 78
    This article was originally published in forum thread: Paranoia: Happiness Is Mandatory review by Rick Moscatello started by Doom View original post