- Paradise Killer, by Kaizen Game Works, is the studio’s first release
- You play the role of an exiled detective who gets a second chance after a mass murder, and you need to find clues, interview suspects and make conclusions that play out in the game’s only trial
- It’s incredibly similar to Danganronpa and fans of that series will feel right at home in Paradise
- While finding clues can be tedious at times and the actual trial lacks substance, it’s a fresh story in a thoughtfully-designed world
Considering the success of Spike Chunsoft’s Danganronpa series, I’d always been surprised that no one seriously tried to make a game in the same vein: a murder mystery game mixed with a bit of visual novel and social simulator elements. Part of what made Danganronpa so good was not only the memorable cast of characters but the equally wild class trials where you went in with a singular idea of who committed the crime and instead found yourself blindsided by new evidence or testimony.
Here, indie developers Kaizen Game Works attempt a brighter, friendlier take on the Danganronpa-like genre. The setting is a magical island called
Jabberwock Paradise, constructed by an organization known as the Syndicate. It’s the 24th artifical island created by the Syndicate and thanks to some demonic corruption, it’s also a giant Failure to Launch and slated to go the way of the dodo. That’s good, because the next sequence (the 25th) is supposed to be perfect. Everybody says so.
Unfortunately, things don’t go as planned, and the night before the transition to the new island, the entire ruling party of the Syndicate – known as the Council – are found brutally murdered.
Enter Lady Love Dies, Paradise’s
lead only investigator who was exiled years ago and brought out of forced retirement to solve the case. Your job is to search the island, find clues, interrogate suspects, and find the guilty party.
As exciting as being an investigator sounds, a huge chunk of it is simply going around the island collecting junk and interrogating characters/suspects whenever possible.
Kaizen Game Works partly describes Paradise Killer as an open-world exploration game, and the exploration part is no joke. You’ll need to seriously comb through every area or you’ll miss something. And it’ll probably be something important. Case in point: in my first playthrough, I missed one thing – ONE THING – and “solved” the mystery by accusing the wrong person and went about my merry way. After the trial, I was goofing off and came across *redacted* and my character said, “Oh, I should have noticed this before the trial”. OH REALLY? asdfasdkjfhsdjkfhsdjkfhsdjkfhksj
In some ways the need to find clues is like a throwback to the good old days of pixel hunting [being forced to find items in old 2D adventure games by mousing around the screen]. No, it’s not particularly difficult, just occasionally tedious and frustrating due to clues being in the most random places AND the fact that there are day/night weather cycles and you can’t see crap at night.
While puttering about the island, you’ll also come across plenty of “blood crystals”. These are the main currency on the island and used for everything from buying secrets and sodas to fast traveling. Yep, you need currency to unlock fast travel locations AND to travel each time. The game is pretty fair with the amount of crystals lying around, but I’m not a huge fan of this design since the whole point of fast traveling is to let players save time going back and forth; having to examine every nook and cranny for Thomas’ English Crystals kind of makes that moot.
Aside from finding clues, chatting with the other characters on the island serves as your main vehicle for figuring out what people are up to. There isn’t a whole lot of complexity in the dialogue – the choices that you make in conversations don’t matter, so you end up just blasting through all the options until there’s nothing left.
Like Danganronpa, you can also opt to Hang Out with any of the characters – and you should, though the game doesn’t really mention this for some reason – because at some point they’ll give you an important clue or two that you can use later in the trial.
One of the more notable features in Paradise Killer is the ability to start the trial at any point in the game. This lets you end the game whenever you feel you have enough evidence. It’s an interesting addition.
[as always, I’ll try to refrain from mentioning any spoilers, mostly because I’m too lazy to use my own spoiler tag]
The final trial left me a bit disappointed, because it’s set up to be this huge showdown and instead turns into your character rehashing notes from your investigation journal.
I don’t want to frame this as a Bad Thing – after all, this is arguably one of the best and worst things about Danganronpa: the game forces you to do the detective work but trials never go as expected, and no matter how good your detecting skills and deductions are, they’re quickly thrown in the trash as the story evolves.
And speaking of the devil, the sole trial in Paradise is a bit lacking, because it’s set up to be this huge showdown and instead turns into your character rehashing all of the notes in your investigation journal, and the Judge going “OMG!”.
Aside from picking who you think committed each crime, there are no real options other than to just keep mashing the [E] button. I’d gotten used to the multi-hour Danganronpa trials filled with minigames, debates, and twists, but in Paradise Killer, there’s none of that. It’s straight to the point. What should have been the climax and grand finale ends up feeling like a B-movie ending.
For what it’s worth, I enjoyed playing the role of the investigator, coming up with my own deductions and ripping on people trying to feed me lies. There’s a definite thrill in the method, and Kaizen Game Works does a solid job here recreating the investigation experience and crafting an exhaustive amount of lore to fill the world. I’d honestly be shocked if we don’t see a sequel pop up in a few years.