The Parasite Pack: 'Sites for Sore Eyes
Two homebrew NES titles to get under your skin
Gnnnn! (Furiously scratches self) Nauties, I think I've got fleas! Just joking, it's actually the (nearly) brand new Parasite Pack, which contains the game Flea! Why yes, I was up very late working on this intro, thank you - that's the Gipp difference, or as I've been asked not to call it, Gippference. "Right then," I hear you cry, "you silly prick, what's this Parasite Pack business, eh?" Delighted, and I mean delighted to elucidate. Parasite Pack is a compilation of two previously-released homebrew NES games - the aforementioned Flea! and Tapeworm Disco Puzzle, seen here in that now-familiar emulator front-end that all Ratalaika's re-releases seem to use - along with some others publishers, oddly - I'm fairly sure the Turrican and Wonder Boy collections used it to. Memo to self: get to the bottom of this.
Speaking of bottoms, would it be prurient to start with Tapeworm Disco Puzzle? It's an extraordinarily unusual puzzle game that sees you controlling - yes - a tapeworm, segmented sort of thing that it is, and unfortunately presumably up someone's arse. Well, I suppose a unique setting is something to praise in any game. You've got to manipulate your tapeworm in order to achieve varying goals - collect all the musical notes, help the fleas collect blood - with the challenge coming from its limited length (which does increase as you play), obstacle placement that requires you to think carefully before moving, and - more rarely - timing puzzles. From what we could tell, though, it's not possible to put the game in a no-win situation. It can be tough, with some stages requiring you to manipulate other creatures while avoiding causing their horrible deaths, but mostly it's quite a chill experience, especially if you make use of the included save-state feature in order to cheat like a cheating cheater.
Said feature is also useful in the package's other offering, the earlier Flea!, a game I had encountered before on the excellent Indie Heroes Volume 1 Evercade cartridge. This is a platform game with a compelling difference - you can't stop jumping. You're a flea, after all! Do you remember that one Boss Stage in the original Wario Ware which cast you as a little yeller feller who constantly leapt up and down, destroying cloud platforms as he went? Well, it's basically that, but for a full game and much more varied. The difficulty is rough, leaning into the whole masocore genre to some extent - seeing as you're a bouncy little bugger, you'll obviously need to be careful on the way up as well as where you land. After the brief first world, things immediately get unforgiving. You'll need to arrest your leaps with a tap of the B button, but timing is so precise that it can initially seem fiddly. I didn't think the pacing was on point, either - while I enjoyed myself throughout Flea!, the difficulty seemed to fluctuate a lot. Single-screen games, though, can't be easy to design, so I forgive 'em, particularly being the anytime-saving negates the more fiddly sections to some extent.
Still! I enjoyed my time with this pack a' parasites, and I'd like to see some more homebrewy bits and bobs slam dunk their way onto the Switch - I wouldn't say no to Battle Kid.