There are a few games that I’ve been hoping will eventually get released on a console other than the Nintendo Switch – I have nothing against the hybrid console, but I’d rather play games at their full potential on platforms with more power. One such title is the brilliant Paradise Killer, an open-world murder mystery adventure game that was released back in 2020 on both the Switch and PC. Last week saw the launch of this quirky title on the PlayStation 4, Playstation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series, and as part of Game Pass on both PC and Xbox platforms. Finally!
Paradise Killer is the first game developed by Kaizen Game Works, a fairly new studio founded in 2018 by two games industry veterans. Their publisher is no stranger to fans of immersive adventure games, Fellow Traveller – the same team who published the incredible Blind, which I also reviewed on PSVR HERE. Also, PC and Switch gamers aren’t being pushed to one side, with the PlayStation and Xbox versions receiving some new content (including new music tracks), as both of the original platforms also got a patch that makes them identical.
So, after becoming addicted to the game, obsessed with finding out the truth, and unwilling to leave any stone left unturned (and grabbing the platinum), what are my final thoughts on this rather unique murder mystery? Spoilers: I bloody loved it – but, let’s see if I can expand on that a little more…
Paradise Island is a unique and rather unusual place, an island created as an experiment in order to reawaken ancient gods through constructing a “perfect society” consisting of both humans and a group of immortal beings known as the Syndicate. The process is simple, an island is born, humans are abducted from Earth and brought to this pocket universe, they then live out their lives until the experiment inevitably fails, then every citizen is sacrificed and their souls are harvested to build the next iteration of the island – rinse and repeat.
This barbaric and insane ritual has been going on for many, many millennia, resulting in 23 Paradise Island experiments being run and destroyed, with the 24th currently on the eve of its destruction as the final Syndicates prepare to move to Island 25. However, the night before the final inhabitants venture to their new home, the Syndicate Council are found slaughtered within the Council Chambers, a sealed room murder mystery due to only the Council members having the means to bypass the four locks which protect the chamber from outsiders. I guess being immortal doesn’t mean you can’t be killed, it just means they don’t age.
One citizen was found outside of the chambers, Henry Division – the same citizen who had been imprisoned previously for being possessed by a demon and killing his own mother. Due to this, a knife nearby, and the Council’s blood detected as being ingested by the suspect, the arresting Syndicate claimed it was an open and shut case, calling for Henry to be executed. However, the Judge believes there’s more to it so he calls upon Lady Love Dies, an exiled Syndicate member that has been in isolation for three million days! It’s your job to question those who remain, find evidence, discover facts, and determine the truth – solve the murder and bring those responsible to justice.
Paradise Killer is an open-world exploration adventure game, with simplified courtroom gameplay when you think you have all the evidence. However, the majority of your time within this strange world will be spent running around the island looking for clues and questioning the few who remain whilst trying to make sense of everything that happened since you were exiled. Although you’ve been allowed to return so you can investigate the murder of the Council, you’ll gradually uncover new mysteries and crimes which you can also investigate and build cases around.
Initially, you’ll easily be overwhelmed by the number of things to collect and interact with, picking up crystals so you can buy and unlock things, interacting with shrines for collectable artefacts, using vending machines for drinks and music files, and talking to the locals to grab information and leads on where to look or who to question next. It’s very easy to get lost and absorbed within the world, going back and forth between characters as you uncover more information or find items which you can now question them about – it’s all very addictive and time really does fly by without realising.
Once you feel you’ve found enough evidence to convict someone for each of the crimes you uncover, you head over to the Judge and start the trial. At this point, you simply choose your suspect and repeat all the facts you’ve discovered that relate to the case in question, leaving the decision of whether they’re guilty or not to the Judge themself. Sadly, there are no trophies to indicate if you’re right or wrong, you could prosecute and put to death innocent people yet you’d be none the wiser – this also makes it a little tricky as you really have to think who has the most relevant evidence and are the ‘facts’ actually the ‘truth’…
Paradise Killer doesn’t only have a unique and quirky narrative, the characters are just as whacky and oozing with personality. Each of them has their own agenda, evidence that allows you to suspect them of one or more crimes, and secrets that they really don’t want you to find and uncover. Despite some of these unusual inhabitants being your friend, once upon a time, you can’t let anything get in the way of justice – the ones responsible for the bloody crimes need to be held accountable and executed accordingly.
Thankfully, to avoid you running around like a headless chicken, you can hold L2 to show an AR indication of where the Syndicate are on the island – it also highlights which ones currently have more information or can be questioned further. There’s a lot of back and forth in Paradise Killer, you’ll often talk to one character and uncover information relating to the alibi or whereabouts of another, you then take this information back to the character in question and push them to tell the truth or explain why their statement contradicted what you just heard. The same thing happens when you find objects such as a large slab of flesh hidden in someone’s safe…
I loved the dialogue within Paradise Killer, every character has their own personality and you can ‘hear’ them read the words despite being 90% silent. That’s right, the game isn’t 100% voiced in any language, the characters have a pool of one-liners which they’ll often say out loud as you read the text. Thankfully, you can adjust how often the game plays these as you’ll start to become irritated when Lady Love Dies says the same few things over and over again. But, I’m glad it does at least have some audio as it helps you imagine what they sound like when you’re in a conversation with them.
Scattered around Paradise Island are a handful of puzzles and locations you can’t reach – not through the usual mechanic of ‘invisible walls’, but purely because you can’t jump high enough. The puzzles are a combination of environmental ones, such as finding valves to unlock pipes so that water can flood the area and raise an object in the drain, and silhouette puzzles. When you first get your Starlight PDA, you only have access to the ‘Goat’ silhouette solutions, but you’ll obtain three other sets as you get further into the game. These puzzles were simple but fun to solve…
So, what are they? Basically, the terminal you’re trying to access will show you a few images and you have to re-create them by using partial silhouettes. For example, if you have a skull with goat horns, you need to select both sides of the skull and then both of the bigger horns, thus completing the image and moving on to the next one. None of them was difficult to complete, often only taking a minute or so to fully solve all of the images, but it’s a nice distraction from the investigation and exploration side of the game.
In terms of the ‘no invisible walls’ point, I made – I often found myself able to access areas I don’t think I should have been able to access at that point, performing pixel-perfect parkour to jump over fences or climb up the mountains ala Skyrim-style. However, I then realised there are upgrades within Paradise Killer, found within the foot spa locations (seriously, I didn’t find these until I was many hours into the game). These let you double jump and boost forwards whilst in mid-air, allowing to you access even more areas you couldn’t in the beginning.
Having a world with no invisible walls and restrictions is very refreshing, it means you can access every nook and cranny either by figuring out ways to bypass the scenery or returning when you’ve unlocked the ‘leg-day’ abilities. Mastering these is essential for the biggest and most time-consuming aspect of Paradise Killer, the collectables…
There are a number of trophies within Paradise Killer that relate to collecting everything. Some of them aren’t too hard, such as finding and helping the ghosts of sacrificed citizens who can’t move on until you show them an item or find an answer to their question. However, some of them are very, very tedious, such as finding every single ‘Shinji’ (a blue alien that loves to mock and mess with you). There is no indication of how many versions of this strange being are on the island, nor a tally of how many you’ve found, so you could spend hours looking for one only to find that wasn’t the last one you needed. (Hint: if you can’t find any but you don’t have the trophy – it’s probably the one on the Pyramid).
Aside from him, he’s also scattered and hidden easily over a hundred Blood Crystals all over the place, just waiting for you to find and use them. There are also a lot of taxi call-points, vending machines, bottles of whisky, PDA skins, music files, and voice recordings. If you’re going for the platinum, there’s a lot to look out for whilst you’re making your way from one suspect to the next. My only pet peeve (as I managed to do all of these with no guides or external help) is that the developers didn’t take advantage of the trophy tracking on the PS5, telling you how many you’ve collected and how many are left – that would have helped a lot.
But, just like the jumping abilities, I found out there was a collectable finder about halfway through the game – once again via a foot bath. To activate you simply hold a button and every collectable appears as a delightful little AR heart for about 15-20 seconds. I would have liked them to stay longer, as I found myself constantly pressing the button every time the icons faded off the screen, but I’m just glad this exists! This, plus a lot of patience and a very thorough investigation, allowed me to easily find every single alien and item I needed for the trophies.
If you like looking for things and spending hours trying to figure out where you’ve not been just so you can have a second look – you’ll love Paradise Killer.
No RT | With RT
As I stated at the very beginning, I wanted Paradise Killer to come to the PlayStation as the system is much more powerful than the weaker Nintendo Switch. However, if this version was a 1:1 port then it clearly wouldn’t be taking advantage of the new hardware and features – thankfully, the developers have enhanced the visuals and brought the game to life through the power of Ray Tracing…
There are two modes in Paradise Killer, Ray Tracing on and Ray Tracing off – both run at a 4K resolution (not sure if it’s native) and a solid 60fps. The only difference here is you can pick between having full Ray Traced reflections or the original Screen Space Reflections (SSR) which we saw on previous versions of the game. What’s the difference? Basically, SSR gives you a much clearer and almost identical reflection in the many shiny golden objects within the world, but they only work if the object they’re reflecting is also on the screen – otherwise they’ll just cut off. Ray Tracing ensures the objects are reflected regardless of if they’re on the screen or not.
The compromise (kinda) is that Ray Traced reflections are much more fuzzy and blurry with nowhere near as much detail as the SSR ones. However, considering the reflective surfaces are gold and probably not ‘polished’, the fuzzier reflections actually makes sense and they look more realistic and immersive. Sadly, Lady Love Dies must be a vampire as she has no reflection on the surfaces, but everything else does including your flashlight, fires, other objects, and natural light.
It’s up to you which setting you choose, but I’d say stick with the Ray Tracing enabled.
The developers haven’t only taken advantage of the available power within the PlayStation 5, they’ve also used as much of the controller as they can. As you walk around, the haptic feedback kicks in so that you can feel every footstep as the controller taps your hands, the light bar lights up and fades through various colours based on the time of day, and the controller speaker outputs a static noise when you’re near a collectable. There is also the use of activity cards but I only saw one which simply told me how far through the game I was and what the goal is (to find the killer).
As stated above, I would have loved the use of the trophy tracking mechanic, maybe even the ‘hint system’ for some of the trophies to show where the ghosts are or certain hard to find vending machines. But, these weren’t used this time around, maybe in their next game?
Interestingly, there’s a trophy for completing the game in under ten minutes! I manage to grab this by reaching the credits in 9.5 minutes – it’s possible but you have to be fast and not faff about after the trial ends. I personally don’t like speedrun trophies as they force people to rush through a game and often bypass all of the charm and entertainment the title has to offer, but I didn’t mind it this time. Why? Because it’s a ten-minute speedrun, so you’ll do this first or last (like me) and play it properly in another playthrough.
Happily ever after
Paradise Killer has multiple endings – kinda. As I mentioned above, there are no trophies relating to completing the game and/or picking the correct people for the crimes you uncover, allowing you to present anyone as a suspect and slightly alter the dialogue within the trial. There are a few hidden situations within the game, which changes your (the player) perspective on who the killer was and why the events took place, but you’ll probably only find these if you’re trying to find everything and question everyone until your PDA no longer has any more requests for further information or evidence.
It’s a shame there isn’t any very different endings and/or scenes that show up post-credits depending on who you convicted and the outcome you came to, but for such a small team, I’m willing to overlook that as the journey up until this point was very fun and full of discoveries and surprises. Plus, even though there’s technically no branching pathways or narrative due to conversations and/or evidence you find, the game still technically has a different ending as you can start the trial whenever you want, probably leading to the wrong conclusions if you’ve not found everything prior to asking the Judge to start it.
As stated above, Paradise Killer looks phenomenal on the Playstation 5 with the Ray Traced reflections enabled. It’s great that you get a solid 4K/60fps presentation whether you choose to have the RT enabled or not, giving you simply the choice of whichever you prefer without having to sacrifice any performance or visual quality. My personal preference was to keep the RT enabled as I thought it looked better than seeing the SSR fade in and out as the objects it’s reflecting leaves your line of sight, but you may prefer the sharper and more clear reflections.
The voice acting was great, it did get a little repetitive towards the end due to it essentially being a pool of one-liners and not fully voice-acted throughout, but you can adjust how often you’ll hear vocals through the menu. Aside from a few lines sounding a little out of place, probably due to being recorded without context and placed in the game to be played over dialogue which didn’t quite match up, I really enjoyed the unique personalities and vocal styles for each character.
In terms of the music – brilliant. You collect new music tracks throughout the game which you can skip through at your leisure whilst exploring the beautifully colourful world. I found myself often leaving the game on in the background and just playing the music whilst I was doing other things! The only downside is that I can’t see the option to purchase the soundtrack on PSN! However, it is available on Bandcamp, Spotify, Amazon Music, Amazon (CD and LP), YouTube, Steam, etc… Basically, if you want to buy it (and you should), it’s out in lots of places both physically and digitally.
In terms of trophies, I stated above that I was able to unlock them all myself with no guide or external help, but that doesn’t mean they were easy. The vast majority you’ll get for simply playing the game, talking to everyone, unlocking every locker and shrine, and finding all the collectables. However, some will require you to search a little harder for hidden vending machines, discover dark secrets lost within the world, and access restricted areas. Also, as long as you save before initiating the trial, nothing is missable other than the 10-minute speedrun which you can do via a new save file at any point.
Paradise Killer is easily one of the most memorable and mesmerising games I’ve played this year, sucking you in with the request to solve a mysterious murder, yet keeping you hooked with the awesome soundtrack, brilliant narrative, and casual yet intuitive exploration of the soon-to-be destroyed Island 24. Despite potentially spending hours simply walking around as you talk to the inhabitants and seek out hidden items, the time will fly by without realising it – you’ll be absorbed within the world, building bonds with friends and potential criminals alike. If you have any love for games such as Danganronpa, Ace Attorney, or any visual novel with a focus on solving crimes, you’re gonna love Paradise Killer.
On a side note, if you prefer physical games over digital ones, Paradise Killer is getting a physical release on the Nintendo Switch via 1Print Games HERE. It’s due out later this month and it’s not a ridiculous price (as sometimes physical Limited Editions can be), priced at only $34.99. It also includes: Paradise Killer Physical Game, Inner Cover Artwork, Lady Love Dies Acrylic Keychain, A Guide for Investigation Freaks, Numbered Authenticity Card, and a Paradise Killer Logo Sticker.
- Gorgeous visuals which combine 2D and 3D perfectly
- A brilliant soundtrack that only gets better the more tracks you unlock
- Funny and witty dialogue throughout
- A lot of items to find, people to talk to, and secrets to unlock
- Ray Traced reflections without sacrificing performance or visual quality
- The game isn't voiced throughout, falling back on one-liners for most of the dialogue
- Despite having many collectibles, there's no 'trophy tracking' on the PS5