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I just finished Paradise Killer, and enjoyed it thoroughly. Like Disco Elysium, which I also loved, it presents an interactive detective story with an unnerving and otherworldly setting, and paces out its narrative using a framework borrowed from other game genres. In this case, a combat-free FPS treasure hunt tells a story mashing up a Max Gladstone gonzo-horror novel with a Spotify vaporwave playlist.
While Disco Elysium’s RPG-based gameplay and slightly more grounded setting resonated more with me, I still had a fantastic time running and leaping and snooping my way across Island Sequence 24. I can recommend the experience to any adventure-gamer who doesn’t get motion sickness from this sort of thing.
I shall now present my three top tips for new Paradise Killer investigators, all spoiler-free:
Spend your money. As with countless other video games, money feels tight at first, and in Paradise Killer it may also feel worryingly finite. The island has more than enough cash scattered around to cover all your needs, though; keep exploring, and you will never feel poor for long.
If you come across something besides fast-travel access for sale, buy it immediately, even if it leaves you broke. No purchase is useless or premature, and you’ll earn that money back soon enough.
As for fast-travel points, pay to unlock at least one or two in every named zone. There will come a time when your wallet will feel comfortably heavy, and you’ll be glad to pay Lydia to drive you around now and then.
Ask every question. Though it may sometimes seem otherwise, you cannot harm the investigation by asking someone a “wrong” question. Go ahead and lawnmower your way through every dialogue option, in any order you want! (This is one place the game’s style deviates from Disco Elysium, notably.)
Sometimes a suspect will respond to a question with anger, or even a refusal to speak about some topic any further. When this happened to me at first, I felt concerned I’d screwed up the interrogation somehow. Having talked to other island-hopping friends and now having finished the game, I feel pretty certain that all these responses are inevitable, and none affect your future interactions with their respective speakers. They’re simply dramatic, is all!
Visit every map location. While the wonderfully low resolution of Starlight’s map makes it difficult to use for navigation, it does give you a handy list, visible from the get-go, of every major zone on the island. You need to visit and explore each one at least once before you can crack the case, even though some of them never come up in dialogue.
In my playthrough, I reached a point where my trail started feeling discouragingly cold, and I started wondering if I should just pack it in and present my underbaked accusations to the Judge. Then I noticed that Starlight’s map listed an area I’d never visited—and which, in fact, I had no recollection of any person or clue even mentioning. But there it was, in plain sight, from the first minute of the game! And, of course, my visit to it blew the case wide open once again.
Good luck and have fun in the grim neon future!
Image credit: An AI-generated image based on the prompt “neon ghibli brutalism”, posted to Twitter by @ai_curio right after I started writing this blog post.
This article was also posted to the “games” section of Indieweb.xyz.
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