Xbox One, PS4, PC, Nintendo Switch, PS5, Xbox Series X
June 1, 2023
I’ve been a radio presenter for almost ten years, and I never in my wildest dreams thought about a scenario where I, through the airwaves, would be in a position to help civilians with a crazed serial killer roaming the streets, slasher-style, with no police force available to assist me. I’ve done late shifts at the station before in real life, so the thought of a horror-filled video game that puts me on the edge of my broadcaster seat was enticing, to say the least. Killer Frequency delivers this wacky premise with a good sense of humour, while still managing to provide some surprising spooks along the way, even though its reliance on audio over everything else can leave it feeling slightly one note.
In Killer Frequency, you play as Forrest Nash (great radio name, kind of like mine), who is on air with his late-night radio show, The Scream. Set in the 80s, your producer is your only comrade, locked away in her studio observing and routing callers to your panel while you host. The night starts simple enough with some funky tunes and a cheeky competition, but things take a turn when the local police officer calls in, letting you know that a killer is on the loose and that they have to leave town to get help. It’s a small town, after all, and with the other officer incapacitated, they don’t have another option.
So, when the townspeople call 9-1-1, those calls come through live on air, and you have to help them survive the dastardly killer who is hunting them down… all while creating some compelling radio, of course.
“…each character feels real, because they sound real, and that certainly helps sell the concept in a big way.”
It’s a ridiculous idea but one that allows for some very creative storytelling, as all of the characters in the game are delivered entirely via audio. They are your producer (who you don’t interact with face-to-face, only through the panel), and all of the various callers you’re assisting. To Killer Frequency’s credit, all of the cast does a mostly excellent job of delivering their material. Whether it’s the cheesy jokes being made by Forrest, the concern from your producer, the party atmosphere from the frat boy calling in, or the crackle in someone’s voice as they whisper in fear of a killer stalking them in the street, each character feels real, because they sound real, and that certainly helps sell the concept in a big way.
So, how does a radio host help save civilians from a deranged killer (cleverly known as The Whistling Man, which makes for some chilling audio cues)? Each scenario you’re faced with a different puzzle of sorts, that needs to be figured out by using what’s available to you inside the radio station. One caller is trapped in a car without her keys, so you need to figure out how to help her hotwire it instead (and it’s the 80s, remember, so you can’t just Google it). Another caller in need of help is inside a maze, so you have to find a map to help them navigate their way out of it in one piece. There are some very clever and creative ways that you have to use your surroundings and the items within which I won’t spoil, but they’ve done a brilliant job of fleshing out this niche idea into a full video game experience, even if delivering the solutions (again, while responding to audio cues) doesn’t have a lot of variety.
The radio station itself seems small at first, with just your studio and an office available, but expands as you unlock more doors throughout the story, revealing other floors. It’s smart in that it doesn’t give you everything at once, meaning you shouldn’t find yourself too stuck on puzzles by running to rooms that aren’t relevant. The station itself has a colourful, pulpy look with its artstyle, which adds to the campy 80s vibes. The objectives are relatively clear so I didn’t find myself getting stuck to the point of being challenged, although finding a solution and saving the civilians out in the world still felt very satisfying.
That said, if you don’t save them, they’ll die… and then you’ll move on. The silly and light-hearted tone of Killer Frequency means that you won’t spend long dwelling on the lives lost, which, let’s face it, is your fault for not being able to help them. The fact that the successes or failures are live on air adds to the vibe, and I can forgive Killer Frequency as each line is delivered with such horror movie slasher-esque gusto. It’s also refreshing that there is no fail-state or option to “retry” a scenario. If you don’t save everyone, you just… don’t.
It’s admirable that Killer Frequency does manage to get some effective spooks during its runtime, given it is mostly played as a comedy. When you’re exploring deeper into the radio station to find clues or figure out what exactly is down in the basement, there were moments I genuinely hesitated when turning corners, or caught something out of the corner of my eye that seemed out of place. At certain points, I found real safety in rushing back to my announcer position, playing some records, or pushing some buttons on my panel, so the thriller does have some tricks up its sleeve after all when it comes to keeping you on edge.
Inevitably, the downside to the entirety of the narrative being delivered via audio is that some of the story is over-explained. We often hear the phrase “show, not tell” when it comes to visual experiences, so when the genre choice forces it to be only “tell”, the pace gets dragged down a little bit. When you’re listening to the story play out, there is a lot of standing still and waiting; there’s even a basketball hoop with scrunched-up pieces of paper to throw so that you can do something while you’re listening. This was most egregious when the big twists came later on and required some serious explanation to tie it all together, but again, the performances do manage to alleviate this somewhat.
- Campy, silly and unique concept that works
- Strong performances from the cast
- Has some genuine spooky moments
- Puzzles can be a little limiting by design
- Some of the audio can drag things out
With a truly unique concept that’s different from any other horror game out there, Killer Frequency mixes just the right amount of campy thrills to keep its serial killer narrative moving along swiftly. As you’re saving civilians using clues around the radio station while cracking jokes and enjoying some retro-inspired tracks, it’s hard not to get invested in the story and setting, especially as it features such strong performances from its wacky cast. The pace can be slow at times, but the twists and turns kept me eager to speak with every new caller. You can trust me as a seasoned producer and presenter: this is one radio program worth tuning in for.