I like to be challenged in the art department. I like my art to be confrontational, emotive, engaging in the headspace. I love my obscurities, my non-mainstream, my fringe. I listen to free jazz, mexican death metal, j-punk, and all the genres in between; Lynch and Cronenberg and Jarman and Kaurismäki and Jeunet are all welcome visitors in my home.
But Killer7 is absolutely, positively, one-hundred-percent, completely batshit insane.
It’s also utterly brilliant.
And it’s also an incredibly polarising game – more marmite than Space Giraffe, as incredulous as that may seem. Killer7 offers the gamer every opportunity to hate it: from the harsh and occasionally garish cel-shaded graphics, to the minimally-interactive on-rails action, to the deliberately obtuse plot. Having to stop movement, take an attacking stance, scan for the enemy you know is there, then wibble your gunsight around the screen to attack the source of the mocking laughter in your ears. Lift off A, hold R, hit L, move stick, whack A, twiddle C. Not exactly the most overt control scheme.
And yet, it carries its head high. Killer7 is a distilled production, the essence of style. Suda51‘s brainchild is clearly of greater value than the sum of its parts – the caustic gameplay, glorious anime cutscenes, and eerie aurals meld into a cohesive package that rivals Rez in terms of its completeness.
Yes, the game is pretty short – 15 hours for my first play-through. Yes, the puzzles are pretty basic in nature (necessarily so, given their somewhat eccentric solutions). The inbuilt hint system is a laugh – the idea of having a helpful hint-provider turning into an abusive bastard (with double-deuce action) merely by shooting his lucha libre mask is… well, different. Then again, humour is everywhere – one of the first blood-splatters you see on the wall says “How Soon Is Now”… the Killer7 are all Smiths, geddit? The different psyches of the Killer7 are also a hoot – it’s pretty hard to go past Dan “The Hellion” Smith, though each of the Smiths manages to maintain their own love/hate relationship with the player. Boss battles are… odd, ranging from simple to WTF. Killer7 versus the Handsome Men is one of those giggle-fests that makes you reconsider the evilness that usually accompanies boss battles.
But, in the end, it’s the plot which carries Killer7 (avoid the Wikipedia article, it’s a spoiler-filled funbuster). I came into the game with the understanding that I was controlling seven psyches, but the reality-bending that subsequently occurs almost defies belief. In the end, all the threads presented are kinda pulled together, and I’m pretty sure I figured out what was going on… but in the world of Killer7, it’s hard to be absolutely sure.
I will say this, though: the final level of the game (as opposed to the post-credits snippet which is the icing on the cake) is one of the best end-of-game levels I’ve ever played. No, scratch that – this easily usurps the Halo run home. It’s a couple of minutes of the most glorious brainfuckery that I’ve ever experienced. And it’s ironic that, within a rail-based game, the level with the least interaction is the pièce de résistance; but that’s the parting shot of Killer7, the last stand of one of the most confrontational interactions I’ve engaged in.
I like to be challenged by my art, and Killer7 delivers in spades.