Paradise Killer is what you get if you crossed the tone and stylings of Suda 51’s games, Ace Attorney, a bit of a collectathon platformer, and a whole bunch of dead mall style vaporwave. I first played the demo back during Ludo Narra Con months back and it intrigued me and I’m happy to see that it ended up being one of the best detective games I’ve played alongside the likes of Sherlock Holmes: Crimes and Punishments, Her Story, and Obra Dinn.
Paradise Killer does its own unique style of detective game, with a strong focus on exploration as you travel around the 24th Paradise to find clues that helps you solve the case. The game guides you a bit on potential leads to follow so you have an idea how much you still need to do but it does not hold your hand at all when it comes to interpreting all your collected evidence to figure out whodunnit. You also interrogate suspects, but it’s less like say, Ace Attorney and Contradiction, where you have to trap them in their lies, but more of showing them evidence or asking them about their or other characters’ alibis and motives to glean more information. You also interact them to build rapport so they can eventually open up to you with more clues. You will have to do some exploring if you want to get currency to help solve the case but I honestly felt it entertaining to do, though you don’t need to go too crazy, I had a large surplus of blood crystals for most of the game. You also can get two upgrades that aid you with this, a double jump and a secret radar that makes this easier. There’s also sidequests to do and just random minutiae to collect that adds to the game’s world-building of the setting.
Said setting is a real interesting one too, a world of decadent zealot blood cultists sacrificing the downtrodden underclass like livestock to try and make a “perfect paradise” for their insane cosmic horror gods; the anti-capitalist allegory isn’t hard to get. The vaporwave aesthetic really genuinely helps to build the satire and allegory of the game too, as it utilizes the satirical edge of the genre that mocks consumer culture exemplified in the 80’s mall; exploring Paradise 24 even feels like exploring a dead mall because most of its denizens have packed up to leave to the 25th instance of Paradise, “Perfect 25.” The character writing is solid too as you have to deal with a bunch of oddball suspects in your quest for the truth. The soundtrack, mainly compromised of vaporwave, is also great, being peak chill.
You can actually go right to the trial at any time and can do so immediately once you’re let loose, though obviously you aren’t gonna get the full picture at all. But when you do really put the work into it it’s a really great climax that feels rewarding when you successfully pieced everything together and you can pretty much do that where there is barely any loose ends. One problem though is that because the game goes with the mentality that there is no “right solution” even though there clearly is a correct path to your investigation that ties everything together it makes the denouement of the game super weak. The characters have nothing to really comment about the results of the trial and the game doesn’t really take what you did into account much in said denouement.
The protag, Lady Love Dies, especially feels completely removed from the ramifications of the trial that can happen and you’re just straight up railroaded into having her just move to Perfect 25 even though you can play as her someone that despises the Paradise Elite for her unjust exile and their corrupt society and is only solving the case out of obligation/love of investigating. She also has nothing to say about you potentially executing people she considers old friends which is pretty glaring. This railroading also rather ruins the themes of the story a bit too because it feels like the writers kind of just threw their hands in the air and said “Hey maybe the 25th instance of this dystopia designed by insane capitalist blood priests won’t be completely awful too?!” The weirdest thing is in this post-trial section is that you can just randomly gun down or exile people which just feels tacked on and undermines the importance of the trial and all the work you put into it.
Despite all this it doesn’t truly ruin the game, it’s just a disappointment how much the game peters out in its denouement because of everything before it being so strong.
Ultimately though Paradise Killer is a fantastic and stylish detective game that belongs aside the greats and is one of my favorite games of this year.