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Paranoia / Psychosis

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Released: 1990

Genre: Shoot-’em-up

Format reviewed: PC Eng/Turbografx-16

Publisher: NEC

Developer: Naxat Soft

Submitted by: Craig Hawkins

Mental illness. It's no laughing matter. Perhaps with the exception of certain cases of Pseudobulbar Affect. More to the point, mental illness has a habit of laughing at its victim. That's precisely what happens in this horizontal-scrolling shmup that sees you enter your own subconscious in a spaceship to battle the demon Ugar who has seized control of your mind, vulgarly mocking you as you descend ever lower into your madness.

Or at least this is 100% true on the PC Engine in the form of Paranoia. Less so with the butchered Westernised TurboGrafx port, renamed Psychosis. Straight from the off we're faced with multiple personality disorder. In Japan, Paranoia is a game where, within seconds of the first level, a caterpillar is 'violated' by a couple of randy space ants. Your tormentor Ugar ridicules your progress with an extended middle finger and a heavily digitised but blatantly obvious cry of 'f*** you' every time you overcome a stage (stages are called 'causes' – as in: causes for you being sick).

In the US's Psychosis, the raised finger moves one along to the index and the speech is replaced by a more palatable 'come on'. The caterpillar is spared the indignity as well, although in the process of censorship it's consequently denied the later transformation into a butterfly that occurs if you help it in Paranoia.

Such changes are understandable, but the same can't be said of the decision to swap around the second and third levels, a nonsensical move that stems the flow of the game and your supposed journey into the depths of your mind just because the original second boss is considered much harder than the third.

And while this may sound conceptually thrilling/disturbing, underneath all the weirdness lurks a fairly average short shooter that wouldn't stand out from the illustrious PC Engine crowd on the virtues of its gameplay alone. Moreover, to look at it, it's no more bizarre than any other half-decent space-based blaster.

In the end, then, much like swallowing prescription pills or telling a schmuck with a notepad about your childhood, Naxat's game doesn't do much for your wellbeing. And, of course, you get the ubiquitous post-credits 'I'll be back'. As it happens, Ugar was never seen again. Ha!