Paradise Killer (Switch) Review
It’s a completely normal day. You’ve been given clemency to come out of your exile to investigate the demonic slaughtering of a god-like council on the 24th iteration of an island running on a reality engine that pumps out several nuclear bombs’ worth of energy per second and where everybody except the remaining demigod witnesses, a hectoring demon, a handful of confused ghosts and a hungry dog are still alive to speak to you . Oh, and there’s a room that takes you to space.
Paradise Killer is weird. So weird that it is impossible not to be drawn into its quirky, unique universe. You are an investigator at heart, playing as Lady Love Dies, but as a player you truly have little idea of what is going on. After all, these characters have known each other for thousands of years, constantly refining each island, populating it with hapless mortals, before wiping everything and everyone on it and trying it all over again. A demonic infection keeps being attracted to the islands and while the infestation appears close to being wiped out in number 24 – thus the belief of many you will interview that the next island will be perfect and allow for their god-alien overseers to return – there’s the little matter of dispensing proper justice before everything can be vaporised and reconstituted for another try at paradise. At least, that’s my understanding of things – I could be completely wrong. It is all quite confusing. Jargon abounds as you interview witnesses and suspects. You really do get the sense of a deep history, even if it is bloody strange.
There are two main aspects to Paradise Killer. The first is the exploration of the open world. This absolutely captivated me, to the point where I would play for hours without talking to anyone at all. There is just something about the way the island is designed that constantly tugs at your itch to explore, to see if you can get behind that gate or up on that roof. And most the time you can. Paradise Killer is an incredibly open game, to the point where you will often find yourself behind some massive building or atop a hill, wondering exactly what you expected to get out of it other than to see if you could. Well, there are collectibles, which offer weird insights into the world, as well as blood crystals, which are the currency the island runs on. Purchasing strange drinks from vending machines costs a blood crystal, as does unlocking fast travel at save points, and the cosmic taxi that takes you to fast travel points costs a crystal each time. Therefore, exploration is rewarding and worthwhile just for those pickups. You’ll also find jewels which can be slotted into statues to dispense more collectibles.
Although this sounds like there is stuff to do everywhere, the world is a static place, feeling like an abandoned amusement park at times. Witnesses never move from their spots and they occupy the world as strange 2D cut-outs, so there’s always the sense that you might be inside some kind of reality simulation. Armed with a handy super laptop, which of course accepts cosmic upgrades to help you hack more complex locks across the investigation, it’s your job to interview everyone, investigate crime scenes and apartments and, eventually, present your evidence to support your version of events to the judge.
What makes Paradise Killer deeply interesting is that it is possible to convict the wrong person with circumstantial evidence. This means they get sentenced to death at your hand just because you weren’t perspicacious enough. Indeed, I was only ever about 80% certain the person I accused for each crime did it, and was only relieved when they finally cracked under pressure and admitted their crimes before the judge. Prior to this, I took around 15 hours to scour the island for clues, criss-crossing back and forth to check with characters about alibis and the timings from their statements. By then end, it does get a little laborious as you are somewhat sure you know what happened, but you have to force the truth via actual evidence. I never found every clue, yet I completed the game and feel that my version of justice was served. I met some remarkable characters along the way and discovered a strange world with a deep history that was exciting to uncover.
My constant companion throughout play was the incredible soundtrack, which contains some (pardon the pun) killer tracks, featuring 80s style sax solos and some creamy guitar tones that just made me itch to get my own axe out and fiddle with the fretboard. I hope the soundtrack is released on streaming platforms soon because I miss it already (it is available on Bandcamp if you still buy music the old-fashioned way).Technically, everything runs great on Switch, both docked and undocked. I played mostly in handheld, but it was also great to put it on the big TV and see the excellent character art in more detail. The world is deliberately low in detail anyway, taking on a stylistic 3D space to explore. Draw distance was good and it was a stomach-churning delight to utilise Lady Love Dies’ immortality to jump off high areas to shortcut my way somewhere.
Paradise Killer is absolutely bonkers weird in the best possible way. It is soothing to play at your own pace, with a brilliant soundtrack, rewarding collectibles and a deep, complex mystery to unravel. It is one of the best games I have played this year.
+ Compelling world to explore
+ Original story
+ Cool characters to interrogate
- Can drag a bit towards the end
- Really needs a compass or waypoint feature