The video-game medium is a complicated and diverse one. Sure if you look at the surface you’ll see the Call of Duty titles and the Madden games, but if you closer you’ll see the more colorful titles like Devil May Cry, Pokemon, and “Tales of Xillia.” And speaking of colorful titles, Goichi “Suda 51” Suda is the master. He’s one of the most quirkiest game directors I’ve ever seen and he’s brought us classics such as the bizarre “Killer 7,” the guilty pleasure that is “No More Heroes,” and he designed one of my favorite games of 2012, “Lollipop Chainsaw.” And now, Marvelous Entertainment proudly presents “Killer Is Dead,” a painfully flawed yet strangely enjoyable experience that seems fairly appropriate given Suda’s existing repertoire.
Where to start? The plot’s probably the worst place, but oh well. You play as Mondo Zappa, a hired executioner who works for his cyborg boss and lady boss who are tasked by the government to kill creatures known as “Wires,” who have been infecting people and turning them into monsters. Mondo is joined by his sidekick named Mika, her astounding, obnoxious temper being the only remotely noteworthy trait of hers. Her in-game function is to resuscitate you every time you die by beating your chest into putty. The characters themselves are pretty bland but the plot is as colorful as it gets. The Wires come from evil moon energy and the main antagonist, David, who dresses like Xerxes from “300,” is from the moon and wants to take over the world and Mondo himself might also be from the moon and moon moon moon, talking unicorns, gigolo glasses, magnifico. If none of that made any sense to you, then welcome to the party.
Despite how all of this sounds, much of the interesting qualities of the narrative are ruined by the execution. The cut-scenes are usually long, dull and boring, the only interesting parts being where characters say ridiculous stuff like “I remember now! I took a vacation to the moon!” or the parts where you fight demonic locomotives.
The gameplay is rudimentary. Lots of mashing the same buttons repeatedly and besides some of the terms being overly complicated, it’s pretty standard. If you’ve played another hack-and-slash game then you’ll be familiar with most of them. There’s also some subweapons that your cybernetic left arm can transform into like a freeze gun, and a chargebeam but they don’t amount to much. Despite these complaints, I’d still say that the gameplay is fun in it’s own right. There’s a limiter on the your katana that breaks after a set combo limit (which you can lower with upgrades) and once you break it your moves get faster and more stylish and that’s when the game is at it’s best. You feel like a badass and the pace of the fight reaches new heights.
Another area that’s one of the finer attributes of “Killer Is Dead” are the enemies and the boss fights. Enemy designs are cool for the different Wires you fight. The boss battles are intense and creative. Whether it’s the aforementioned demonic locomotive or Victor, the mummified musician, each is memorable and plenty fun to fight.
Suda 51’s games have never looked impressive, and “Killer is Dead” is no exception. The look of the game is stylish but still feels very dated. Cutscenes are decent enough, but when it comes to in-game graphics every Suda 51 game seems to suffer in this department. There was one part where the visuals were so bad I had trouble navigating through a certain level.
Unfortunately the bad side of “Killer Is Dead” does not end with the visuals. The soundtrack varies from catchy and memorable to dull and annoying and the game features some truly horrible level design which in turn lends some poor camera angles.
And then there’s the Gigolo Missions, oh boy. Thanks to these missions, I now know the proper way to woo my lady friend on our next date. When she’s looking at me I’ll stare directly at her face without saying a word and when she isn’t I’ll stare right at her hoohas. Then once my blood pressure has risen I’ll put on glasses that let me see what she wants most (as well as her how nicely her undergarment match with her physique). And then I will give her what she desires, whether it be priceless moon crystals fashioned into jewelry or just a stick of chewing gum, whereupon sex will ensue and then she’ll give me a drill for my robot arm. Magnifico. Yes, gender politics have never been something any of Suda’s games have represented well but “Killer Is Dead” certainly marks the most controversial of his. Other than the gasp factor, this mode is actually fairly boring, there aren’t’ that many different woman you can seduce, and even the subweapons you get from completing said missions are pretty weak and limited.
As I said before, despite the many, MANY flaws in the game, at the end of the day it’s still fun, even if it’s a very brief game. There’s just enough wackiness to elicit laughs from both yourself and any guests you’d be entertaining and since much of the plot is confusing and left to one’s own interpretation it’ll give you and your guests something to talk about even after the game has ended. So while I certainly won’t be nominating “Killer Is Dead” for the Pixcelation’s pick for Game of the Year, I’m still glad I got the chance to play it.
“Killer Is Dead” gets an 8/10.
- Playing the Gigolo: ‘Killer is Dead’ Changes the Pace of the Game (Moving Pixels) (popmatters.com)
- Moving Pixels Podcast: Swords, Sex, and Suda51 (Moving Pixels) (popmatters.com)
- killer is DEAD (luna.typepad.com)