The minds of Goichi Suda, better known in the videogame industry as Suda 51, and the team at Grasshopper must be a twisted and disturbing place. All of the games are unique experiences, just look at the previous titles, Lollipop Chainsaw, Shadows of the Damnedand No More Heroes for proof. Killer is Dead is the latest title with the same amount of style, imagination and technical shortcomings that we have come to expect.
The thrilling ride of Killer is Dead follows the sharp-dressed newbie assassin Mondo, a man with a razor sharp katana and a mysterious cybernetic arm. With his assistant Mika and a nurse that rides a giant floating needle, Mondo accepts jobs from unique clients across the Earth and the Moon. Using his katana, you’ll spend most of the game mashing the same attack button, expect when you want to fire your sub-weapons. Placing importance on guarding and evasion, which will open things up for impressive counter-attacks, the combat flows together like a beautiful ballet. When everything works together, it certainly is a stunning sight.
While there are moments were everything falls into place, many of the encounters are hampered by the unwieldy camera and lack of ta lock-on system. Like the previous titles, Killer is Dead is artistically a masterpiece, reminiscent of graphic novels, but technical shortcomings over shadow the style. V-sync has allows been a concern on consoles when compared to games on PC, given that most, if not all, PC titles include an option to enable v-sync. It was embarrassing to see the sheer amount of screen tearing in the PS3 version of Killer is Dead. Shadows are formed by blue and black gradients that blend characters and the environment together. The linear environments feel cramped, even across missions that take place outdoors.
You’ll be facing the same standard enemies across all of the missions. The best fights in Grasshopper games are typically the bosses and Killer is Dead doesn’t disappoint. I won’t spoil anything related to the main narrative, but you’ll be battling against an enraged spoof of Thomas the Tank Engine and a possessed Alice in an Alice in Wonderland, M.C. Escher cross-over environment. The bosses are the epitome of creativity and uniqueness and the primary reason I keep playing Grasshopper games. Collecting various gems and crystals, you can upgrade Mondo’s health and blood meter, used to power the sub-weapons and flashy executions, as well as learn new skills.
Then there are the Gigolo missions, which are 100% optional, but are the only way to collect all of the sub-weapons. A dating mini-game, which isn’t so much about dating, than it is about awkwardly staring at the female form without being caught. Throw in some overly expensive presents to win her heart and Mondo will break the fourth wall, giving you a thumbs up before leaving with his catch. It’s completely juvenile, but didn’t ruin the experience, though I can see how some people might find it offensive.
The technical issues throughout Killer Is Dead are hard to ignore, and the optional Gigolo missions are completely unnecessary, but the focus on evading and countering keeps the combat feeling fresh and a step above other hack-and-slash action titles. Not overly long, beating the 12 episodes took a shade over five hours. That is not counting the time spent afterwards completing the various challenge missions and costume unlockables.
Note: The Killer is Dead review was written based on the PS3 version game provided to us for review.