Replay Value:
Overall Rating:
Online Gameplay:
Not Rated
Grasshopper Manufacture
Kadokawa Games
Number Of Players:
Release Date:
August 27, 2013

There are times when you wish a game’s captivating style would automatically translate to quality and success. Grasshopper Manufacture has always delivered a singular, compelling style. Lollipop Chainsaw was distinctly tongue-in-cheek with plenty of over-the-top action and humor, while Shadows of the Damned adopted a similar tone, only with a much darker, otherworldly theme superimposed over that quirky backdrop. You know this team made Killer is Dead ; their signature is on every slice, every line of dialogue, and every carefully aimed camera shot. Problem is, the game isn’t any good .

Visually, the team tried a different artistic style. It appears to be an aggressive, highly creative cel-shading that results in an interesting presentation. At first glance, the colors appear muted and understated for the sake of the artistic approach. But then you see some brightly – and crazily – designed levels, along with meticulously crafted and appropriately freakish foes. The blood effects are just out of control . Due to the niche nature of the graphics, most players will either fully connect with the visual flourish, or they’ll really dislike it. I found it somewhat disconcerting but I appreciated the effort.

Those who are familiar with hardcore Japanese productions such as this won’t be surprised at the audio. There are heavy-hitting metal tracks mixed with electro undertones, and the voice performances are purposely exaggerated. Considering the production, this works. But not everyone will like it; for instance, many might find Mika absolutely insufferable. I have to admit, her childish ranting, while common in the world of Japanese culture and anime, really grated. Mondo is too one-dimensional, as are most of the actors. Only the special effects really stand out, which means you’ll be craving a return to action when watching one of the many cut-scenes.

As you might infer from the title, Killer is Dead is loaded with action. Mondo Zappa is a killer of killers, an assassin who hunts predators. He’s armed with a katana and a special high-tech left arm, which is essentially a sci-fi long-range weapon. With his speed and power, Mondo is well prepared. However, this isn’t about one dude running around slashing a million enemies with reckless abandon. What he must face is often demonic in nature, and you’ll notice a twisted creepiness the minute you start. Sure, Mondo is basically superhuman but then again, he needs to be. The darkness is very real and the supernatural beings aren’t playing nice.

The story has plenty of promise and given that awfully intriguing visual style, you’re immediately interested. It’s creepy, dark, and oddly thrilling. In many ways, it reminds me of the film “Sin City,” only with a lot more horribly deranged monsters. This is why I said you’ll immediately recognize this as a Grasshopper production. It has all the earmarks of that talented team, and the foundation is rock solid. …but then you start to move and fight, and that’s when a palpable sense of disappointment sets in. You tell yourself— “Okay, I can deal with it; it’s just a little loose and I’ll get used to it.” But try as you might, you never really do.

It’s just so crippling. The movement is too fast and loose, so you don’t feel as if you’re in full control. This is a serious issue, especially when playing a game that requires a mastery of fast-action concepts. Then you toss in a wild camera that’s even looser than the base control, and you get a gameplay mechanic that is, sadly, the polar opposite of “stable.” With a gentle hand, you can deal with these drawbacks. Still, you get tired of battling such mechanical issues within the first hour and eventually, you realize the adventure is a chore. Nobody likes a chore. Gaming is about entertainment; it’s what you do to relax after your daily chores.