PARADISE KILLER – Review

I never thought I’d write any sort of review in my lifetime – videogames (and any form of entertainment platform) will always be subjective, and each person’s experience will differ from the next.

After the credits rolled for “Paradise Killer”, I knew I had to talk about it. It is one of the most unique gaming experiences I’ve had in a long time, and you can consider this as my way of recommending it to you.

This is the first time I’ve ever reviewed a game, so I had to come up with some new categories to rate it by. I’ll be rating various features of the game out of 10, and by the end I’ll give “Paradise Killer” an overall score also out of 10. Since videogames can be wildly different from one another, these categories may change every time I review a game (and if I review TV / films, the categories would obviously be even more different).

With all of that out of the way, let’s dive into Island Sequence 24 and solve the crime that disrupted harmony, and left a wretched stain on paradise …

Story

Arguably the most important aspect of any game, especially of the mystery / detective variety, is the story it tells. If you don’t have an intriguing narrative, a plot that enthrals you with all of its twists and turns, then the game hasn’t done enough to convince you to keep playing.

I think the story is one of Paradise Killer’s biggest successes – it’s evident that a lot of time and care went into creating the perfect script, constructing the perfect murder. The actual crime(s) committed on the island each have understandable motives, a plethora of suspects, and a satisfying resolution.

This may be a slight spoiler, so if you want to go into this game completely blind then don’t read the next paragraph:

The clever thing about Paradise Killer is how all of the crimes weave together to create an overarching story. There is a main crime – a murder most foul – but there are lots of other small crimes that all directly feed into the plot at large. The best part of Paradise Killer is how each individual crime has at least 2 or 3 people who could feasibly have done it, and even after the credits rolled I’m not entirely sure if I made the right decisions on who to accuse. You will never find the single piece of concrete evidence to pin it on someone, and you have to hope that all of the circumstantial evidence is enough to put the culprit behind bars. The lack of decisive evidence and the cascade of motives meant I was always second-guessing myself, and it led to a detective experience that never got stale.

Score: 10/10

I didn’t want to be Mr. Nice Guy and give full marks on the first category of my first game reviewed, but I genuinely cannot find any faults in Paradise Killer’s narrative. The developers deserve a lot of praise for meticulously crafting the most unique, captivating mystery I’ve experienced in years.

Gameplay

For a game all about investigating, it still surprised me just how much investigation work there was to do. Island Sequence 24 is massive, and there are clues and secrets hidden in every nook and cranny. The sheer volume of things to do and mysteries to solve on this island is fantastic, and it made for some great investigatory gameplay.

One of the highlights has to be your “Starlight” computer, a brilliant device that logs all of the clues and collectibles. I also really liked the “Nightmare Computer” hacking sections, where you had to collect various types of programming language throughout the island to unlock various doors and chambers.

Another fun addition to the investigator’s armoury is the interrogation dynamic. When you discover an important clue or an alibi breaking revelation, you get the chance to bring it up with the suspect and enjoy the snappy dialogue. There is also a cool “Hang Out” option, where you get to know the suspect a bit better (and maybe get close enough to extract a few rumours and clues). It’s a shame there is no option to directly contradict their statements / alibis with evidence, and instead the characters mostly shun any accusations and bluntly move onto the next topic of conversation.

I have a couple of issues with the gameplay at large, and I’ll get to those problems in a later section. For now, all I’ll say is that the gameplay does a fine job equipping you in your journey, but I do wish it was slightly more polished and had a bit more substance.

Score: 7/10

Style

The thing that catches your eye when you boot up Paradise Killer for the first time is the uniquely flamboyant art style. I saw an IGN reviewer label it as “Vaporwave Satanism”, and I couldn’t have summed it up better myself.

The Vaporwave influences are clear straight from the get go, from the design of the island itself to the banging soundtrack by Epoch. The unlikely fusion with Satanism is what makes this so visually unique, as the game makes it very clear that this story isn’t for the light-hearted; blood sacrifices and rituals are commonplace, and some of the crime scenes are absolutely abhorrent.

The character sprites are fantastically detailed and zany, with each of them bringing something different to the already bizarre world. The designers took a minimalist approach (probably to save time) of having only a couple of sprites per person, so expect to see the same few expressions cycled throughout each conversation. The 2D sprites were an inspired idea that fit the style perfectly, but I would have liked to see a few more variations of each expression.

Score: 9.5 / 10

The Not-So-Good

This category won’t get an individual score (it’s hard to judge something out of 10 on purely “what faults does it have?”) but it will certainly contribute towards my final verdict.

No game is without its flaws, and I could spot a few. A couple of minor gripes would be the limited voice acting (only a few repeated lines per character, probably to save time and money once again) and the 3D textures looked a bit amateurish in places.

One of my main flaws is the island traversal – there are save points littered throughout Island Sequence 24 that allow fast travel between them (for a price), but most of the time you’ll be going long distances on foot. I don’t inherently have any issues with this, as there are lots of landmarks and collectibles for the journey, but when it comes to some precise movements / jumps Paradise Killer gets a bit frustrating. As the game progresses you can obtain upgrades like double-jump and dashing (the latter of which helps a lot), but the first half of the game is a bit of a pain to get through.

My other glaring issue is the lack of player-driven deductions. You obtain a multitude of clues and alibis throughout the game’s runtime, but you never get the chance to piece the evidence together or come up with conclusions of your own. I would think to myself “Aha! A + B = C!” and then the investigator would just say that out loud, ruining the mystery. This also goes for the final verdicts and interrogations – I would have loved an Ace Attorney-esque contradiction system, or maybe a “Crimes and Punishments” logic system to piece evidence together. Luckily there are so many leads and so much going on that having no input doesn’t ruin the game too much for me, it’s just a shame I never truly felt like I was in the investigator’s shoes.

How Much Fun Did I Have?

This might be a strange category to include, but I think it’s a very important one for coming up with a final score. Sometimes a game is phenomenally put together with excellent design / style / gameplay / acting etc. but I just can’t force myself to enjoy it. Is Paradise Killer a game that exceeds in most departments, but fails to hook me?

Definitely not. There’s only about 10 hours of gameplay (if you collect every clue), but I found myself desperate to keep playing until I solved the case. New twists and revelations kept the story fresh, and my mind was put in maximum overdrive trying to piece everything together, so much so that I thought about this game’s mystery a lot even when I wasn’t playing.

Also, as I mentioned before, the soundtrack and art style are gorgeous. You feel like you could live in this universe if you wanted to, and I was immersed completely by the charm of the characters and their environment.

It also helps a lot that this is a detective / mystery story, so I was always going to be mildly interested by a game in one of my favourite genres. The fact that it ended up being one of the best in it’s genre made this a thoroughly enjoyable experience from start to finish, and a small part of me died a little when the credits rolled and I knew I could never be transported to this wonderful world again. All good things come to an end, and I had a blast guiding the investigator to the truth.

Score: 9/10

Verdict

Paradise Killer is a mind-blowing game with an exceptional narrative and art style, and the mystery of the killings invaded my every thought until the story was done and the credits rolled. I have some issues with the gameplay and difficulty of island traversal, but overall this was a thoroughly enjoyable game that I imagine will influence a lot of future titles in the genre.

FINAL SCORE: 8.5/10

PROSCONS
+ Amazing story that never felt dull or clichĂ©– Clunky island traversal at times
+ Unique characters that drive the mystery– Not enough player-led deductions
+ Vaporwave / Satanic style
+ Soundtrack by Epoch
+ Lots to do, with hundreds of collectibles and clues

Wow, I’ve made it to the end of this review. I’ve never done anything like this before, and it was a refreshing experience that I hope to do again. Let me know if there are any games / films / TV shows you would like me to review!

Until next time, here are a few of my latest blog posts:

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