As unique as it gets.
Genre: Adventure, RPG
Developer: Kaizen Game Works
Publisher: Fellow Traveller
Release date: 4 Sep, 2020
Paradise Killer has 2 main aspects to take into account, in my opinion. The first being its detective game roots, where the core gameplay is a small open world to adventure in and investigate who could’ve committed such a heinous crime. Secondly, its art-style, a very comic-book-style design that helps the world feel a lot more unique than it actually is and also enhancing what is a lot more of what I thought the game would be besides a crime investigation game – a Visual Novel.
While the art style is fantastic, I was hoping it would blend a bit better with the serious tone the detective aspect tries to take. A simple browse through the store page should tell you right away if it’s something you’ll appreciate or not – while it didn’t totally do it for me, the crime/detective aspect is absolutely fantastic and while the game’s final act isn’t quite as strong as I had hoped, Paradise Killer remains a fine investigation game – probably one of the best in a very complicated genre to design.
A Killer… in Paradise?
Unlike your typical “real world”, the environment of Paradise Killer is the 24th attempt at creating paradise in an island. The tropical island is created in order to attempt to summon the worshipped Gods of this universe and pretty much create a utopia nobody would want to leave. Sadly, the summoning never goes right and on the day before the creation of the following – 25th – island, the Council of the island (those who decide on the transition and other political/religious matters on the island) are murdered and it’s your task to find out who did it, why and also meet a varied cast of quirky characters that might be involved in a bigger plot than you’d initially think…
But who the hell are you anyway?
Well, previously exiled from the island, Lady Love Dies is contacted in order to solve the crime due to her noted investigation skills – armed at the start with a laptop to log all evidence and connect all the dots, you take control of Ms. Love Dies throughout the game’s rather lengthy journey.
I don’t want to discuss much of the story due to the nature of the game’s plot (anything beyond the premise of an investigation game can often be a minor spoiler) – but it’s worthy to discuss characters.
Well-written, caked in both style and substance – the Visual Novel aspect of Paradise Killer is a surprisingly interesting addition to an already well-done crime investigation main plot. The lore is abundant and talking to these characters proves to be far more interesting than you’d initially think. While you won’t be only talking… it is a central part of the gameplay, as much as its exploration aspect which will also present you with further readable documents to increase the game’s already extensive lore.
Lots of lore and lots of dialogue, a great crime plot that isn’t as standard/linear as you’d expect are definitely enough reasons to grab this title if you’re remotely fond of similar games of the genre. The only criticism I can truly draw is, upon fully exploring the depths of the island for all clues, suspects and lore pieces… the Trial (and subsequent ending) isn’t difficult or really as tense as I feel it could be – the answers become a bit too obvious in my opinion, to the point where I feel I’d have more fun trying to piece the criminal events with insufficient evidence rather than figuratively having the answer right on my screen upon starting the trial. This is a problem I also had with Painscreek Killings – another phenomenal investigation game I absolutely recommend; fans of that game will likely be disappointed that the ending isn’t as different as this one when it comes to making the final judgement/accusation.
Playing in first person, Paradise Killer works as an open world exploration game with light puzzle elements, where the failed island is at your disposal and thus, free to explore in its entirety. In it, different locations, characters and even collectibles are present – watch out for Blood Crystals to be able to fast travel and even buy useful stuff later on. Fast Travel will be useful due to Lady Love Dies’ average movement speed and the lack of movement abilities at the start can be a bit overwhelming when you take a good look at the small open world, but with radically detailed environments filled with collectibles and possible investigation material at every turn of your neck.
While later on you’ll get a decently useful dash and even higher jumping, Paradise Killer is still a walking simulator so its best aspect must absolutely be what makes walking fun – exploration.
And as you’ve probably guessed – the game nails that too! Despite the tropical aspect of the island and the phenomenally vibrant colors, there are a lot of places to visit and architectures to admire, as well as some places you can just let your controller or Mouse and Keyboard rest and just look at the marvellous scenery…
…ah what the hell, you’ll be spamming your screenshot button, I know it!
Overall, Paradise Killer doesn’t innovate on its gameplay but has an interesting story, enhanced by a rich lore and a phenomenally-designed world that is both vibrant and pretty but also a joy to explore due to the abundance of both clues and places of interest beyond the crime scene, and also collectibles – the Blood Crystals being my more treasured ones I was constantly hunting for.
If a great visual novel crime investigation open world game isn’t your thing, that’s fine. I was surprised the developers managed for it to work as well as it does – absolutely give it a shot, unless…
Graphics and Audio
The graphics might be the “unless” I mentioned above – while the remarkable color-play and clean aspect of the island give it the utopia feel the Council and residents were hoping it would be, the graphics (specifically the art style) can be a tough sell.
Characters in the game world are not in the typical 3D you’d expect from a crime investigation game in 2020 running on the Unreal Engine. They are, instead, 2.5D – almost like a comic book drawing of the character that works as a sprite, motionless and… honestly, a bit lifeless.
The island loses a bit of life due to this aspect and while the character design SHINES in the Visual Novel interactions, they fall flat in the actual game world during exploration, which is a shame as the actual level design is really well done. The immersion is a bit ruined, for me personally, which isn’t helped by Lady Love Dies’ lack of body during gameplay – you can’t see your body when looking down at all and worst of all – you don’t cast a shadow.
The gameplay and story are great enough and both the art style and the game world are a joy to look at despite the odd decision of the character designs during the world exploration component (they look great as far as the Visual Novel section is concerned, though). As if that wasn’t enough to recommend it, the audio is also a joy to your ears as it adopts a very relaxed and “jazzy” feel, the soundtrack is an absolute treat to listen to and the voice acting, while not always present, is well done for the times you get to listen to it, enhancing the qualities of the dialogue and writing.
Art style is, at the core, a very subjective aspect of game design and I love everything about the world such as the vibrant colors and expertly designed game world, but the character placements in the world being sprites are a poor decision for me and the game world feels a lot more lifeless due to that; the immersion is also knocked back a bit due to the lack of visual cues of your main character – no body in first person nor a shadow is cast.
Despite what I consider to be minor (and rather personal) graphical gripes, Paradise Killer remains one of the finest investigation games I have laid my hands on – the complex crime plot might end a bit too obviously for those fond of exploring every nook and cranny, but that doesn’t stop from providing the player with a phenomenal journey to a satisfying (yet clear) destination.