Bundling two games in one, Flea! and Tapeworm Disco Puzzle, the Parasite Pack is a compilation that fully embraces its namesake. While Flea! is a single-screen get-to-the-other-side platformer and Tapeworm Disco Puzzle is a different take on classic Snake, there is a lot of crossover between these games with cameos and overall presentation.
Both games look like primitive NES releases to wonderful retro effect. The soundtrack for both titles, and even the menu screen, also go hard and is surprisingly well done.
To make an easy comparison, Flea! is essentially a Meat Boy-like platformer with a gimmick – the controllable flea is always bouncing. This sounds like a terrible idea on paper and takes a few levels to fully understand but winds up making this game fun, unique, and refreshing. Since the flea is always bouncing, players need to be deliberate with each move, avoiding spikes and pits along the way and tapping A to shorten jump heights. Hit a spike and you’ll instantly restart at the beginning with a one hit insta-death. Since you are a flea, players can optionally collect jars of blood. Every handful of levels is a place to exchange your blood for lives. Even though this game can get tough, I had hundreds of lives in my queue before I saw the end.
Every 10th stage features an auto-running boss battle. Some of these stages even play like Flappy Bird and are tough gauntlets. Thankfully, the Parasite Pack runs on the same engine as other Ratalaika titles so the overall menu interface is the same and save/load states are included. Without save states, this game wouldn’t be quite the same and I probably would have not had the patience to clear the second world. There is no time to beat or high scores to set so Flea! is a more casual experience, it is just one that requires precision platforming skills. (There is no shame in cheesing that save state system like I did.)
Tapeworm Disco Puzzle has players moving a worm tile-by-tile to snag all the collectables in each single-screened stage. It is as interesting puzzle game because the worm has limited movement and can backtrack. Some levels also features the flea from Flea! and the worm must push him to collect the stage-clearing music notes.
Most stages in Tapeworm Disc Puzzle gives the player complete control of the worm but boss stages are auto-movers. Unfortunately, the tile-by-tile animation is rather choppy which makes moving much more inaccurate than it should be. In fact, some stages are nearly impossible to clear thanks to the low frame rate and demand for precision timing. Even milking the save states made completing these stages a high challenge for the wrong reasons.
Despite some difficulty spikes, the Parasite Pack is retro platforming and puzzle goodness. The 8-bit presentation is a quality throwback, the soundtrack is outstanding, and the gameplay in both titles compliment one another well. It is also priced right well under $10 and all Achievements are worth big points and are unlocked after clearing each boss stage. Now, if only a tick or a leach were involved, then the Parasite Pack would have been fully complete.
Also available on PS4, PS5, and Switch.
Also Try: Nibbler (arcade)
Don’t Forget About: the Worms series
Wait For It: the inevitable return of Earthworm Jim
By: Zachary Gasiorowski, Editor in Chief myGamer.com
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