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Paranoia: Happiness Is Mandatory

Posted by GG Goblin On January - 7 - 2020

It’s not paranoia if they are out to get you.

When it comes to pen and paper RPGs, the settings tend to be serious. From escaping eldritch horrors or infiltrating secret societies, to exploring fantastical realms or simply surviving in a cyberpunk future, there are plenty of different settings, and they can all be fun, but rarely are they light hearted. I don’t know what is around today, but back when I was playing there were only two games that offered the level of silliness to cleanse the palate. Toon provided some cartoon stupidity, and was great fun. Then there was Paranoia, the dystopian sci-fi RPG in which a team of players attempt to follow the orders of a computer overlord, all while trying to ensure their own survival by betraying the others in their team. With a good group of players, it was always hilarious chaos. The Paranoia pen and paper RPG came out more than thirty years ago, but young players can now experience the strangeness of Paranoia with the new CRPG from Black Shamrock, Paranoia: Happiness is Mandatory.


So let’s start with the setting, which is probably the most interesting aspect of Paranoia: Happiness is Mandatory. The player’s character is a clone, one of many, which is quite handy as they tend not to last very long. Having been created and dumped unceremoniously onto the floor, the player will be given a job as a troubleshooter and, along with the rest of their team, will have to fix problems for Friend Computer, the AI equivalent of El Presidente on his worst day. The average day in this dystopian future will involve waking up, doing something dangerous and usually treasonous for Friend Computer and trying not to get terminated for treason.

The problem is that almost everything in this world is considered treason and even if Friend Computer is not watching, as is often the case when on missions, the members of your team or even other NPCs can accuse the player and have them terminated. When committing treason could be the result of something as simple as stepping over the wrong coloured line on the floor, surviving through the day without execution should be something to be celebrated. The player has a treason level which will increase as they do more questionable, or entirely reasonable, things, and once the treason level fills up, they will be terminated. This outcome is nothing to worry too much about though as there are more clones waiting to be popped out of the machine and the player will simply move on to the next one.

Each now clone can have different stats though, and the player will be able to improve their skills as they level up by spending points in a variety of different areas. This can make the player’s character more proficient at certain acts, or offer new options during dialogue. The members of the players’ team will each have their own personalities that will often oppose the main character, but the player will have to deal with that or risk the member leaving the team or requiring some kind of supplication from the player. Each member of the team also has their own skills, but don’t expect them to do anything they are not allowed, or if they do, make sure they are reported.


Each mission begins with a briefing from Friend Computer, laying out what the players next mission will be. They will then be provided with their equipment for the mission, and once the mission is over, all of the items that the player has collected will have to be turned back over to Friend Computer, although a secret stash can be used for keeping hold of a small number of important items, such as crafting materials. The player will also be given experimental equipment from the R&D department to try out, and then report back presumably. The missions will tend to involve doing things that no one else wants to do, and more often than not will result in combat.

The combat is laid out in a familiar way, playing out in real time but with a pause in order to issue orders. Characters may have abilities that can be used during combat, thanks to their mutant genes, such as telekinesis, but otherwise it will come down to taking cover and firing weapons at whatever the enemy may be, from mutants to robots. It has to be said that there is not much depth to the combat which will mostly revolve around clicking on the enemy and letting the team get on with the business of shooting. The cover system seems to be a little vague and as there is not much variety to the weapons, tactics are limited.

Paranoia was all about the humour, and the game does its best to measure up. There are lots of silly situations and chuckle worthy moments to the game, although there is a sense of familiarity thanks to the overused dystopian sci-fi setting. The Alpha Complex is well laid out and it is easy to navigate, but it does feel bland and uninteresting, not that a dystopian future would be interesting. The inhabitants, much like the environment, feel quite bland and while the player is able to converse with many of them, they rarely say anything worth listening to. It doesn’t really help that there seem to be only a few character models but, y’know, clones.


Paranoia: Happiness is Mandatory tries to bring the feel of the tabletop RPG to our screens, and doesn’t do too bad when it comes to the humour and the setting. However, lacking the chance to betray friends in some form of multiplayer, and with merely serviceable combat and shallow gameplay, the game misses the appeal of the original. Comparison aside, Paranoia is a fun, if rather short, CRPG that should prove interesting to most fans of the genre. Just remember to be happy, because Friend Computer says you must be happy.




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