by Adam Nix
reviewed on PC
Paradise is here. Well, itís almost here. See, this group of immortal cultists have been working on the perfect island, but they just canít get it right. Over countless years, these immortals made island after island, and finally realized that island 25 was going to be the perfect one. There was just one problem; right before this society decided to move to island 25, the entire council tasked with leading this cult was murdered. Luckily, a ďfreak investigatorĒ named Lady Love Dies, who has been exiled from this society for three million days due to falling victim to a trap set by a mischievous god, has been tasked with finding the culprit and bringing those involved to justice.
Are you confused? Well I was too. This is the premise described to you in the first five minutes of Paradise Killer, an open-world whodunnit. It is a lot to jump into, and although the world becomes clearer as this mystery unravels, it is a bit messy getting through it.
Open World Detective with a Cosmic Twist
Paradise Killer is a detective game with an open world island to explore. Itís impressive to see this world rendered and brought to life and provide players with complete control over the direction they take in their investigation. Want to start the game by investigating the crime scene? Go for it. Want to ignore any solid leads and wander around the sewers of the island? Scavenge away. Want to go talk to ghosts and find their lost mail, be my guest! The game leaves it up to the player to decide their path in this investigation, looking to give them a sense of wonder as they explore the island and a sense of accomplishment as they learn more about the mystery through this exploration.
I want to like this game, and I want to commend it for what it attempted, but I canít help but feel it failed in many of the goals it set out to achieve. For instance, having a fully realized island to explore as I tried to solve this odd, cosmic mystery sounds amazing! Unfortunately, once I started traversing the island, I found so many dead ends, with no reward at the end. Iíd walk all the way up mountains, only to find a blood crystal (the gameís currency) hidden behind a boulder at the top. When trying to get to a specific location, I constantly ran into frustrating experiences with the mini-map thatís provided in the UI. I could never tell what direction I needed to go in or when I was going to hit another region of the island.
Lore, Lore, and More Lore
Although the story itself made more sense as I talked to more of the unique characters in this game, the game was obsessed with building upon its already convoluted world. As soon as I began to grasp one facet of how it worked, it would be completely sidelined by another groundbreaking fact. The issue isnít with the wild world this game lives in, but instead that they donít explore any of the things they imagine.
The game is littered with items that deepen the lore of the island. It hands out dozens of these collectables that seem to be randomly sprinkled around: hiding on beaches, on top of mountains, behind fences, and under bridges. Itís not only exhausting trying to collect and find these items, but once I realized nothing described in these items was going to be explored in any real way, I cared less and less about seeking them out.
Even the items that did have something to do with the story or mystery were frustrating. Some collectibles tell you important facts about the murder or a specific character, but when you are given the chance to present your evidence and describe your reasoning for who the murderer is, none of these items are counted. You can only use alibis, broken alibis, testimonies, and very specific objects. Any of the hard work you did to collect those odd relics or hidden notes is useless for the trials at the end of the game.
I may have found some of the major facets of this game to be frustrating, but there are still some highlights that make this game unique and interesting. For instance, the music provides a fantastic, Miami Beach style vaporwave jam in the background. It was perfect for the setting and fun to listen to from start to finish. This also helped the great tone which the game set. I really felt like I was on a cosmic, messed up version of Miami Beach; like a nightmare where I am stuck in the backyard of a closed hotel.
The characters are fun and memorable as well. Their names alone are truly inspirational. To just name a few: Doctor Doom Jazz, The Witness to the End, and Lady Love Dies. The wacky names usually drew me to certain characters first, but once I was there, they were easy to talk to and overly dramatic in all the right ways. The ones I hated, I truly despised; the ones I liked, I would take any chance I could get to go visit them again.
Once you have collected enough evidence on the murder, you can present it. Even with constantly running into dead-ends (both in the investigation and the actual world), I was excited to present my evidence. It was fun to see the characters I knew had done wrong squirm under my evidence. The game also does a good, if slightly unbelievable job, at believing what you tell them. Donít have enough evidence for something? Well, the judge will let it slide. Go ahead and kill the accused. The mystery itself was well done, even if the surrounding lore and storyline was nonsensical at times, the core timeline and motives for the murder made sense and felt real.
Not my Paradise
All told,Paradise Killerís open world nature with a mystery driven narrative just doesnít work for me. The pacing was all over the place, something that is vital for any mystery. Even with interesting locations and characters, the world itself didnít feel lived in and was frustrating to navigate. The experimental nature of this game, creative design, vast scope, and rad tone make it worth trying if you are a big mystery fan, but it may be best to skip if theyíre not your thing in the first place.
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Experimental and creative for the genre, Great soundtrack, Interesting characters
Convoluted story and lore, Useless collectibles, Poor navigation