Paradise Killer is a murder mystery set in an alternate reality that captures the imagination with its sleek visuals and stylish characters. There is nothing quite like it – and it’s glorious. It might be hard to imagine when looking at such a bright and opulent setting, but there is much more to this game than meets the eye – kind of like “the crime to end all crimes”, which you are going to solve.
Thus far, it is developer Kaizen Game Works‘ first title, released on 4 September 2020.
Story – When Love Dies…
You are Lady Love Dies, an “investigation freak” that has been in exile for around 3 million days. A bloodbath in paradise causes you to be released from exile, as you are the only one who can get to the bottom of things.
The entirety of the game takes place on Paradise Island. This island exists in a pocket reality, and is the 24th iteration. These islands are created and destroyed periodically due to certain events unique to each island.
The island itself is equal parts gorgeous and nightmarish, with its aesthetics inspired by the Vaporwave movement. I had not heard of Vaporwave until I played this game, and it is essentially a musical and visual art style, and also a meme all at the same time. This makes for a unique and compelling setting, unlike any I have personally experienced.
Paradise Island seems to only be a paradise in name, especially for the citizens. The citizens are human characters who are forcibly abducted to do all the hard work on these islands, and their role doubles as their psychic energy is used as a fuel of sorts, they are disposable and are executed en masse as each iterative island draws to a close. There is only one citizen left alive when you arrive on the island, and he serves well to give the player some idea of what life is like for these people. Their frustrations at their otherwise crummy living and working conditions, their disposability. They are not immortal like the Syndicate.
A good bit of the island is devoted to living space for these citizens, and the game does a pretty good job of telling their story through various collectibles left behind by them.
There is a ton of stuff to collect. Some collectibles give a glimpse into what life was like on islands past. These range from cans of soda, to odds and ends that reveal what the citizen culture was like. There are mementos from the previous island sequences, too, that tell you a bit about what happened on those islands and perhaps even why they were destroyed.
A murder mystery would not be complete without interesting characters, and Paradise Killer has these in spades. Each are visually striking and unique with their own history and motivations. Some of them, like Sam and Lydia, were friends of LLD before she was exiled. Others, like Yuri Night, are newcomers who were either born or came to the island after the fact.
A mystery game in this vein, think Phoenix Wright or Danganronpa, tends to be as good as the characters you are investigating. Fortunately for Paradise Killer, the characters are well thought-out and I found myself either really liking them or feeling really annoyed by them. The fact that some of the characters annoyed me is a good sign, since this gave me motivation to figure out what was up with them and how they were involved. Some of the ones I liked acted suspiciously as well, and this made it a little heartbreaking when I found evidence of their involvement.
There are also a handful of ghosts around. These dudes are pretty nondescript but are hanging on due to some or other unfinished business that you can help them with. These “side quests” help flesh out the story some, and may even help you solve the crime to end all crimes. These faceless entities are spirits of the citizens and are honestly pretty tragic, revealing some of the darkness that has seeped into an otherwise utopic setting.
The entire plot revolves around “the crime to end all crimes”, being the mass murder of the Council that oversees the island. On the eve of “Perfect 25”, or the transition to what is deemed to be the “perfect” island, this entire mess goes down and the transition is put on hold pending the outcome of your investigation.
There are also crimes within the crime, and it’s up to you to piece together who exactly has done what. You’re given free reign to wander about the island gathering evidence and testimonies and can start the trials whenever you want.
Without getting into spoiler territory, the mystery itself is brilliantly multilayered and it seems like the more you dig, the more you will find. Some discoveries throw testimonies into question, and as such you’ll be visiting the characters quite a lot to present this evidence to them and hear how they react. Eventually, you’ll have a picture of what happened. It’s prudent to be thorough, since often once you think you know what’s going down, a single statement or piece of evidence will throw you for a loop.
Gameplay – Truthfully Satisfying
The gameplay can be divided into 2 halves, exploration and interaction, so we will address these seperately.
Paradise Killer gives you an open world to explore, and this is done from a first person perspective. Paradise Island is pretty vast, with a metric ton of collectibles to find. I would say you spend most of your time in-game traversing back and forth across this beautiful hellscape.
I did find exploring to be tedious at times, but not to the point of frustration. There are some platforming elements which were satisfying at times, annoying at others. Again, not overly so. There is also a fast travel mechanic whereby you summon
an Uber Lydia Daybreak who uses her car (the only one on the island) to ferry you around to the various fast travel points you have unlocked. This is a boon later in the game where you might be a bit tired of trekking back and forth, and saves a bunch of time so long as you have the Blood Crystals to pay for your trip. Fortunately, you find Blood Crystals everywhere so by this time you shouldn’t be wanting for money.
For the most part, I found the island fun and interesting to explore, it’s a straight-up weird looking place with so many secrets to find and mysteries to solve.
There is also some light puzzling to be done in the form of what the game calls “Nightmare Computers”. These basically give you a silhouette that you have to match using bits and pieces found at the bottom of the screen. This amounts to a hacking minigame of sorts, not really challenging but serving it’s purpose.
Herein lies the meat of the game. Talking to the characters drops you into a menu where you can either open your case file and present them with evidence or testimony that you have found. The other option is to “hang out”, where you shoot the breeze for a little while getting to know the character. Improving your relationships this way might prompt a character to divulge a secret they might otherwise have kept from you. The dialogue is always pretty interesting and flavorful, stirring things up with each new revalation.
Graphics – Larger Than Life
Paradise Killer is visually impressive. The island is stunningly beautiful (if somewhat nightmarish) when you crank the graphics settings up to Ultra. The neon lighting effects and lush greenery exude opulence, and the word “stylish” neatly encapsulates this overall presentation.
The 2D character models fit pretty well into this setting, surprisingly so. The character designs themselves are as outlandish as the game’s premise. They would be right at home in Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure with their flamboyancy.
Overall, Paradise Killer is a beautiful game to look at. Visually, it’s oddly understated yet overwhelming.
Audio – A E S T H E T I C
I cannot praise the soundtrack enough. Paradise Killer‘s soundscape is nothing short of heavenly. The heady nostalgic beats are as magical as the setting, and are a big part of the game. You find new tracks every so often, and I just can’t get enough of it.
The only critiscism I can draw against Paradise Killer is the voice acting. It’s not bad, but generally each character only has a handful of stock phrases that are repeated ad nauseam. You might want to turn off the voices via the menu if it starts to bother you. I didn’t do this but I can imagine that it will grate some players.
It’s hard to fault the game too much for the stock phrase style of voicing the characters with such an incredible soundtrack. I will say that while the voice acting is kind of bare bones, it gets the job done. It can also be said that this style of voicing characters invokes a sense of nostalgia all on it’s own. This might even be intentional.
I reviewed Paradise Killer on PC.