My favourite games in 2019 were the ones I only heard of a week or so before they came out. Outer Wilds, Eliza and those I barely knew anything about before playing. Sayonara Wild Hearts, Control, Later Alligator and Wattam. All I really knew about these games before playing was that people loved them, they were a mystery to me outside of that and when I played each one I fell into a hole of surprises and enjoyment. A good mystery is enticing and piques my interest more than a trailer can do as there’s a focus on to explain as much as possible in them. Paradise Killer is another one of those games.
I had only heard of it two (2) days before it released and was already heavily into it from the small amount of screenshots I’d seen and reviews I skimmed through (as to not know too much of the game). I managed to piece together from what I read and saw that it was a heavily stylised, open world detective game and that was all I needed to know to be onboard.
Paradise Has Been Killed
Paradise Killer is an outstanding game, I know it’s easy to say a game is unlike any other and I’ve definitely said this many times, but when it comes to detective games; Paradise Killer is so freeing it doesn’t feel like other detective games I’ve played.
You play as character Lady Love Dies, who has been exiled for a very long time (I will not spoil the reason why) and find yourself coming back to an island that’s council has been brutally killed and is on the verge of dying. It is your job as the investigator to find out the culprit, or maybe even culprits? Where other games would be structured in sections to find clues and then proceed to tell you when you discovered all the clues and move you forward until you have an answer. Paradise Killer does not tell you where to go and when you have found everything, it gives that freedom and respect to the player. You’re only guided for the first ten (10) minutes of the game and after that you’re completely free to explore the island as you wish. Some areas will require you to have an upgrade for Starlight, who is your computer AI partner who will log all your evidence and files, but those upgrades are relatively easy to obtain.
You may talk to characters in any order you please, you could find clues that could relate to certain people but have no idea who until you start doing the talking. It heavily rewards interaction and exploration, while other games reward the player with experience points Paradise Killer rewards with knowledge and here knowledge is everything.
The Threads Within the Threads
There’s the main crime to solve, every other crime will only be revealed to you once you’ve done the work to discover them. You may choose which one you wish to go for first and solve first and maybe on the way you’ll find out more about other crimes. It made me feel as I was actually taking my own initiative in solving these crimes, I was never forced to solve one over the other at any point, it allowed me to put pieces together in my head and act upon those theories I created. On my way to work I’d imagine scenarios in my head, how they’d play out and how I could act on those ideas in my head to further uncover the truth.
Earlier this year I wrote about the power of letting people imagine when playing games and Paradise Killer is such a successful game in this area. Information will be given through text and some will be seen but never played out to you. It allowed me to imagine certain characters in an event, how they would have acted, why they would’ve acted, they’re end goals. It created an all the more compelling experience for me, one that I still think about after completing it a good two (2) weeks ago. Where so many pieces of media aim to show every little detail to you, not allowing you to imagine it yourself, it is such a breath of fresh air to be allowed to use your imagination and piece how things happened yourself.
As I mentioned already, you can prioritise any crime you wish; however, on your journey to solve those crimes you may discover pieces that will lead to an entirely different one and it is your job to put the pieces together by continuing to ask. To explore. Some crimes will align whereas they didn’t before and you may never even realise it until you do that work. Evidence may be assigned to certain characters, but that does not mean they are guilty of anything, you have to seek the truth and the game gives you that time and power to. In my time threads definitely didn’t make sense until I discovered another one that related to it, it’s worth it to persevere and push forward to find the truth.
Out-snaking the Snakes
Every character in Paradise Killer has so much depth, they’re own secrets, desires, aspirations that you will come to learn in time. There will some you love and some you hate, really hate. Nonetheless, you have to work with them in ways to learn more and be able to proceed with the cases. You can question them to learn their alibi, if they can prove them have one and if you can, break it. You will learn about other characters through people, details they haven’t told you themselves. As is told to you in the game, everyone on the island is a snake and is not afraid striking.
You have the option to hang out with people and just have a discussion outside of the investigation, this is a gateway to learn more about them and once you’ve talked to them enough times they will give you information about others, thus the snake part. A lot of dialogue options in games are to create a character of your own, to play a specific role. Do you wish to be mean or nice? To be optimistic or pessimistic? To see the truth or be blind to it? Here it felt more of a way to butter up people so they spill details, I’m unaware if doing this makes people open up quicker to you or not, but I always chose the options that would make people take a liking to me. To lie to the liars, to reward myself by not having the moral high ground but to slither around them and bend them to my will. In other games I wouldn’t go this route as I’d mostly feel bad, but I had such a distain for some of the characters in this game I had no issue lying to them and removing my own spine to feed their own obsessions with themselves.
Adding to that obsession, the members of the syndicate are only keen on completing goals that benefit them solely. You’ll begin to learn those goals as you play and the cost of those goals on the people. The themes of classism and patriarchy are extremely abundant here and the developers disdain for capitalism. The island the game takes place in is highly superficial and that isn’t without reason. Paradise Killer critiques that style of creation, the superficiality of capitalism, that the islands are created through selfishness and arrogance. Islands are not created for the people the syndicate kidnap, they are created for themselves and done by a designer who may add aspects only for themselves. Islands are given the idea of being a paradise, but only to those who it benefits and not for everyone. You will see that for yourself as you explore. There is no such thing as perfect or paradise when it is only defined by those who created it themselves.
To learn about these people and their politics you learn to target, I grew to hate a lot of people due to their views and aimed to take them down for myself and the people they caused to suffer.
I spend around ten (10) hours with Paradise Killer and those hours were some of the most fulfilling I’ve had in a game this year. The world, the characters, the music and themes grasped me so well that I couldn’t stop playing until I discovered the truth. Paradise Killer gives the power and freedom to the player. It is seductive, engrossing. The vaporwave presentation is mesmerising. It all comes together to create and incredibly well made game that is able to stand with the best games of this year and even above them in areas. It is killer.