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Killer is Dead Review: Stylish Graphics and Fun Bosses Live
Suda51 has never truly won the heart of a lot of critics, and this game is not an exception. For Suda51 is certainly not mainstream, and I’m ecstatic to say that he isn’t getting any less surreal in this game, so my warm, loving heart for him remains on track.
Killer is Dead starts with a wonderful, atmospheric beginning, with noire-esque lighting and a score by Akira Yamaoka that only heightens the mood. In fact, as always, he does an superb job throughout the game with music that perfectly sets the tone with beautiful jazzy sounds.
You soon learn that your playable protagonist is an assassin called Mondo, who is contracted to slay monsters. The game is split into 12 episodes, from short 5-minute missions to long, half an hour segments of travelling through an area, defeating enemies as you go until you meet your contract. It is a short game, but there is so much beauty and fun to it that I can easily forgive this. Also, due to its length, there is no sense of filler, and each mission feels wonderfully crafted and unique.
Your main weapon of choice is a katana called Gekkou, which absorbs blood to boost Mondo’s fighting ability and attack speed. There are finishing moves – or ‘passing final judgement’ – which is one button of your choosing that ultimately decides which extra item you will get, such as re-filling your health. There is also an awesome special attack when you dodge at the correct moment that allows you hack at your enemy for a short while with no repercussions. Even though the combat is satisfying, it would have been more engaging had there been more combo buttons to mash. There are a few upgrades, but ultimately it is very simple – though stylish – combat. Also, if your life comes to an end, you can be revived on the spot by your friend Mika, who literally comes down to pump your heart.
You can’t jump, but it isn’t too much of a problem as higher-up enemies and objects can be shot with your cybernetic left arm, Mussleback, which can morph into various sub-weapons, using the blood of your enemies as its fuel. Your cybernetic arm can also be disguised as a human hand to open fingerprint-sensitive doors. It would have been nice to have a mini-game here to crack the codes, instead of Mondo doing this automatically, but that was a minor niggle.
The infamous ‘Mondo Girl’ sections didn’t offend me as it seems to have done some people. However, neither did I feel they really fit into the game. Suda51 wanted Mondo to be a suave, James Bond-type, but these missions are far from what he is about. I did grow attached to Mondo, so I thought something else could have been done to portray this theme. They do lead to some fantastic upgrades for your sub-weapon though, so I wouldn’t suggest neglecting them.
The main thing which impressed me with this game is its variety. No two missions had the same atmosphere, and as the game continued, I was excited to see what the next area would look like. Similarly, the boss battles at the end of each mission are all unique and gorgeously designed, and all added a little more intrigue to the story, too.
Killer is Dead is one of those games I kept thinking about after I’d put it down, and it certainly will leave an impression whether or not you enjoyed it. The art style is distinct and beautiful, and the colour theme and cel-shaded graphics all add that speciality to it. If you like the surreal, and love graphics that are more art than realism, then you are in for a treat with Killer is Dead. Also, it’s always nice to have the option for the Japanese voiceover.