On the back wall of the Indie Rising area of PAX 2016, where meritocracy reigns supreme, the hand-picked “Best Indie Games of PAX” dwell. Among them is a point-and-click puzzle adventure game by the name of Paradigm. It is the strangest game I have probably ever played.
Paradigm is a game from Jacob Janerka, a solo-developer out of Perth, it is utterly bonkers. After an absolutely bizarre introductory sequence, detailing how you can purchase your very own scientifically enhanced “prodigy child”, you are thrown into the life of Paradigm (that’s where the game name comes from, I get it now!), a prodigy child gone wrong. You have a tumour growing from your head and a computer companions whose sole purpose is to ‘pick up biddies online’. His words, not mine. The game is voiced almost entirely by Janerka himself and his voice acting variety is phenomenal.
The art style of Paradigm is far and away its defining feature, Janerka himself having his background rooted firmly in art. A seemingly fully hand-painted environment, characters and interactive elements are phenomenally themed. This, along with the semi-fractured dialogue of your eastern european protagonist, gives Paradigm a very surreal feeling. One that is a little uncomfortable at first, but one that I quickly warmed up to. It is very hard to not chuckle along with Paradigm as he wanders his depressing little home, attempting to solve puzzles in order to get access to his computer to make “phat beatsies”. Ridiculous, right?! But it’s great.
Paradigm does not hold your hand, the little slice we received on the show floor had just enough interactive elements to get me stuck, not terribly so, but just enough for me to really think logically about the processes that lay in front of me. For someone who is a fan of Point-and-Click adventures, but not very good at them, it is a welcome change.
Janerka wants you to believe in yourself. Paradigm wants you to believe in yourself.
When talking to Janerka about his development cycle, one thing that he said which really stuck with me is that he wants the players to believe in themselves. Yes, there are hardcore point and click puzzle adventure game fans out there but for a large majority of players, walkthroughs are always on the cards and usually utilised at least once. Janerka has taken a different approach with Paradigm, he wants your experiences to be memorable, and while he has a hint system worked into the game (you talk to the godamn tumour growing out of your head, I mean come on!) it will eventually link you to a walkthough. But you best believe it is going to empower you to accomplish your tasks alone. Janerka wants you to believe in yourself. Paradigm wants you to believe in yourself. Even the difficulty options want you to believe in yourself.
The game comes with a strong message about being okay with yourself. Even if you are a grossly deformed prodigy child. Everyone has their bright side, you just need to find it. It’s a really beautiful message that counters the uneasy feeling of the game. It’s very much an oasis in the desert.