I originally wrote this article for Gamenana.com — an online used games marketplace — in November 2021. I was hired to promote their business on their blog, and was independently responsible for choosing and researching the topics for each article. Since Gamenana’s website is currently unavailable due to technical issues, I’m republishing it here for use as a sample in my portfolio.
Paradise Killer by Kaizen Game Works is a vibrant and deeply atmospheric murder mystery adventure game with first-person platforming and puzzle elements. The game is set on an island constructed and ruled by a cult, whose ruling council have all been murdered as they were about to conduct an important ritual. Although there’s already a prime suspect — a lower-class citizen with a history of demon possession — there are a number of things that don’t add up. It seems all the members of the Syndicate — the island’s core group of immortal cultists — have their own motivations for the murders, and many other strange mysteries have surfaced in the wake of this crime. Up until now, our protagonist — “investigation freak” Lady Love Dies — had been in exile for her own indiscretions, making her the only member of the Syndicate with a firm alibi for the events leading up to the murder. This makes her the perfect person to get to the bottom of the mystery.
Players will need to explore the island and speak to each of the suspects to learn about their motivations and suspicions about the other members of the Syndicate. In addition to questioning the suspects, players can also use the “Hang Out” mechanic to speak to them on a personal level, and as their relationship with each character improves over time they will reveal new evidence that they had previously been holding back. There are also a number of known crime scenes that the player can investigate, and still more evidence can be found hidden away outside of these more obvious locations, encouraging the player to explore. Some areas are locked behind Nightmare Computers, terminals which Love Dies must hack into using her own Starlight Drive computer (represented as a short image-matching puzzle the player will need to complete). The more high-security Nightmare Computers can’t be hacked into without upgrades for the Starlight Drive, making finding these upgrades a priority. In addition to the investigation mechanics, Paradise Killer is also a platformer brimming with collectables, from the Blood Crystals that serve as the island’s currency to Relics that reveal interesting snippets of lore. These collectables are often found in out-of-the-way places that are easy to see but difficult to reach, always tempting the player to investigate weird nooks and crannies and take advantage of ability upgrades like the Double Jump and Air Dash to scale the awesome structures that dominate the skyline. Although most of these collectables are optional, they always feel like a treat to find, and the Relics in particular provide tantalising insights into the game’s world that draw you in and make you want to learn more.
This feeling of immersion is one of Paradise Killer’s biggest strengths, and is further served by its strong aesthetic. The game has an eclectic visual style that combines with its vapourwave soundtrack to keep the player engaged, and a cast of characters whose messy relationships feel real and compelling. The game is designed to make the player feel as if they’re organically solving the mystery themselves, and it pulls this off very well. Rather than leading you between plot points towards a fixed end, the game asks you to judge when you’ve collected enough evidence to call a trial, and the player will need to navigate a complex web of clues and plot twists as the mystery unfolds. This complexity is balanced by an evidence menu that’s well-organised and intuitive to use, making it easy to keep track of the situation even when you’ve spent some time away from the game.
The game does come with a few frustrations. In particular, the game’s fast travel system requires you to spend Blood Crystals every time you warp between save points or want to unlock a new fast travel point. In the beginning this isn’t too much of a problem, as Blood Crystals are fairly commonplace and there is usually at least one near each save point. But once you get into the meat of the game and frequently need to jump across the island between areas that you’ve already explored, it can become quite frustrating to have to hunt down Blood Crystals just to be able to get to where you need to be (or to end up hoarding Blood Crystals that you could be spending on upgrades that are required for the plot). For disabled players such as myself who can only play for short periods of time before pain sets in, fast travel systems are an important accessibility tool; it’s annoying to see this feature locked behind an unnecessary barrier. This problem is compounded by the lack of an accurate in-game map; although there is a map in the menu, it’s not to scale and doesn’t show much detail, which can result in a lot of time spent wandering around and getting lost. That said, there’s so much to see on the island that getting lost often leads you down a path towards clues and collectables you might not have found otherwise, so although finding a route from point A to point B can be frustrating you’re unlikely to spend too long wandering around without finding a new lead to chase.
Despite these issues, overall Paradise Killer is a thoroughly engaging game with a strong narrative, gorgeous aesthetic, and compelling characters. If you’re here to trade in your old copies of Ace Attorney or Broken Sword, or you’ve previously enjoyed platformers like Psychonauts and Yooka-Laylee and are looking for similar gameplay with a stronger focus on narrative, I would highly recommend this game. Paradise Killer is available on PC and Nintendo Switch, with a limited edition physical Switch cart now available. Why not head over to our Marketplace and see if you can connect with someone who can hook you up with a copy?