Developed By: Kaizen Gameworks Published By: Fellow Traveller Composer: Barry "Epoch" Topping Categories: Visual Novel, Adventure, Investigation Release Date: 09.04.2020
I hate to use the term Style over Substance for a game. It seems to imply that there’s a real lack of gameplay, which in where everything else overcompensates for it. One of my favorite games of all time is killer7, which gets that title constantly, but the odd gameplay feels like an intentional decision, everything melded together well like Grasshopper knew what they were doing, Paradise Killer doesn’t quite hit the mark.
Before digging really deep into the game’s flaws and intricacies, I want to get this out of the way, I adore the atmosphere and look of the game. Bringing up Grasshopper Manufacture again, this game really does feel like a western take on one of their older games. Strange, but coherent. Flashy, but cool and stylish. All of the characters in the game have their own unique design. The world is equally as colorful. While the characters might be a bit loud in the design department for some, the environment is a tad more subdued while still being eyecatching. Music is rather nice too and might be my favorite part of the game and I’m certain I’ll keep an eye on the composer Barry “Epoch” Topping’s other work in the future.
Paradise Killer is an Open World, Investigative, Visual Novel. If that sounds like a mess, it is. The term jack of all trades, master of none applies here. For a visual novel, you’d hope the story and characters are good, for an open world you’d hope the world is interesting, and for detective like games you’d hope the investigation is in-depth.
Starting with the visual novel aspect, we have a quite interesting story about the endless pursuit of the paradise on earth, the perfect city. However, a set of murders happenswhich shakes up the 24th attempt at such. Released from the obscenely long 3 Million Day exile, Lady Love Dies is tasked to investigate the murders and sending the right person to justice and a timely death. The premise is interesting, and the lore is something I wanted to learn more of, but that’s where it stops for me. Lady Love Dies will speak to many a character, DemiGod rather in the game, and while I do think the designs are quite vibrant and colorful, the characters themselves are rather uninteresting I would find myself not caring at all about any of them. LLD has a history with a large mass of them, and while you do get a small introduction to explain the character’s past, the game acts like you’re well fully familiar with them. It doesn’t help that near everyone is rather rude, pushy, blunt, generally not pleasant to speak to at times, just being antagonistic. The game has voice acting, but it’s the few recorded lines repeated ad-nauseum for each set of dialogue and it’s not good voice acting. None of it is jarring, it doesn’t seem weird for each character, but it’s very amateurish, like if it was done on a first take. When talking to characters for a mechanic that’ll be discussed later, you’ll just very drawn out conversations, which a handful won’t even benefit you in any way and is just two people BSing eachother, which if the dialogue was good would be good flavor text, but the dialogue is often not, so it just feels like I’m wasting time. The most important part of a visual novel is the writing and this game mucks up a good half of it, if it had full voice acting, maybe I’d be more forgiving, but unfortunately it doesn’t.
I’m also left with mixed feelings of the open world aspect of Paradise Killer. The world is vast, it looks nice, and there’s plenty to find with mementos of the previous paradise attempts, Blood Crystals, the currency, phones for saving and quick travel, and even CDs to listen to the game’s excellent music. If this was it, I’d be fine for the most part, I’d still have an issue with paying a blood crystal to earn quick travel at any phone, and then paying *another* to actually fast travel, but on it’s own the world is nice. The world however doesn’t meld well with the rest of the game. You’ll be needing to talk to characters, visit places, and such to get info, find evidence, or even upgrade your computer. You’ll keep all of your notes, leads, whatnot in there, it also allows you to solve puzzles to gain access to different parts of the island. Again, all of this sounds fine on paper, but since the island is quite big, it’s often a task or takes time to get from place to place, if you don’t want to pay that is. Since I wanted to pay to upgrade the computer to solve different puzzles, I had no money for fast travel, meaning I had to drag my jolly self over to a part of the map on the other side of the island.
So how about investigation? Despite having such a large island, so much to do, the game is honestly incredibly relaxing. The big draw here is how you can do everything at your own pace. Want to take it slow and grab everything you need, making sure you get the right answer? The game fully embraces taking your time for everything, there’s very little agency. Want to just rush through with little care to whether or not you did the right thing? The game also allows for this. The game can and does feel incredibly overwhelming at times, just throwing you in, but the fact you can either take ages or go full Games Done Quick for the game and it is fully built for that is refreshing. Unfortunately, getting info for putting together the facts from each speaking head, consist entirely of going through and exhausting the number of questions and leads per character, which do add up, and can more often than not, not lead anywhere. On top of that, some characters require payment.
If the game was purely exploring and puzzles with these character designs, I’d be set, I love everything about the game though, especially it’s presentation outside of shoddy voice acting. Unfortunately, everything that has to do with the main bulk of the game, the text and dialogue did nothing but bore or irritate me. The game felt a tad too self indulgent at times and I’ve found myself lately not having patience for that.