It’s always a nice feeling when a game you’ve never heard of before comes along and completely knocks your socks off. When I got Paradise Killer to review I knew nothing about it and by the end it had easily cracked its way into my Top 10 of the year.
The hardest part of this review is going to be trying to explain what exactly Paradise Killer is. From a gameplay perspective, it’s a first person murder mystery where you have to talk to people and investigate the island you inhabit before heading to trial and accusing the person you believe to be the killer. That’s the cliff notes version, when you get down into the nitty gritty, it’s really quite unique.
The whole island is the 24th incarnation, and that version is coming to an end, with the new 25th island supposed to be the utopia that this rag tag group of immortal beings are hoping to create. These immortal beings worshipping their omnipotent God. But in doing so it means all the Citizens of this island need to be slaughtered for the 25th island to begin, following that event and just as they are about to depart to the next island, the council are murdered. This is when they task you, an investigator called Lady Love Dies (no, really), to find the truth about what happened and bring the killer to justice. Imagine a Phoenix Wright game (if you could explore the areas freely) or a Danganronpa (without the frantic anime nature) and you’re halfway to understanding what exactly Paradise Kills is.
At the start you quite literally drop onto the island and from here it’s up to yourself how you want to proceed. By pressing one of the triggers in you’re able to see what characters are around and can be interacted with. So you can head straight to them and ask questions, or you could investigate the crime scene or simply just go on a collect-a-thon, because the amount of stuff scattered across the island is immense. There are collectables that give a brief history of previous island versions, other trinkets that are just there to be grabbed and crystals which act as the islands currency. These amongst other uses can be used to buy information from Crimson Acid, the sewer dwelling half goat, half human. Yes, the cast of characters is quite…eclectic.
There’s Doctor Doom Jazz, the island doctor who lives on a boat by the sea, Yuri Night, the occultist who seems to have a strong hatred for you, Witness, the masked God worshipper, and many others. Each have their own defining characteristics and secrets to hide. Indeed, the game may start off investigating a simple murder complete with patsy ready to take the fall, but it soon opens up with many more mysterious that will befuddle you.
What can initially seem overwhelming as information is thrown at you with increasing regularity is instead handled really well courtesy of your handy Starlight laptop that you carry around. By pausing the game you enter the menu Starlight and in the front page it lists what information you have obtained, what you still need to investigate and where you should be heading to uncover the next piece of the puzzle. It’s an intuitive system that really keeps you up to date with what to do next if you become lost or unsure what to do next. This is where the map is also located, which is the sole blemish on an otherwise fantastic game.
While you can run and jump over obstacles while exploring the island, the map is incredibly basic. Simply a static screen with a square that shows you your rough location. And with no way of telling you the direction you’re facing, many times I found myself stumbling around looking for a specific area. There is also no AutoSave in the game. Throughout the island you’ll find what look like control panels, this is where you can either save the game or spend currency on fast travelling. The latter is the most irritating as not only do you spend one crystal unlocking the fast travel point, you also have to spend another if you want to travel somewhere else. It’s the one and only mechanic in Paradise Kills that just doesn’t work.
Everything else though is fantastic. The stylish music, the simple 90’s aesthetic, the writing, all excellent. Even the way the game is structured feels brilliantly unique. I can’t remember ever playing an open world investigation game like this where you’re left to your own devices and can literally start the Trial whenever you feel ready. While you can gather up all the evidence in the game, there’s nothing stopping you seeing the Judge before once you think you’ve figured out who the culprit is. That’s when the trial begins and though it lacks the bombast of a Danganronpa or Phoenix Wright, it’s no less tense as secrets become revealed. And unlike those games there’s no Game Over screen if you get it wrong, the game just continues as you live with your actions, whether they are right or wrong.
Paradise Killer is the kind of game that once finished you immediately follow everyone involved on twitter so you can stay abreast of all the latest news from that studio because wow. Minor niggles aside, it’s one of the more unique, clever and interesting titles I’ve played in a good long while. Easily made it into my Top 10 of the year and will be surprised if anything else this year surprises me quite like this. If you haven’t figured it out yet, you should probably buy this game.