PC, Nintendo Switch
September 4, 2020
Kaizen Game Works
Paradise Killer is an open-world detective game developed by Kaizen Game Works and published by Fellow Traveller. It follows the adventures of protagonist Lady Love Dies as she tries to solve a murder mystery on Paradise Island.
The world of Paradise Killer is unique; set on an island created by a group called the Syndicate, it’s home to both citizens – abducted humans forced to work in factories and feed the Syndicate members – and the Syndicate themselves. Bright and colourful, the island is meant to please the forgotten gods from earth, and grant Syndicate members an eternal and beautiful home. However, after many millennia, demons seep in and destabilise the island. When this happens, the island is destroyed (along with its mortal citizens) and a new one is created for the Syndicate members to migrate to.
When you start the game, the island is about to be destroyed for the twenty-fourth time. Syndicate members have been working on ‘the perfect twenty-fifth island’, which they hope will be the forever one. However, before this can happen, the entire group of leading Syndicate council members is brutally murdered. Not long after you, extraordinary lady detective Lady Love Dies, are called out of exile to come back to the island and solve the crime. Playing as Lady Love Dies, you quickly discover that you’ve spent many years in imprisonment because of your involvement in a scandal with a god. Being seduced by the god of damned harmony many years before, your character thought she was exiled forever until the night of the gruesome murders. In the eyes of the Judge – a neutral entity created to safeguard the island – you’re the only one who can solve the crime.
If the premise of the game sounds extra to you, you’re in for a stellar ride, because things only get stranger from there. That’s not to say that’s a bad thing. To me it was refreshing to get stuck into a story and setting unlike anything else I’d ever encountered in a game before. The whole island exudes style in an eighties vaporwave kind of way; the whole island looks like you’ve stepped into a synthwave album cover and the catchy music sounds like it’s straight off said album, too. People, demons and gods coexist on this unusual island, resulting in a string of unique characters with their own distinctive looks and quirks. There’s a skeleton bartender, a former assassin with a car faster than light, a handsome doctor with robot arms, and a lot of eighties-inspired shoulder pads. There are plenty of diverse characters too and, while never explicitly stated, I also felt like plenty of Paradise Killer’s characters had a queer edge to them. For me, this definitely added to the world’s appeal and complexity.
While at first glance, the aesthetic of Paradise Killer felt so over the top that I thought it might be too much, the game quickly proved me wrong. While its setting can initially feel outlandish and otherworldly, the game does an impressive job of drawing players in with its relatable and witty dialogue. Even though there’s a lot of talk of humans, gods, and demons butting heads, there’s also instances where Lady Love Dies grumbles about vending machines or raves about footbaths. I quickly fell in love with this unique blend of witty dialogue and eccentric settings, and it didn’t take long until I found myself humming along to the soundtrack. Paradise Killer’s mix of great writing, distinctive setting, and bold characters quickly made for an unusual but addictive narrative pace.
At its core, though, Paradise Killer still delivers a great detective story with a classic plot and mechanics. Similar to other interrogation games like Phoenix Wright, you’ll be interrogating characters, gathering clues, and reconstructing potential timelines for the night of the murders. Where it diverges from the traditional structure is through its use of an open world. In Paradise Killer, you can wander around the island and explore it at your own pace, which allows you to gather clues in a non-linear fashion. Aside from clues, you can also collect blood crystals, relics, and music tracks scattered across the island. All this material is organised through your laptop (called Starlight), which gives you a clear overview of all characters, suspects, timelines, and motives. You can also find upgrades for your laptop as you progress through the world, which allow you to unlock more doors and, in turn, find and interrogate more characters.
“…Breaking an alibi or finding a crucial witness is incredibly satisfying.”
While I found the open world to be an interesting twist on a traditional detective story, at times the island felt too large to me. Sometimes it felt like points of interest were so far apart that all I was doing was wandering around aimlessly. The game does try to remedy this through its blood crystal system; blood crystals are the main currency on the island, and you can find them throughout the environment. As you collect more and more of them, you can unlock fast-travel points at the game’s checkpoints. Each time you want to travel from one point to another, it’ll cost you one blood crystal.
While the blood crystal system was clever and kept you exploring, I hit a bit of a wall halfway through the game. I’d already used up most of my blood crystals for other purposes and, having already collected most of the available crystals in the island’s environment, was hesitant to waste them in case I’d need them for something more important, like bribing someone for information. Hitting this snag mid-game was a pity, since it slowed me down unnecessarily; rather than getting stuck into the story all I was doing was wandering from one point to another, only to chat to a particular character for merely a minute. In this sense, Paradise Killer felt more like an enhanced visual novel than a truly open world.
That said, when getting a particularly juicy clue or big breakthrough in the storyline, the legwork you’ve put in pays off. Breaking an alibi or finding a crucial witness is incredibly satisfying. For me, this really shows that the wonder of Paradise Killer is entirely propelled by its original writing and quirky setting, rather than its open-world mechanics. If you like a layered mystery and an unusual story, the world of Paradise Killer will have plenty to offer you.
- Great writing and storytelling
- Unique and colourful world
- Plenty of diverse characters
- Great soundtrack
- Open world feels too big at times
- Blood crystal system could be tightened
Paradise Killer offers up a layered detective story set in a unique world with a distinct aesthetic. If you’re keen on titles like Phoenix Wright and are open to detective stories set in an unusual environment, chances are you won’t want to miss this one. With a thrilling plot and quirky characters, Paradise Killer is sure to have you hooked.