Games of 2020: Paradise Killer

In a year where facts were in question, a game about truth.

And may you reach the moon.

By the time Paradise Killer hit the market, it was September 2020. For perspective in the future when these memories feel less fresh, that’s six months deep into COVID-19 and two months from the presidential election. The world felt in limbo, society near a breaking point.

Diving into the bizarre world of Paradise 24, striving to solve The Crime To End All Crime, I approached it as an escape. It ended up as something more meditative.

Gameplay, quickly: open world detective game with minimal hand holding. Investigate a bloody crime scene. Interview suspects as you chase multiple leads. Name the guilty and bring justice to a dying island.

Much has been said elsewhere about Paradise Killer’s unique styyyyyyyle:

“The world of Paradise Killer is a queer-friendly, cosmic horror bonanza; a heady mix of sun-drenched Miami Beach paradise meets madness from beyond the stars. The lurid aesthetic and vibrant soundtrack is decidedly at odds with the traditional cosmic horror tropes of imposing libraries, fish-headed monsters, and gruff investigators.”

Haydn Taylor,

Relatedly, I stand by my earlier declaration that Paradise Killer has the best game soundtrack of 2020. That alone is enough to check it out.

What made the game feel most unique, though, is the philosophical question placed in front of you by Justice as you begin your investigation: “fact or truth?”

If you miss out on a fact somewhere along the way, does the truth change? Does your truth change?

If you have a fact that is inconvenient for a character that helped you – that might implicate them – do you include it in your truth?

To be forced to grapple with these questions in a video game was refreshing. To have largely free reign to find justice, rather than being stuck on pre-designed narrative pathways with a tidy ending to the mystery was a true joy.

For a first title from a two-person studio, Paradise Killer is ambitious as hell and succeeds more than it fails. And that’s the truth.

Paradise Killer is available on Steam, Switch, and PS4. I clocked about 12 hours on the Steam version.