Endoparasitic Creates Tension by Tying Everything to One Hand
Endoparasitic starts with several unsettling monsters ripping your limbs off. You’d be forgiven for thinking you had lousy chances for survival from here. You’ve still got one good arm and have no intention of dying here, though. To do that, you’ll need to use that limb to move, interact with things, and fight back against monsters. Only being able to do one of those things at a time makes for a frightening experience – one where committing to any action always feels like it will cause your death.
You’re in a secret lab on an asteroid. Odds are good that no one is coming for you. If you die, your research is going with you. So, our protagonist decides they’re going to do anything they can to survive. You don’t have to take my word for it, though. One of the first things you do in the game is to cauterize your wounds using a hot iron. Not only does this teach you how you’ll be interacting with the game world, but it shows how hard you’ll need to work if you want to save your research.
Movement is awkward and difficult in Endoparasitic. To get around, you need to reach out with your remaining hand, grab onto the floor, and pull yourself forward. Everything in the game is done with a mouse, so pointing and clicking to grip something, pick up items, or use the ground to pull yourself forward. “One handed in game, one handed in real life…” as it says on the store page.
This means you won’t be hopping out of harm’s way if something rushes you. Every movement requires you grab and pull the ground, making it difficult to escape danger. So, you have to approach every location with care, as it’s very hard to turn yourself around to get away. You have to rely on careful positioning and listening for things that sound dangerous. The protagonist crawls pretty fast, sure, but it still takes a lot of effort to get away from something that’s coming after you.
You can fight back in Endoparasitic, though. There are guns and shotguns lying around for you to use on the gross creatures you encounter. You can keep a few weapons on you at a time, giving you some options in a fight, but a one-handed shootout presents some interesting challenges. For starters, don’t expect to flick into a menu to equip a weapon. You’ll have to keep them on your back and use your one hand to grab whichever gun you want to use. Also, while that gun is out, you’re not going to be moving around. You have to choose between movement and offense.
There’s more things to consider while shooting back. If you’re firing on an enemy and they start creeping too close, you’ll have to put your gun onto your back or hip in order to get moving. You have to carefully gauge your enemy’s movement speed so that you give yourself enough time to holster your weapon and escape. You’re in big trouble if you need to reload in a fight, too. To do this, you have to pull up a menu and manually pull out each spent shell and replace it. Of course, you’re using a revolver.
Endoparasitic doesn’t let you see much of the area around you, either. There is a constant black fog all around you. The enemies kind of look like that fog as well. They have little details that help you identify them, but they still blend in. This means that, if you’re in a hurry, you’ll blunder into them. Why not just take it slow? Well, you tend to move as fast as possible when crawling for your life, don’t you? It’s very easy to run from one enemy and bump right into another. Since you’re usually out of ammo or in danger when this happens, you tend to put yourself in even greater trouble.
Did I mention that you’re dying from a virus? I wanted to really take my time to check out my environments, but you’re on a constant time limit thanks to a virus you’ve been infected with. It wasn’t bad enough to rip most of your limbs off, apparently. This virus is always working its way through your system over time, and it will eventually kill you. To counteract it, you can give yourself vaccines that you find around the station. These give you a temporary break, so you’ll have to find as many as you can. Which means you have to rush. Which means blundering into more enemies.
The combination of all of these details leads to some great tension. Endoparasitic asks you to slow down and take your time. You’re literally using one hand to crawl around, after all. You need to switch that one hand from movement to combat, grabbing a weapon to fight back. Take careful aim with it. Make sure it’s loaded before you get into a fight so that you don’t run into something when your chamber’s empty. Just about everything in the game makes you want to move slowly and carefully. If you have to scramble while switching weapons, moving around, or reloading, you’ll die. This makes every moment-to-moment decision feel like it will be your last.
But you can’t go slowly because of the virus. If you dawdle too much or approach everything too carefully, you’ll run out of time. Since the vaccines are limited, you also need to keep moving to ensure you have enough to cure yourself with when things get rough. So, you have to move quickly, which causes you to make more mistakes. It’ll make you take risks when you really shouldn’t. What choice do you have, though? While an already tense experience, this final element forces you to make it even more stressful for yourself.
Endoparasitic is a neat concept that was put to incredible work in creating a tense, scary experience. Having to do everything with one hand loads your every decision with importance. If you’re doing one thing – moving, shooting, reloading – you can’t do any of the others. You have to carefully decide what to do, and all while a timer ticks down to your death, adding this constant goad to keep moving and take more risks. Hope your research is worth all of this hassle.