My word, does Paradise Killer ooze style. As “investigation freak” Lady Love Dies, you’re thrust into an open-world murder mystery on a tropical island. And not just any island, but one dipped in a radioactive vat of vaporwave punch. This isn’t a gaudy Hawaii after a few bevvies, though, oh no – this is a colourful, crisp Hawaii best served with headphones. Or even better, a subwoofer so expansive it could double as a desk, because I cannot not stop listening to the soundtrack.
Up front, it is a weird game. Amidst the palm trees of Paradise Killer stands a large, purple statue in reverence to Silent Goat, a cosmic god. In my inventory lies a book about an ex-gangster who became a master of grilled chicken skewers. A vending machine begs me to buy a drink, then calls me after I’d paid for it in Blood Crystals.
I think an important part of Paradise Killer’s charm is that, despite what you just read, it isn’t trying too hard. Much like vaporwave’s mishmash of 3D-rendered busts, Japanese characters and neon sunsets somehow all compliment each other, the game’s chaotic additions to the sub-genre still work when perhaps, individually, the elements seem totally opposed. And coursing through the game is a sublime soundtrack, a wall-to-wall list of bangers which rounds off the aesthetic beautifully.
There’s an ease to this soundtrack which echoes Paradise Killer’s ease in being itself. It’s inspired by Japanese city pop, has elements of jazz, the smooth bump of funk, and the bounce of dance. I couldn’t help but pause my sleuthing when entering a new area just to bob my head, or make that “I smell something awful” face when a disgusting beat kicked in – the highest form of praise.
Take the track Lady Blue for instance. It has this infectious, lazy beat which instantly whisks you away to sunny shores, and it’s underscored with these irresistible licks of bass. Then – then it builds. You get a tinkle of piano, an uplifting sax bit thrown in there, and before long it’s constructed a resort in your mind where you’re just jamming and nothing else matters.
GO!GO!STYLE has a similar effect, but makes me more inclined to lash out with a horribly awkward leg kick and smash my telly, or spin on my heel and fall over in the kitchen. Once again it has a frankly illegal bassline, but it pulsates with energy, the bustle and electric of a Japanese arcade teeming with joy seekers.
I’m making it a life goal of mine to cruise down a sunny strip, shades on and windows down, with the breeze carrying these funky tunes and delivering them into the eardrums of passersby. I want them to rollerblade after my car, or come sprinting from the beach, then ask me what I’m playing. To which I’ll respond, “It’s the Paradise Killer soundtrack, it’s from a game, yeah, no, not on Spotify yet but it’s on Bandcamp. Yep, that’s the one.” The people need to hear this.
I think the secret to a special videogame soundtrack is in songs which can standalone, exist without their original context, and adapt to how the listener feels, or wants to feel. Whether that’s on a melancholy night walk through empty streets with busy bars, or as old friends dangle legs poolside. Undertale’s offerings are often in my rotation, alongside the likes of Persona 5, and I know for a fact Paradise Killer is joining them.
Give it a listen, I think you’ll like it.