Paradise Killer is a gorgeous-looking exploration game set on a mad cultist island. You control Lady Love Dies, an investigator tasked with solving the murder of all the island’s council members.
The island is meant to the perfect place for its inhabitants (other than the thousands of people abducted, forced to worship and ultimately sacrificed, of course) to live, pursue their interests and wake up the old gods.
Every island so far (including this one) has failed and you’re brought in during the move to the new one, because the council (who dream up the new island and bring it into the existence) were killed.
This is not your typical fantasy setting. It’s not a classical Lovecraftian horror either. You are the ruling class, waking up the gods is the right thing to do and there’s few tentacles around.
The characters include a living red skeleton (Sam Day Break), a hot Scottish doctor with prosthetic arms (Doctor Doom Jazz, officially the best name ever invented) and last but not least, a beauty idol with a goat head (Crimson Acid).
I’ve heard Paradise Killer described as a detective game, but that’s not really accurate in my experience. Yes, you are tasked with solving crimes, you interrogate the citisens, question their alibis, look for inconsistencies and gather the evidence. At the end, you participate in a trial to find who’s guilty.
But, what you do in practice is explore every nook an cranny of the island, get into hidden or locked-away locations and make sure you haven’t missed a crucial piece of data somewhere.
And it should be played that way. Approaching it as a detective, one would want prioritise interrogating the crime scene, interviewing all the suspects, pointing out inconsistencies, etc. They’re all located in different places and the fast-travel system is rather costly early in the game, resulting in a frustrating experience.
If instead you decide to walk everywhere (guided by the cases) and prioritise finding clues and information spread all throughout the island and talk to people as you come across them, you will build a much better picture in your head and you will not miss any crucial evidence. By the time you do need to talk back and forth, you’ll have amassed enough of the island’s currency to hop where you need to go.
Gameplay tip: use the foot baths as soon as you can, buy a drink from every vending machine you come across and prioritise getting the Starlink upgrades. These will all be really helpful to you throughout.
The game is has got a strong atmosphere. It’s mad, but in a good way. Learning about the rituals, the history, the inhabitants — it showcases the best Cosmic Horror while simultaneously managing to make it feel mundane. This isn’t a lone detective trying to uncover a cultist plot. The plot has succeeded centuries ago. The cultists have found a place for them to live, contacted the old gods and built a functioning society. Everyone’s already incredibly powerful and basically immortal. Other than demons possessing the inhabitants and corrupting the island, this is a cultist paradise.
And yet even the immortal godlike beings are prone to conspiracies, hatred, jealousy, rumours, betrayal, ambition and most of all hubris.
Despite being largely static, Paradise Killer manages to build a powerful sense of place. This island exists, people lived and keep living on it. Locations have their distinct feel and purpose, from the high-rise industrial complexes and the small houses of the working class to the lush apartments occupied the members of the Syndicate.
This goes all the way into their language and customs. How you say good bye to someone depends on that person’s birth sign. You would part Grand Marshal Akiko with “May your night be bright” (she was born under the sign of the New Night). Lady Love Dies (born under the sign of Kiss Me To The Moon) is always told “May you reach the Moon”.
Rarely have I experienced a world where everything worked to build a common sense of culture and made it alive.
Visually, the game is set in a 3D environment with items and characters being rendered as 2D sprites always facing you — a look I’ve last seen in Might and Magic VIII. It feels a bit strange, but it works fine.
I do have a few minor quibbles, though.
The voice acting is superb, but only a limited number of lines is recorded. This is common enough, but it’s made worse here by the fact that what’s voiced is not what a character says, but rather the general idea or feeling of the sentence,
So for example, alongside a dialogue like this:
Love Dies: “Who do you think killed the council?”
Akiko: “The suspect I’ve got imprisoned right here!”
Love Dies: “Can you think of anyone who might benefit?”
Akiko: “Why? We’ve got the evidence tying Henry to the murders.”
What you’ll actually hear (driven by Love Dies’s investigative attitude and Akiko’s dislike of poking into an open-and-shut case) is:
Love Dies: “I am the investigator.”
Akiko: “I’ll kill you!”
Love Dies: “The Investigator is here.”
Akiko: “I’ll kill you!”
More often than not, this makes the dialogues feel incongruous despite the consistently excellent writing.
Secondly, the items you can pick up in the world (Blood Crystals, mementos, pieces of evidence) have this strange pixelated look to them. I think that’s intentional so they’re easier to see at a glance, but it just feels weird.
And… that’s it! Nothing else to complain about.
Paradise Killer is a fantastic game, with a unique look, intriguing multi-faceted mystery, absolutely brilliant character design and an amazing atmosphere.