Weekly Video Game Review: Killer Is Dead

Jake Dubusker ’15

Readers of my Stick of Truth article may have been confused by my opening statement about my plans to do this review earlier, when my last published article at the time (Painkiller) said next week’s review would be No More Heroes. I had actually written a review for that game set to publish last week but for some reason it got pushed back and was only just recently published in the spirit of making matters even more confusing. A fitting situation, because Killer Is Dead comes from the same non-sequitur champion as No More Heroes, Suda51. I would attempt to give a brief introduction to the plot, but Killer Is Dead breaks new ground in ridiculously nonsensical storylines (Suda51’s trademark), so I can only really tell you that you play as the character Mondo Zappa, an assassin with one robotic arm working for a larger organization that’s apparently funded by the state government. He also might be from the moon and was brought to earth by a magical unicorn.

You take assassination jobs, usually fighting enemies that are outlandish in size, shape, and fashion sense and begin stumbling on secrets from your past, so Mondo dedicates himself to seeking whoever has more answers about his origins. Combat can be described as No More Heroes after drinking 300 cups of coffee. Mondo wields a katana and moves with great speed and dexterity to dismember the many robots that stand between him and whatever giant rock monster needs to be assassinated. It’s very quickly paced and definitely satisfying when you rack up 70-hit combos and are slicing faster than enemies can blink. However, one criticism I have with the levels is that one of the first you play through has an Alice in Wonderland theme, and that strikes me as a bit lazy. It’s a theme that has been done countless times before and seems to reflect a lack of creative effort, it’s basically author shorthand for “put something surreal here.”

There’s also the issue that some plot missions take place in some cosmic flashback dimension that destroys all pacing and doesn’t even end in a boss fight, just a drawn out cutscene, which brings me to another criticism. The cutscenes can drag out for quite a while at some points, early on I got a bit irritated because I paid for a game and had to wait through so much non-interactive storytelling. On a more positive note, the boss fights are the best part of the game by far. Nothing is more intense and fun than going head to head with a ridiculous looking boss character who matches you in swordsmanship, exchanging blows with such great speed, dexterity, and flashiness you can’t help but be foaming at the mouth craving for more by the time you’ve finished him off. Now, many of the side quests in the game are what are termed “Gigolo Missions,” where the goal is supposedly to seduce women. This is for the purpose of acquiring new weapons, somehow.

These missions may sound like they’d be graphic or vulgar but believe me when I say they’re controversial in a different way. The main mechanic is staring at the woman until she’s sufficiently entranced by your “Gigolo Vision,” then presenting her with expensive presents until you’ve won her over, at which point she’ll give you a drill or some other weapon. This can and has turned off a lot of people from the game. Personally I just found it laughable and played through to get the weapon attachments for my robot arm, but consider yourself warned. Like most of Suda51’s games it’s mainly a cult classic, so I advise you to look up videos of gameplay and perhaps other reviews to ensure that it fits your tastes. On the whole, though, I have to give Killer Is Dead a recommendation because it’s everything anyone could ask from Suda, a crazy fast-paced incomprehensible and fun experience with a sort of anarchic and cyberpunk feel.

Next Week: Dark Souls

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