Killer Is Dead | Xbox 360
Developer: Grasshopper Manufacture
Release date: August 27th, 2013
Score: 3 out of 5 meatballs
Reviewed by: Pawl Schwartz
The first thing you will notice about this game is that it doesn’t come in a slim DVD case but in something more the size of an old plastic Sega Genesis case. Why? So they can fit in extra goodies, of course! Along with the game you get a hardcover book of artwork and design from Killer Is Dead, as well as a CD of the soundtrack, which is admittedly one of its highlights.
Nightmarish, confusing, adorable. Never have cell-shaded graphics achieved anything close to a sense of the visually stunning, but in Killer Is Dead, especially the more MC Escher-style levels, you will see a side of video gaming that you have never seen before. Like a comic book brought to life in 3D, the levels in this game get really trippy, but honestly, not quite trippy enough for my taste. They could and should have played this element of the game up instead of leaving it by the wayside in favor of mundane houses and alleyways for 70% of the game.
I’ll say that you need to watch the cutscenes, but don’t ever expect any element of the storyline to make sense, except for this one: you are an assassin. That is really all that matters. My best guess at the story presented is as follows: in the first scene, you stalk an assassination target in an alleyway. As he runs, he shoots back at your character, Mondo. You (Mondo) follow him, never moving faster than a walk, blocking each incoming bullet with your sword until you get close enough to assassinate the guy. As you go to grab the man, he shifts out of the way just in time to shoot and kill you. After this, you seem to be some kind of undead assassin that works for an agency that takes on targets like monsters, ghosts, and aliens. Your character doesn’t seem to be aware that he is dead or that some of their clients are ghosts, although he does say the phrase “Killer Is Dead” without explanation every time you kill a mission’s boss.
From here, the gameplay changes to a more episodic, mission-based format, which fits the game’s manga style of storytelling. Each mission is about 20 minutes of running around the level killing baddies with your sword and arm-cannon, and then about five to ten minutes of a big bad boss. Repetitive? Simple? Yes, I totally agree, but the best part of the game is that the gameplay, especially the combat, is so addictive and fun that the level design itself was often the last thing I was paying attention to. I just wanted to get to the next group of baddies. Using your sword, you slice, bash, and dodge your way through every battle in various combinations. The blocking and dodging is the highlight of the fighting system in that it is sensitive and responsive. I found myself yelling, “But I was fucking blocking!” a lot less often in this game than I do in, say, Mortal Kombat.
There is also a leveling system, but it is so unexpansive that it is almost not even worth mentioning. If you are going to put something like that in, give the player incentive to actually want to level up their character by actually adding in loads of neat moves and powers. The only part of this game that is actually fun and not stodgy or slow is the fighting.
The extra content/side missions in Killer Is Dead are as follows: challenge missions and a dating simulation game. The challenge missions are all right, but the dating sim is downright disturbing, boring, and sexist. What you do in these missions is this: you sit down at a bar and start staring at a woman. When she looks at you, you hold down the right trigger to mesmerize her with your gaze. Whenever she looks away, you look down and hold the right trigger to stare at her boobs, thighs, crotch, whatever... If she looks back over while you are staring at her body, then she gets mad and might leave. Every time you successfully check out some part of her body without her noticing, your “courage” builds up. When your courage hits max, you can give her a present. Give her enough presents and she falls in love with you, which somehow gives you power ups like a mostly useless drill-arm attachment. Why is there a dating sim in this game anyway? I suppose it’s because the only two characteristics of your main character, Mondo, are that he likes women and soft-boiled eggs. I honestly think they could have made a more exciting mini-game than this dating sim out of something with soft-boiled eggs instead.
Playing through Killer Is Dead is at once a treat and a rip-off. The rip-off is that the game is too short and lacks content. I beat the game in a pitiful six hours and 26 minutes on normal — the day after I bought it. That does not make me happy at all after spending $60. Also, as is the case in a lot of Grasshopper Manufacture’s games, the controls are pretty messy and slow outside of direct battles. Also, for a company that is supposed to make wacky, strange games, this game is more nonsensical than it is weird. Shit that I guess should be funny will just happen for no reason, like, in the first mission where you have to give a woman a cupcake that you’ve wrestled away from a monster. Truly, this game did not make me laugh. The cutscenes are slow as 56k, confusing, and nothing in the game ever makes sense, which is fine, as long as it’s funny, which it isn’t. Rent this game, maybe, but I advise even fans of Grasshopper Studio’s work to steer clear. This game is a far cry from being worth $60, even with the free book and CD included in the box. It’s weird in a boring way, and that just sucks.
Killer Is Dead | Xbox 360