Developed by Grasshopper Manufacture and published by XSEED Games, Killer is Dead is an action game from the mind of Suda 51. This is a wonderful break from the norm, and that’s a good thing too, because I can’t remember the last retail action game I played. This game is borderline insanity. An explosion of awesome action and zany characters. Needless to say – it’s going to be a while before I forget about Killer is Dead.
You are assassin for hire, Mondo Zappa, a dark and mysterious man that executes deserving targets for cold hard cash. Mondo seems as if he was designed with 007 in mind, wearing his black suit and tie, with matching shades for cheesy close ups. His support comes in the form of a Japanese school girl named Mika, and another executioner who pops in and out of jobs named Vivienne. All of whom work for a tax funded assassination firm, run by a casually cool cyborg by the name of Bryan.
Throughout the episodic campaign you will take on new clients and exact revenge on their targets. This might sound straight forward, but each assignment cranks up the weirdness to keep players on their toes. One of the first few levels will send you to the moon for a hit, which shows how unpredictable the atmosphere can be in Killer is Dead. The game features dark and seedy visuals, with music that could have been pulled from your favorite Anime movie also help to set the tone.
In-between missions, you have the option to go on dates, known as Gigolo missions. The idea here is that you and a lovely lady go to a bar for drinks. Your mission is to fill a meter on the left side of the screen by looking at her face, chest or legs. These missions can be fun, but are also a little nuts, as you can feel like a dirty pervert at times.
After filling the Gigolo meter on screen, you have to present your date with a gift that will fill up another bar made of hearts in the middle of the screen. You must do this whole process twice, staring down your date again to fill the meter another time and give her yet another present. Make sure you have at least two presents on you, because if you run out the mission will fail.
Looking too long at your dates chest or legs will cause her slap you in the face and wonder why you’re acting so weird. If you do succeed at this process of looking and present giving, you will end up going home with her and unlock an upgrade for Mondo’s cyber arm. It would have been nice to get these upgrades by other means, like buying them in the upgrades menu or finding them in a hidden level.
The core combat of the game is executed quite well. Mondo primarily uses his samurai sword for attacks, while his hack-and-slash combos are expanded by the numerous defensive options. After playing for a short time, you will realize that well timed blocks and side steps allow for more hectic slashing and bigger combos. This is what unlocks the glory of your blood spraying executions.
While other games might have a deeper combat system, Killer is Dead is happy in its own skin. Mondo’s left arm is a cybernetic implant and can form a cannon at the end of it (similar to Mega Man’s mega buster). While it is definitely fun to occasionally switch up your attacks from long to short range, you will mostly use this weapon as a means to open secret areas and take out long range targets. All of Mondo’s attacks come with purchasable upgrades, which keeps the combat interesting and fun to play. You can acquire a number of additions, such as new sword attacks or drill and freeze attachments for your cyborg arm.
Bosses are one of Killer is Dead’s biggest highlights. Some stand out more than others, such as Hamada-Yama, a Yakuza boss who looks as though he carries the spirit of old Japan. After inflicting a bit of damage on him, a tiger tattooed on his back comes to life and separates from his body. Hamada mounts the tiger and tries to escape, but your partner Vivienne shows up at just the right time with her motorcycle and you both follow suit. The game then transitions into a driving sequence, with Mondo riding on the back of the hog. Hamada (on his tiger) attacks while you attempt to block or attack back, this is all the while you are controlling Mondo’s bike with the left stick and trying to avoid obstacles in the street.
The chase continues until you do enough damage for Hamada to stop and confront Mondo in combat again. Just when you think you have defeated the Yakuza boss and are about to deliver the final blow, his tiger springs its two front claws and blocks your execution. Now you have to fight Hamada with the front end of his tiger hanging over him! Once you find the final pattern of his attacks, he is as good as dead. As you stand victorious over the fallen crime boss, he asks to end his own life the honorable way by committing Hara-kiri. Mondo grants his wish and watches as Hamada strikes the final blow to himself. You then cut off his head, just to be sure the job is done.
One of the very first encounters with a target has Mondo going to the clients house where you see a girl in the middle of the living room. She claims that her sister has not been the same since being tricked by “a scary looking man”. The house turns into an Alice in Wonderland scene with big doors, little doors, and stair cases reaching down from the ceiling.
After rummaging through this fun house, you finally stumble upon the sister, Alice. She begins to complain about back pain, which has been with her ever since she saw the “scary man”. This piques Mondos interest and he presses her for the scary mans name. Her pain grows as she tries to remember and soon recalls the name. Alice’s back pain climaxes and her body erupts, with blood spewing out of her back and legs that appear to be arachnid sprouting from her. She levitates upside down as her neck snaps her face right side up.
This is where the battle begins, with Mondo hacking away at the arthropod horror until she jumps on the walls. She starts shooting eggs on the ground that hatch into little versions of her. When this happens, you must dispatch her children and use your arm cannon to shoot her down. Mondo continues hacking away until she can take no more. The final prompt will appear on screen, telling you to end the battle and take a final swing at Alice, which severs her head in a satisfying blood bath.
The combat scenarios for all of the enemies you will face are over the top and thrilling. Killer is Dead is all about the experience of non-stop action. You will not find more imaginative bosses in a game unless Suda 51 made it. The graphics are sharp and fit the atmosphere of the game perfectly. This is a very nice change of pace from the in-your-face real life graphics that most games are currently offering. If you’re looking for a game that will stick with you, try Killer is Dead. The cut scenes, action, and level designs all stand out as original and imaginative amongst a sea of games that offer the same experiences year after year. I can’t wait until Suda 51 and Grasshopper make another unforgettable game.
The art style is executed perfectly, with only some of the environments being dull and flat in certain places. The normal enemies could have been more varied, with only five or so different baddies to slice into pieces. Although, once the boss battles begin you can clearly see the level of detail that went into them. Killer is Dead is a wickedly beautiful game overall, bringing a very different feel than your average action game and oozing with creativity in every frame.
Music in the stages mostly consist of an upbeat rock tempo that fits the game rather well. Menus have a soothing tone, which is a nice contrast to the action fed stages. Combat and other sound effects are top notch, from swinging your samurai sword to the satisfying sound of executing an enemy as you slice off their head. Voice acting is good, but you can tell the translation of dialogue is a little off at times. A nice touch is the ability to switch between English and Japanese dialog, depending on what mood you’re in.
It can be hard to understand where the plot is going at times, as the game is giving you the story in little bits and pieces. However, if you pay attention and put all the info together you will get the broader picture over time. At the outset, Killer is Dead is a mystery. I was constantly scratching my head and trying to figure out where the story was going next. You never know what to expect, but the end result is always satisfying.
Super fun! It might be mindless hacking in the beginning, but once the upgrades start becoming available the blood starts to fly! From combos, to counters, to the executions – this is where Killer is Dead really delivers. It doesn’t matter if you are slicing away with your sword or charging Mondo’s arm cannon, everything at your disposal adds to the experience. This is one action game you won’t be forgetting anytime soon.
Killer is Dead sits comfortably in a category all it’s own. This being the first game I have played from Suda 51 and Grasshopper, I found the time I spent with it enjoyable to take in and loads of fun to play. From the prince on the moon, to the giant that stole the world, most of the levels and all the bosses are creative and memorable. If you’re looking for a game that will stick with you, try Killer is Dead. The cut scenes, action, and level designs all stand out as original and imaginative amongst a sea of games that offer the same experiences year after year. I can’t wait until Suda 51 and Grasshopper make another unforgettable game.