Paradise Killer Review – A Fun Concept Hurt by an Unrewarding Conclusion
Conceptually Paradise Killer is a lot to wrap your head around. At first glance the game appears to be a text based detective adventure. While this is a significant portion of the gameplay there are also open-world, first person, platforming, exploration elements thrown into the mix. This mix results in a first person open-world, platforming, detective game you can play on PC (Steam) or the Nintendo Switch. Does this mix of gameplay elements work? Hear our thoughts in the Paradise Killer review below.
Code provided by Kaizen Game Works and Fellow Traveller.
Murders in Paradise
You start Paradise Killer on a small island where the main character, Lady Love Dies, has been in exile for over 3,000,000 days. This exile is the result of past indiscretions in her role as the ‘investigation freak’ for the Syndicate Council, a high up group of individuals who are ‘immortal’ worshipers of dead alien gods.
In an attempt to create the perfect island the Syndicate believe their gods can be resurrected using the energy of mortal citizens on the island. This energy is harvested in the island’s temple through a sacrificial ceremony. On the 24th attempt at creating the perfect island the council is killed. This murder brings Lady Love Dies out of her exile and back to Paradise where she must find who killed the council and why. While many believe the murder was carried out by a lower-class citizen named Henry, this may not be the truth.
Exploring For a Truth
The island of Paradise is yours to explore as you so choose. You can go (almost) anywhere and interact/find anything you want when you want to. This means players can experience their investigations differently. One player may go to the more industrial section of the island to start while another may head straight to the council headquarters which is the scene of the crime.
While you can go almost anywhere from the start you are gated by a few things. The first is platforming. Lady Love Dies starts the game with a simple jump you will use to traverse ledges and terrain. This jump can be upgraded to a double-jump that allows you to reach more areas. Control-wise the platforming feels like standard FPS fare. You will miss jumps here and there but it works well enough to reach areas you want to go.
The second thing holding back your exploration are terminals called Nightmare Computers which make up the bulk of the game’s puzzles. These computers feature hieroglyph images you must recreate using your Starlight computer. At the start you can only recreate Goat images, but you can unlock Starlight upgrades by finding or buying them in the open world. These upgrades allows you to solve more complex Nightmare Computer puzzles that feature different image categories. These puzzles are fairly repetitive and need to be completed regularly to progress the investigation. While the game appears to have multiple hieroglyph puzzles I frequently got the same images that made solving them become quickly uninteresting.
Since this is an investigation game you will be searching the different island locations for clues about the murders. These locations all follow a similar tropical-future theme but are varied enough to still be interesting. On one section of the island you will find a concrete sarcophagus covering a tainted section of the city while another section houses a harbor with a yacht. All of these different sections connect to each other in interesting ways making traveling around the island pretty quick and easy. This is especially true as you find the different shortcuts and hidden passageways the island possesses.
Besides evidence collection the open world of the island also features a number of collectibles and Blood Crystals for players to find and collect. The collectibles you will find are largely for additional lore so they may not be for useful for everyone. The Blood Crystals are the game’s currency and should be found so you can purchase Starlight Upgrades and use the Fast Travel system.
Interrogating For a Truth
When you’re not exploring the island for evidence and collectibles you will be spending the rest of your time speaking to the game’s different NPCs. There are a number of unique suspects in the open-world you can speak to to gain information and evidence to build your murder case. This interaction system is similar to other games in the investigation genre with text selections being your primary communication method.
Each of the characters you encounter in Paradise Killer are unique and fairly flushed out. Since the islands have a long history many of the characters have overlapping stories and secrets you can get information on by speaking with them or those that know them. As this is a murder case you will often be lied to or told half-truths which is part of the fun. There are also romances you can pursued as well which adds a further wrench to the already messy relationship state of the island.
As a system the interrogation/NPC-interactions are well built but feel simplistic. Early on you will realize none of the characters will stone-wall you or not cooperate. While there are some belligerent characters they are all surprisingly forthcoming even if you make them angry or offend them. This lack of stakes makes every interaction fail-proof meaning you will almost always emerge with information or evidence you need to complete your investigation.
Completing your investigation and the game occurs when you call the trial. This trial can be called at any point and is the culmination of your work from both the open world and character interactions. During the trial you present your evidence to the Judge for the various aspects of the murders.
Unfortunately I found the trial to be the weakest part of the game as it leads to (by design) an unsatisfying outcome and always results in a similar ending sequence regardless of who you determine to be the killer. While there are some minor ending differences between someone who finds all the evidence and someone who doesn’t, it really feels like the game doesn’t actually want you to find the truth so it can deliver its platitude on justice. This direction feels like a cope out from actually creating a fulfilling mystery conclusion that does all the NPC story-lines justice.
As I typically do I often end the review by listing off miscellanous thoughts I had while playing the review title. These thoughts don’t warrant their own paragraphs so I just hit you with a list of them.
- Music and Sound: Really, really good lo-fi soundtrack that is a pleasure to listen to if you like that genre. Liked that each island had its own song and you can play the songs whenever you want.
- Art-style: Liked the art-style of the world and characters.
- Collectibles: Would’ve liked to get rewarded for finding everything in the game. Besides lore there is no reason to grab 95% of the collectibles.
- Performance: Ran well on PC. Can be played on both KB+M and controller comfortably. No major performance issues to report.
- Certain info screens are shown repeatedly even after seeing them before. These trigger every time you pick up Blood Crystals and when you interact with characters.
- No auto-save and only three save slots. Can lead to frustration if you want to have saves at different points in the investigation.
- Interaction prompt stuck on screen at times.
- Map: Would’ve liked a better detailed map. While the map fits aesthetically it doesn’t have much detail besides area names and where you are.
Overall I found the experience of Paradise Killer to be good not great. The mix of gameplay elements is a fun new direction for the detective genre and Kaizen Game Works should be commended for it. The game’s look, music, island, story, and characters are well done and interesting to interact with. Unfortunately it’s not all good as the ending zapped much of my enjoyment once I realized a lot of my detective work was meaningless. Couple this underwhelming ending with repetitive Nightmare Computer puzzles and some quality of life issues and you have a fun but flawed experience.