Killer is Dead Review
There’s no denying the importance of a deep story, but a killer style certainly has its place in our overly serious, overly melodramatic world. Game designer Goichi Suda (SUDA51) has embraced flash with panache, but he hopes to bring substance to style with his latest work, Killer is Dead. Do the stories of the Bryan Execution Agency make for a killer good time, or is it merely a flash in the pan?
Killer is Dead’s tale of the assassin Mondo Zappa and his assistant Mika is one of very few details — at least at first. Presented in self-contained episodic chunks, Killer is Dead’s feels like a disjointed anime series — complete with flashbacks and filler. As Mondo takes on more jobs, however, the greater picture slowly comes into view. Those familiar with anime like Neon Genesis Evangelion will feel right at home with Killer is Dead’s emphasis on speculation and the importance of looking at the greater picture.
The core gameplay of Killer is Dead also helps to tell its tale as well. Each mission pits you against a target you must conquer and their lair you must traverse. It may be typical videogame stuff, but it does not follow typical game world logic. Ice and fire worlds are traded in for sound studios and mansions on the dark side of the moon. The oversaturated style of each world adds to the allure of each of these locales as well.
To get around each world, Mondo has been blessed with a combat system not unlike the one found in No More Heroes. With his Gekkou sword in his right hand and his variable subweapon Musselback on his left, there is no shortage of attacks at his disposal. Unfortunately, most of these subweapons feel superficial, as most of the game can be completed with the aforementioned sword.
That’s not necessarily a problem though, as Killer is Dead’s core combat is fairly strong. Placing an emphasis on speed and timing, the game encourages offensive play. Dodging an attack at the last second offers a chance to deliver a high-speed barrage of attacks that feels good. The move list might not be as deep as Bayonetta’s or Devil May Cry’s, but it gets the job done. A lock-on system that did not default to the closest enemy would be nice, but there are enough crowd control-style attacks to offset this problem.
For offering such a unique experience, it’s just a shame that the core game of Killer is Dead is so short. Side missions add some extra playtime, but they come off more as brief challenges than full-blown excursions.
And then there are the controversial Gigolo Missions. By allowing the player to “woo” a girl by offering her presents and building up your confidence through discrete “looks,” these optional missions come off as goofy more than anything else — watching your date go wild over a piece of gum is right in line with half-naked tiger beasts and antagonists dressed as “cheap underwear models.”
SUDA51’s Killer is Dead is an experience. It might not offer an epic saga or a tome the size of War and Peace, but it offers an original tale that is anything but boilerplate.
Killer is Dead is one part substance, two parts style, and 10 parts crazy.