I don't need to tell you that Killer is Dead is one strange game. The fact that it comes from acclaimed and eccentric developer Goichi 'Suda 51' Suda should clue you in on that. Much like Suda's previous games, No More Heroes and Killer7, the game is filled with strange jokes and innuendoes that give the game a sense of style all is own. Unlike those previous games though, that sense of style is not enough to mask the game's many shortcomings as Killer is Dead is repetitive, shallow and at times uncomfortably forceful in its jokes. Fans of Suda 51's previous games will enjoy this, but even they'll be disappointed in the end.
Players control Mondo, an assassin with a cybernetic arm that carries out contracts while fighting with enemies from the moon. At least I think. In typical Grasshopper Manufacture style, the game's story jumps all over the place and often feels hard to follow. Case in point - early in the game I entered into a house, found a doorway to an Alice in Wonderland style room, found a cupcake, gave that cupcake to a girl with a lot of cleavage and then fought some robots. Wha...I don't even...who knows. The game tries to weave together a somewhat comprehensive plot, but trying to follow it will result in a migraine and it's best t just let the madness overcome you.
That doesn't mean that Killer is Dead doesn't have an immense sense of style. The cell-shaded style lends the game an anime style that fits the action quite nicely. The characters, for as strange as they are fit well with the art style, even though some of the animation feels a bit dated. The game's eccentric style often makes it forgivable when the game's visuals don't add up, since it's meant to be strange. A lot of folks will compare the game to the movies of Quentin Tarantino, but it's not quite that developed - Killer is Dead often feels like a movie that QT produced, but not one that he'd put his full directorial stamp on.
That mainly is because you often get the feeling that Killer is Dead often tries way too hard to not only get you to like it, but make you question it at the same time. Ideas are often introduced and then never brought up again or they're beaten into the ground aggressively. The game is full of innuendos and strangely under-dressed women and the game is so insistent that you notice them that it gets very uncomfortable, especially if you're playing in the room with someone else.
Case in point, the game features a series of side quests called Giggilo missions. The sole purpose of these missions is for Mondo to go on dates with women and stare at their legs and chest without getting noticed. It's not novel, it's not fun - it's just embarrassing and pointless. What's most awkward about it all is that by being successful, you'll be rewarded with new and more powerful weapons, rewarding the objectification of these women in an unapologetic way.
Gameplay-wise, Killer is Dead can most easily be considered a Hack and Slash, but true to the course, it's a strange one at that. Throughout most of the game, you'll be fighting through a series of increasingly powerful moon, robot guys on the way to completing contracts. When you first start playing, the combat can be underwhelming since you're essentially pushing one button more often than not, but the game has a way to get you into a rhythm once you start timing and dodging attacks that is strangely satisfying.
Aside from the main quest and the awkward side-missions, there's a series of side quests that ask you to complete gauntlet style challenges such as fighting a series of enemies as you try to go up an elevator shaft. Completing these quests unlocks a hard mode, which is a peculiar addition since the game proper is incredibly easy, but it's also a welcome addition.
Killer is Dead drips with the patented style of the eccentric Suda 51. It's strange, noire-ish, and at times a bit awkward - but that only takes it so far. At its core, the game is repetitive, strange and often uncomfortably awkward in tone. Fans of the acclaimed developer will feel right at home with Killer is Dead, but those not in on the joke are going to come out more confused than they went in.