Paradise Killer for Switch – Breathe Life Back Into Paradise
Detective games can be tough to make. There’s so much to think about when making one: the mystery, the gameplay, and most importantly, the balance of giving the player enough information to solve the case, but not too much that you spell it out for them. For me, the gold standard of games like this is Return of the Obra Dinn, where you pretty much have to figure things out for yourself, and even guess in some cases. Going into Paradise Killer, I had kept what makes a good detective game in mind throughout the entire experience.
Paradise Killer is an open world, story-based investigation game developed by Kaizen Game Works and published by Fellow Traveler. With it, they hoped to provide a different spin on the murder mystery genre of video games.
A World Separate From Our Own
Paradise Killer takes place in a reality separate from our own, where a rogue human civilization is attempting to resurrect dead gods using the power of citizens they kidnap from Earth. Of this group are the Council, who make the decisions, and the Syndicate, who help those decisions come to fruition.
However, the energy and worship on these islands are so great that they attract demons from space. Every time demons overrun an island, they must restart, and thus make a new island. On the 24th island, and on the eve of switching to the 25th, the Council is murdered, and the Syndicate is forced to call upon the help of the long-exiled “investigation freak,” Lady Love Dies, to solve the crime to end all crimes.
Overall, the story is pretty good. The characters are well written, the world is well constructed, and there are themes pertaining to subjects like classism, theology, and the criminal justice system that are executed well, even if there are several typos sprinkled throughout its writing.
Now, as for the mystery, obviously I won’t give away too much. However, what I love about this game is how it makes everyone a suspect with reasonable evidence. As you talk to everyone, you’ll realize that everyone has a motive; everyone was capable of this crime. Their backgrounds and their personalities are so fleshed out that, until you got an actually clear picture, anyone could’ve had a part in this. New things are found out and the pointing fingers could switch direction in a moment.
Free From Exile
Once introductions are done, you are open to the world that is the 24th Island, free to explore it at your leisure with no time limit. Just you, whoever is left, and the island you inhabit. And what a place it is.
As soon as you step out and gaze upon the world you are to explore, it’s truly a sight to behold. The graphics aren’t amazing, but the art direction makes up for that. Right in front of you are walkways and gardens leading you to these tall stone structures that house, or used to house, important people. Then you look a bit further and see the housing, and how different the Syndicate housing is from the Citizens. How obvious it is that those Citizens are considered the bottom of the ladder, disposable, kept packed tight like processed food.
Then you look beyond the island, seeing large pyramids and translucent lights dancing across the sky. The environmental design nailed the balance between urbanism and theological architecture, while making it all flow together as a world that encourages exploration. And while it does feel like a lot, you don’t have to worry about getting lost, as you’ll get an AR mode that will show you where specific things, like characters and such, are in relation to you.
Finding Key Evidence
Exploration is a majority of what you will do in this game. This world isn’t large, but it is dense. With exploring this world, you’ll come across tons of collectibles. It’s almost insane how many things they scattered the world with. There’s a variety of them, too, whether it’s upgrades for Lady, memories of past islands, currency in the form of blood crystals (that can be used for a modicum of services), music you can add to your playlist, and even little bits of lore in the form of items left behind.
To be honest, I don’t think I’ve had more fun learning about a world than I have this one. It’s such a bizarre world, and there’s so many little things to find out about it. While travelling, you’ll probably find yourself getting distracted as you see an item off in the distance that you can pick up. I can’t tell you how many times I just neglected finding out more about the case so I could get that one item I see on that balcony. Sometimes, those items will be actual evidence for the case, which makes you feel encouraged to keep getting sidetracked.
I will say, the process of collecting evidence, while fun since you’re learning more about this looming mystery, won’t require much skill. A lot of stuff will be given to you, where only some things are fairly well hidden that you’ll need to go out of your way to find it. Conversation is the easiest part of all this.
As the second half of the gameplay, talking to people is a trivial process. When you approach someone, you’ll get the choice to talk to them about evidence pertaining to the case, or hang out with them. In the former, you choose leads or evidence to present to them and hear their response, which may or may not add more evidence or leads. When you choose the latter you’ll just talk with them, find out more about them, and your friendship level with them will increase. As you increase your friendship with them, they’ll start to tell you more about certain leads or evidence now that they trust you more.
Now you do get choices during these dialogs as to how Lady responds, but I don’t believe they change much. These choices are just ways to give Lady a bit more personality, it seems. But you’ll never lock yourself out of an option to gain evidence, unless you just run out of blood crystals (which is hard, considering how many there are).
An Investigator’s Best Friend
And you don’t really need to write anything down, as you’ll have this device called Starlight. Starlight will collect all the evidence and organize it to how it pertains to a certain mystery or suspect. It will also keep all collectibles you find so you can look back on their rather bizarre descriptions, or if you just want to listen to a specific song without waiting for it to cycle in.
Speaking of the music, keeping with the aesthetic of the 80s, Paradise Killer has a great soundtrack. The only way I could describe it is a mixture of synth, vaporwave, and 80s cop drama music. And when they step outside of that genre of music in specific locations, it’s a surprise, but a pleasant one.
In addition, the audio design itself is pretty fun, and extremely helpful when looking for items. Every item seems to emit static noise, allowing you to find them easier by tracking them through their sound. You’ll be hearing sounds pretty similar to this when working your magic on the world of the 24th Island, like dial-up sounds and old computers booting up. They really try to stick to that aesthetic.
Cracks in the Testimony
However, while we’re on the topic of audio, I would like to get into some of the problems I have with Paradise. First off, while the limited voice acting is relatively fine, I do find the frequency and context in which they are used to be an issue. For example, when talking to a character, their text dialog says one thing, and yet they bark something completely unrelated, and then repeat that same line during the next line of text. In addition, there is one character who’s vulgar and aggressive voice lines kept playing, which made me want to talk to them the least.
Another problem I have is the puzzles. Throughout the game, there are about two kinds of puzzles. One where you interact with stuff in a certain order, and the hacking minigame where you match shapes up with pictures. Both don’t require a whole lot of thinking, so it just feels like busy work to make the game be more like a game and it just seems unnecessary.
And, while this can be seen as a good thing, I do think that that balance I spoke of earlier, between giving you enough information and not spelling it out for you, isn’t the best. By the end of the game, you’ll know the whole story. The trial process at the end won’t give you much room to screw up unless you go directly out of your way to accuse the wrong person. Some characters even slip up during questioning in a not too convincing way, basically giving you the evidence you’ll use against them when that would be a perfect way to speculate over it yourself.
Overall, what Paradise Killer delivers is a relaxing, yet intriguing murder mystery in an extremely unique world filled with tons of things to find and plenty of themes to connect to. If you go to the trouble of trying to find every piece of evidence to cover every base when the trials start, it will keep you busy for at least 10 hours. And for being on the Switch, it runs really well for being such a densely packed world without turning the visuals into a blurry mess, even while undocked.
For twenty dollars, I’d say Paradise Killer is a fantastic grab for those of you who have an interest in murder mysteries. If games like Danganronpa, Ace Attorney, or Return of the Obra Dinn are your kind of thing, I’d recommend Paradise Killer.
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Reviewed by Freelance7 on Switch. Game provided by Fellow Traveller.