Paradise Killer - Suda51 but Vaporwave

This has been mentioned in passing in a couple of threads, but I figured this game was interesting enough to get its own.

Paradise Killer is a First Person Open World Murder Mystery Walking Simulator. It’s set on an island where a group of immortal beings generate various island utopias in order to summon gods and trap them in pyramids, except they keep getting invaded by demons, so they need to start their island over. But then, just before a new island is launched, the council in charge is murdered. You play as the investigator wandering around the island in open-world fashion with no combat and no guidance, talking to the dozen or so people left who haven’t yet ascended to the next island and looking for clues.

I guess the reviewer’s notes that were released with the review copies mentioned Danganronpa and Phoenix Wright as referents, but the obvious, unavoidable reference for cool kids in the know is early Suda51 adventure games like The Silver Case or Flower, Sun Rain.

This game cribs from the Suda51 style book so hard, it must be deliberate. In fact, the creators knew what they were doing: one collectible in the game is a grasshopper with the note that “some people seem really obsessed with these”. Another references “Mikami brand whisky”, and notes that while there were many classics in that line, Number 4 is an “undisputed masterpiece”. There’s low-fi distorted voice samples, a weird non-puzzle laptop hacking task, and an assorted glitch aesthetic. There’s a demon (named Shinji) who pops up at random and drops dark bits of non-sequitur commentary. The island is elaborately modeled with (ps2-era models), but other characters are 2d billboards just pasted into the world. Even the gameplay features signature Grasshopper-style jank, with mostly pointless FPS platforming that only kinda-sorta works but is never quite difficult enough to be a dealbreaker.

All this feeds into a general Vaporwave aesthetic, which is kind of the perfect conceptual marriage between chill island paradise and glitch, and is accompanied by a brilliant Vaporwave soundtrack.

The writing lives up to the premise, with lots of weird characters and machinations one would expect of essentially a fully made up pantheon. It sort of reminds me of, e.g. Kieron Gillen’s The Wicked and The Divine.

This is high on my to-play list!

Honestly game of the year stuff for me. It’s a game world that feels like it should fall apart at the slightest prod, but it’s amazingly robust and the central mysteries are clever, logical and pleasantly ambiguous on certain points where your own personal morality can intrude, given that “executing justice” should be read very very literally.

I bought it, but I’m saving it for the moment I can play it properly and without interruptions. I think it’s the kind of game that deserves that.

The complete lack of guidance is definitely part of the charm here, but some non spoiler before-you-play tips (Spoiler tagged for those preferring a completely blind experience):

  • Buy everything you’re offered. Currency is limited, but there’s apparently enough to buy everything and have like 60 left over. Collecting money is a motivation to explore, not really about forcing tradeoffs
  • Fast travel costs money, but since there is some excess cash around, you will have cash to fast travel if you really want to, just not all the time. But you want to be walking around anyways to see everything
  • Foot baths provide mobility upgrades
  • There is an upgrade that highlights collectibles. It does not highlight clues or other non-collectible interactable thing.

The soundtrack is great, and a detective game set in a strange word whose rules you don’t understand is an audacious one. But I’m afraid that nothing else about this worked for me.

The open world is kind of tedious and was adding nothing to the game for me. The collectibles are some of the most annoying I have seen in a game. There are so many, picking them up is slow due to the slow transitions. And they’re literally never interesting.

The voice acting of the few lines that are actually spoken is just atrocious. This might be the first time ever I’ve turned voice acting off in a game.

The visual novel style conversations are as in all games that use them, and I did not get any kind of feeling that the options I was selecting interrogations mattered. It seemed more like just exhausting the conversation tree and having Lady Love Dies rob me of any chance of accomplishment by pointing out any inconsistencies in the stories immediately.

Very early on I almost swooned due to some of the promise of the system, but it didn’t seem to materialize. There’s a timeline! OMG, a timeline in a detective game! When it comes to detective stories, there is nothing better than an elaborate clockwork timeline that hopefully hinges.

Or there was an early bit that promised to do interesting things with the open world. I examined a clue where a suspect was known to have been at time X and had Lady Love Dies think something like “we can measure whether the suspect could have reached the crime scene at time Y”. What a cool puzzle! But I was confused, because I could not find an in-game clock in the menus. Turns out to that the “puzzle” meant walking to the crime scene, looking at the clue, and being told that a computer analysis showed they could not have made in time.

I feel kind of obligated to play on just to understand how the systems really work, but at this point it’s just feeling too much like work and not enough like fun.

I didn’t understand the thread title. It’s Suda51, but it’s vaporware, so it’s never coming out? But then you talk about the game as if it’s out, and the soundtrack is out?

Oh right! I’ve been misreading the thread title this whole time. It’s not vaporware. It’s Vaporwave!

I read it that way too. Perhaps a link to the game might help?

Also on Switch!

There aren’t really systems…it’s much more of a visual novel or walking simulator than a detective game. Just a 3d open world one.

The gems serve a couple of purposes:

  • They encourage exploration by reminding you that you can get places even if it isn’t obvious how to get there immediately.
  • They serve as a record of where you have and haven’t been. Because it has a completely open world, there’s no guidance about where to go or where you’ve been. There’s also a lot of same-y looking apartment buildings. You probably want to go everywhere to look for clues, so the collectibles remind you of places you haven’t been yet.
  • The mementos and skins are mostly just opportunities for tiny little bits of written content. This game is aesthetic first in a huge way, so while a lot of them may be filler, many of them give back story to the world, or just are…“jokes” for lack of a better word. A couple of my favorites.
  • At the risk of disappearing up my own ass: Vaporwave is largely about re-contextualizing commercial media in order to encourage reflection. You collect things in this because its a video game, and you collect things in video games, and the fact that it seems pointless here is maybe deliberate and instructional.

This is part of the aesthetic, like the 2d billboard characters. I’m not going to say it’s supposed to be bad per se, but…the way it’s bad is of a piece with the general aesthetic. As in most JRPGs that have only a few barks voiced, it’s mostly there to establish tone so it’s almost wrong to think of it as voice acting. It works as part of the overall soundscape for me. There’s one song that I can’t hear without mentally inserting Witness to the End’s garbled exclamations into it.

I’m giving this one another shot on Switch, and after some fiddling to get the controls feeling right and minimize the motion sickness it first caused, I’m really enjoying it! Still not wild about the general aesthetic, but I’ve gotten past that and I’m sucked into the central mystery.

Man, I kind of want to talk spoilers, but I’ve been holding off because I knew some people were still planning on playing it.

Still planning on it!

I had to refund this after 40 minutes of play. As much as the open world detective aspect appealed to me, the vaporwave vibe, strange character names, setting, etc… just don’t click with my brain at all, to the point that it was almost physically uncomfortable to play. I’d love to see a similar game in a more relatable setting.

I’ve been listening to the soundtrack again, and I figured that my self-imposed spoiler discussion moratorium has expired, so I wanted to mention a couple of things. Did anybody else end up playing this? What endings did you choose, and / or what do you think the canonical ending should be?

Ending notes:

Basically, there are multiple conspiracies to murder the council, Murder on the Orient Express style, so you can kind of pick and choose who you convict of which parts. There’s enough evidence to convict everybody (for conspiracy, at least, only one murder plot actually did the murder), depending on your mood. Also, at the end, if you think you messed up your arguments and that Justice wasn’t served, the Judge just straight gives you your gun and says “murder or exile anybody else you want to.”

While my memory is a little hazy, I think there were 3 distinct conspiracies: Carmelina’s secret child, The Daybreaks pocket demon, and Akiko’s framing of Henry Division.

Personally, I killed almost everybody, save Crimson Acid and Doom Jazz escaped. As far as my reading goes, they were both accessories that traded in or hid information, but neither of them really took overt acts towards the murders specifically.

I think the biggest question, from a storytelling / character perspective, is what did you do about the Daybreaks? They’re close friends with Love Dies, and they had an entirely sympathetic motive, in that they want out of the Syndicate entirely.

However, from, like, a character and storytelling perspective, I think that executing them is the only honest thing for Love Dies to do. Once you’ve exposed their plot, it feels out of character for Love Dies to let them off entirely, and exiling them, far from being a mercy, seems like cruel and unusual punishment (at some point, maybe if you choose to exile them, they say as much). Besides, the thing about any Syndicate, particularly an interstellar god-summoning syndicate are that once you’re in…there’s no getting out. Those are kind of the rules. That’s what you signed up for. Like, it’s tragic, but I feel like that’s kind of the “proper” end to that story. I assume the developers would agree, given that there’s a special Daybreaks splash screen at the very end if they’re executed.

I have not yet finished it, but it is on my list. Soon! Sooooooooon!

Haha, my memories of the ending are really fuzzy at this point. I remember Doom Jazz and the Daybreaks surviving, but I don’t remember if I chose that or why?

I really disliked the game initially, expecting an Ace Attorney-style detective game. But after just letting the nonsense wash over me for a while, everything just clicked and I loved piecing together mysteries with moon logic. I want to replay it in 5 years when my memory of the solutions has faded as well.

Ninja edit: Sorry, I left unspoilered text for a moment

Re: who survives, unlike most investigation games, there isnt really a single ending. Based on the evidence you found (and choose to submit) you can pretty much fully control who is found guilty, although if you don’t connect the dots well enough the Judge will be unimpressed. So, the outcome you noted is quite possible.

You also do get Judge Dredd execution powers at the end if you decide that the Judge didn’t connect dots that you had found, so it truly is entirely up to you.

Mine turned out similarly!

Except I definitely found some evidence that let me kill Crimson Acid.

I felt really uncomfortable with the killing at the end of the game. It was such a nice passive experience up until that point. I found the badguys and was ready to put them in jail and wham welcome to murder central! Though it fits pretty well in retrospect, one of Paradise Killers core aesthetics was incredibly intense tonal shifts.

It left me feeling bad, but I would still immediately purchase and singularly focus on a sequel if one came out. I want more games like this.

I just started playing this over the last few days because Game Pass. I didn’t really know what to expect going in and man, I was just about knocked over by a wave of lore. The game doesn’t really ease you in - you’re introduced to a grim situation with a lot of strange characters in a pretty bizarre location and you really just gotta roll with it. But - if you can - it seems like a pretty fascinating story. I’m not done with it yet, I’m still wandering around talking to people and picking up random bits and bobs.

Reading the thread, I agree with @jsnell’s criticisms. This is a game about a detective who is doing detective work, but it is not a detective game. All the deduction and investigation just happens by going places and clicking things and talking to people. I guess I should say, so far. Possibly that changes, or I have to decide who to point the finger at. Guess I’ll find out soon.

Also, I’m not really wild about the video gamey aspects of this, you know, video game. I’m constantly holding down the run button because why wouldn’t I want to move faster, pretty much all the time? And I’ve got abilities like double jump and air dash, but they’re kind of annoying to use - this doesn’t feel like a platforming game, but here I am, jumping on stuff and hoping I can reach it and then not immediately fall off because the fine tuning is so difficult.

But all that said, I am enjoying the experience. It’s such an odd little story, with people who were apparently all born around 1000 AD and then got involved in some war between gods and demons that I am pretty sure was not covered in any history class I ever took. Then they learned how to travel through space and dimensions and set up a resort island because, I mean, why wouldn’t you? And they pulled random jokers out of the real world to live in their resort (yay!) because they needed people to do all the grunt work (boo!) and also, you know, worship their gods and ultimately die in ritual sacrifice when the island inevitably is invaded and corrupted by demons. It’s so out there! I kind of love it! But we’ll see how I feel when I reach the end.