Paradise Killer review: A unique vaporwave-style whodunnit

Bloodstained utopia, here I come!

Paradise Killer
(Image: © Kaizen Game Works)

Over the years, most of the detective games that have come out have largely remained the same: follow a linear path filled with clues and evidence to find, and at the end, piece together the solution to the mystery. It's a tried and true formula, but Paradise Killer, a new whodunnit from Kaizen Game Works, breaks the mold by making the experience completely non-linear in a semi-open world. And when you pair that compelling formula mix-up with a style drenched in vaporwave and a charming cast of characters, you end up with one of the most compelling detective games in recent memory.

What you'll love about Paradise Killer

Paradise Killer

Source: Kaizen Game Works (Image credit: Source: Kaizen Game Works)

As is the case with any stellar detective game, the best part of Paradise Killer is its investigation gameplay. Your job is to find out who murdered the governing council of a utopian island full of people trying to resurrect alien gods (it's complicated), and it's up to you to decide where, when, and how you go about this — a luxury rarely afforded to you in these games. Nearly all of the different areas and characters on the island are accessible right out of the gate, meaning that you can approach solving this mystery however you like. The miniature open world is full of countless clues, pieces of evidence, and lore, incentivizing thorough exploration. In addition, choosing your words wisely in interviews with the island residents will reveal new information to you about potential suspects.

All of this may sound daunting to keep track of, but Paradise Killer's helpful computer companion records all the information you learn and connects the evidence to characters for you. This allows you to keep up with the case as it develops painlessly, which is important since you will eventually need to sit down with all of your evidence and try to piece together the truth. Plus, the laid back nature of the game means that you can take as much time as you need to come to your conclusions.

In addition to the core investigation mechanics, the game's characters are excellent too. Whether you're interviewing a crimson-colored skeleton in a fancy jacket or the sassy driver that drops you off at the start of the game, there's always an interesting personality to talk to...or be suspicious of. Each of these characters has their own beliefs, and depending on which characters you take a liking to, your opinions may clash with the evidence you find.

Finally, Paradise Killer's overall presentation is awesome. The entire world has a colorful, 80s vaporwave-style look to it, and the game's idea of putting 2D character sprites into a 3D environment is charming. When you enter a conversation, Paradise Killer goes into a visual novel mode where text streams across the screen accompanied by a pleasant typewriting sound. This is all wrapped together nicely by a catchy vaporwave soundtrack, ensuring that you always have a nice tune to jam to during the crime-solving adventure.

What you'll love less about Paradise Killer

The only issue I have with Paradise Killer is that the voice acting could be better. Some of the lines have a monotone delivery that doesn't match the dialogue, which can be annoying. Then again, there are very few voiced lines in the game, meaning that this problem is rare. It's worth mentioning, but it doesn't take much away from the experience.

Should you buy Paradise Killer?

Paradise Killer

Source: Kaizen Game Works (Image credit: Source: Kaizen Game Works)

Ultimately, between its strong investigation gameplay, excellent world and characters, and awesome presentation, Paradise Killer is one of the most impressive detective games I've seen in years. Over the course of my 17-hour playthrough, I was consistently engaged with the mystery at hand and never once felt bored. And even though I made my accusation and finished the game thinking I chose right, I have an urge to start over and see if I missed anything that could change my mind.

If you like detective games, you should absolutely check out Paradise Killer. It's one of the most enjoyable games of 2020, hands down.

Paradise Killer is available on PC through Steam for $20 normally, but right now it's on sale for $16. It's also available on Nintendo Switch.

Brendan Lowry

Brendan Lowry is a Windows Central writer and Oakland University graduate with a burning passion for video games, of which he's been an avid fan since childhood. You'll find him doing reviews, editorials, and general coverage on everything Xbox and PC. Follow him on Twitter.