Growing up, I loved the concept of “weird”. I would love to describe myself as weird, and would consistently go out of my way to do weird things, both to differentiate myself in school, but also to see and feel different experiences. Being almost 30, I’ve toned down in that regard, but “weird” is the only word that comes to mind when I think of my time in Grasshopper Manufacture’s Killer is Dead.
The game, boiled down to it’s core components, is a hack and slash interlaced with a dating simulator. You play as Mondo, an emo gentleman that has a robotic arm that no one takes notice of, and who is pretty agile with a sword. Mondo works for an execution firm (as weird as that may sound) and so takes on contracts to kill nuisances in the paranormal (and normal) world. The first mission, for example, is to explore a house reminiscent of Alice in Wonderland, complete with upside down stairs, rose gardens, and a blonde lady named Alice. By the end of the mission you’re taking on Spiders with human faces, and destroying all in your way, all to complete the contract.
This weird state of affairs may seem odd at first, but you soon get used to it, mainly because no one else in the world gives a shit or thinks it’s normal. This weird and wonderful premise means that the developers were able to go crazy with some ideas, like having a palace on the moon which people can visit with no issues, or skeleton monsters which nick peoples ears to listen to music more easily. Once you get immersed in the weirdness, it’s strange how little it all phases you when new things come up, so much so that I’m even now, weeks after finishing the game, thinking about some of the moments I saw, and realising how awesome they truly were.
Aestehtically, Killer is Dead’s Noiré vibe fits right at home with the paranormal and technical elements on display. I couldn’t help but get vibes of Devil May Cry, or even Cowboy Bebop throughout my whole time in the game. It felt, and looks incredible, even when some areas are so dark you find it hard to see enemies – aesthetics above all else as they say.
So whilst it’s weird on the setting and aesthetics front, how does the gameplay hold up? Well, I for one love hack and slash games, with Killer is Dead easily being on of the most stylish, and enjoyable ones I’ve played in quite a few years. The usual controls work out fine here: press the X button to attack continuously, Y to break enemies guard, and B to dodge or deflect attacks coming at you. Dodge an attack at just the right time, and you’ll have the ability to slice and dice your opponent for quite a while – a god send in boss fights and brilliant for getting your combo up.
What’s worth mentioning in this standard action affair is the absolute style pouring out of every action Mondo performs. Every movement to begin with is slow and melodic, making combo breaking all the more frustrating should it ever occur. But should you get into a rythme of dodging enemies attacks and dealing a huge amount of damage, Mondo proceeds to move around the stage in more exuberant and stylish ways, with him even going so far as to do flips and somersaults with each attack he performs. This style is stunning, and kept me well in awe even in the final moments of the game.
Music wise, the game is absolutely stellar, with Killer is Dead’s soundtrack all feeding back to the Noiré feeling. During fights and the many, many cutscenes I couldn’t help but get engrossed in the gorgeous presentation and soundtrack that all made the world of Killer is Dead feel so real. The fact that the music manages to jump between mellow noiré and action tempo’s so quickly is also commendable, and had me engrossed all the way through. One things for certain, I’m going to be listening to this soundtrack for a long time to come.
The romantic side quests are funny, and fairly entertaining, but do little to add to the game itself. My biggest annoyance with them was the fact that they were more buggy than the actual game, and as such, every time I participated in one the game froze so I had to restart the PC (couldn’t even get back to windows it crashed that hard). This may be because the romance missions are side-objectives and not actually essential to the game (so less care was given to bugs), it’s just annoying I wasn’t able to unlock every weapon (which are given as rewards for successful side quests) due to the annoying bugs present.
Overall, I’m annoyed at myself for not having played Killer is Dead sooner. Everything about the game, from it’s characters, to it’s gorgeous environments, to even the weird ways in which the world finds new ways to surprise you, talked to me on an emotional level. Weird is certainly one word for Killer is Dead, but that’s what makes it unique, and as such, a true delight to experience.