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Review: Smart Mystery Paradise Killer Embraces Vaporwave Style

Screenshot: Paradise Killer

I love a good mystery, but solving mysteries within a video game is rarely done in a satisfactory way—if you have the ability to solve it on your own at all. It’s rare that a game gives you free reign of an investigation, and allows you to question suspects and gather evidence as you see fit. Paradise Killer is a mystery that sits somewhere between a noir thriller and Roger Zelazny’s Lord Of Light—where a group of humans used advanced technology to fashion themselves as a pantheon of gods. In Paradise Killer you have to investigate the murder of those who would consider themselves gods—while facing the darker secrets that prop up paradise.

Paradise Killer is a first person narrative driven adventure game with heavy influence from visual novels and other similar games. You play as a demi-god investigator, Lady Love Dies, as she’s released from a 3 million day exile to investigate the murder of the Syndicate Council. Most of the game is played in first person, but dialogue, some UI elements, and certain investigation scenes play out in low-rez images that hearken back to 90’s computing. A very deliberate choice, as the entire game embraces the Vaporwave aesthetic in looks and sound.

Screenshot: Paradise Killer

The art style in Paradise Killer is phenomenal, and almost every new area or vista I came across on the small island could have easily been made into an art print. The sky has a permanent aurora during the night, and the gold and crystalline structures glitter as the sun rises. There are no character models, though, as every character is rendered as a flat sprite—like cardboard cutouts—but they’re so high resolution, and so sparse, that I didn’t realize they were flat images until a few interactions in.

As you explore and learn about the island, you will find you have some allies from ‘the old days,’ but since you’re The Investigator tasked by The Judge to find the Syndicate’s killer, you have authority to look into any area and question any Syndicate member or Citizen you come across. Of course, the only citizens you’ll find—besides the suspect—are ghosts, because the population had been rounded up and murdered in ritual sacrifice to help power the Reality Engine in order to usher in the 25th iteration of their island paradise.  If that all sounds just nuts to you, welcome to Paradise Killer.

Screenshot: Paradise Killer

As Lady Love Dies you have access to a sentient old school Tandy-style laptop called Starlight. This computer works as your way to decipher the numerous Nightmare Computers scattered around the island, as well as keeping notes on your investigation as you come across them. If you don’t have a pen and paper handy to jot down clues and suspects, that’s okay—Starlight has it all covered for you. It tracks Blood Crystal currency—which you use to fast travel, as well as unlock various other bits of information and secrets around the island. Every interaction and clue you receive will show up in Starlight’s systems.

By the time you land on the island from exile, there is already a suspect. But everything about that looks too neat and tidy, and as you uncover more and more information about the island, and what happened, you’ll find that things are a lot different than you remembered them three million days ago. For one, it’s an entirely new island, having gone through at least a dozen other iterations before you returned. Wars were fought, friends were blessed by gods to have goat heads—you know, the normal stuff.

Screenshot: Paradise Killer

While Paradise Killer is played from a first person perspective, it is definitely not an action game. To uncover truth you’ll have to investigate and interrogate. It turns out everyone has a motive to remove the Council, and as the pressure mounts to end the 24th island and start the 25th island—which is rumored to be perfect. The only problem is, the 24th was perfect, too, before demons descended from the celestial cosmos—another mystery that has to be solved. Many of the characters you’ll run across are interesting, with their own stories and opinions on the state of the world. Once you’ve completed your investigation, the trial commences, in which you present your evidence. It’s best to be prepared.

Screenshot: Paradise Killer

Paradise Killer takes place almost entirely on a single island. While it’s not that large, it’s packed densely with stuff. There are always Blood Crystals to discover, scattered about like Korok Seeds. There are secret rooms, clues, and even characters for diligent detectives to uncover. Taking the truth at face value may not be the best option, and even those closest to you might be lying.

Under the neon pink lights is hidden a dark story of class abuse and dark gods hungry for power. The murder of the Syndicate Council isn’t the only crime you can solve and while you’re searching the island you’ll run across multiple mysteries—sometimes on your own, or sometimes given as sort of side quests from various characters on the island. Even the ghosts of some of the island’s citizen linger, unable to pass beyond until you finish their unfinished business.

Screenshot: Paradise Killer

It’s hard to think of anything I didn’t like about Paradise Killer. Its lore is phenomenal, with clues to the truth of things scattered about to discover. Exploration is sublime—not only is the island gorgeous, but it is packed full of interesting mysteries to uncover. If you like vaporwave or a good mystery, Paradise Killer is definitely something to check out.

Paradise Killer is available September 4 on Steam and Nintendo Switch.

 

 

 

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