Platforms: Xbox One, Playstation 4, PC, Playstation 5, Xbox Series X (Reviewed), Switch
Release Date: July 1, 2023
Price: $29.99 USD – Available Here $49.95 AUD – Available Here
When someone thinks of a slasher they almost always think of the campy horror movies that rose to prominence in the ’80s, many of which still get sequels and remakes to this day. The slasher genre hasn’t translated the best to video games however with only asymmetrical multiplayer games really offering the best experiences, but what if players weren’t the slasher or even a potential victim? That is exactly what Team17’s latest unique game focuses on as Killer Frequency places players in the shoes of a radio host trying to save callers from a serial killer. Does this unique blend of puzzle, horror, and healthy doses of comedy create a memorable slasher or is this one that will be forgotten like so many C-movies of the past?
Set in the late ’80s players take on the role of Forrest Nash, a once high profile radio host from Chicago who has found himself demoted to working in the tiny town of Gallows Creek running the late night radio show 189.16 The Scream. Not too long after settling in and working at the small radio station Forrest, along with his assistant Peggy, find themselves the only hope for a town being stalked by a legendary killer. The anniversary of the death of the town’s notorious serial killer, the Whistling Man, is upon Gallows Creek and not only has the Whistling Man appeared once more, but he has slain the police chief and knocked out the only other officer in the once quiet town.
With the town’s 911 operator taking the knocked-cold deputy to the next town over in search of help, it is up to Forrest and Peggy to not only serve as a radio station, but the town’s 911 service for the next several hours. When calls start coming in from potential victims in fear for their lives, it is up to the player’s quick thinking and puzzle solving skills to try and direct these victims to safety while also trying to uncover just who this Whistling Man is and why they have returned.
Killer Frequency is a dark comedy that features an absolutely outstanding understanding of what makes a slasher work well. Players will find themselves making great use of limited options when it comes to trying to make sure that every caller has a shot of escaping from the Whistling Man all while trying to run a radio station at the same time, including playing ridiculous ads and dealing with obnoxious callers looking for pranks or self promotion. There is some great balance here found between the campy nature of the setting and the tense danger felt when handling calls from victims. Nearly every caller in Killer Frequency must be handled in a different way and the game will even automatically acknowledge various things that players have found or done in the past. These may involve simply reacting to a song request by stating that the song is already playing on the radio or bringing up a vital piece of information that was previously found on a sticky note in the office.
This level of adaptive dialogue helps give the calls players are on a smooth and tense feeling as players do their best to keep potential victims alive while also trying not to panic and make a mistake with all of the information they’ve uncovered. Along with these calls there is a real satisfaction that comes from putting together enough clues to safely guide someone through danger while also uncovering new secrets and learning just what happened to make these Whistling Man murders happen and who they may be targeting next, even if players may figure things out long before the game let’s them. With a number of satisfying twists and a solid true ending, along with other possible endings depending on player performance, that leaves this satisfying horror puzzler with room for more, Killer Frequency tells a great slasher story with plenty of mystery to be unlocked and classic camp that fans of the genre will love.
The entirety of Killer Frequency is played in first person and players can carry up to two items with them at a time, though only the item in their right-hand can be examined, thrown, or set-down. What makes Killer Frequency feel unique is its setting in a radio station. Players will be spending most of their time behind a radio booth where they will have mostly complete control of the songs, ads, and even sound effects that can be played. Players are given a succinct but sufficient tutorial over how to work the phone lines, play records, run taped ads, and even use the soundboard if they want and most of these will come into play throughout the game though the main factors come in the form of dialogue choices and finding documents.
Numerous times throughout Killer Frequency players will be tasked with locating extra information about the town, instructional guides, etc. and they will need to leave their recording booth to explore the station. Unfortunately Forrest moves at a glacial pace with there being no way to speed-walk and it is worth noting that, despite there being plenty of neon lighting fitting for the ’80s, the game is rather dark in places at its default setting so players will likely want to adjust the brightness accordingly as there is no flashlight, though it does make for some rather spooky feeling moments of exploration and share of minor scares. As they search around the office players can find documents that can be brought back to the booth and even prop most of them up for easy reading before giving information to their callers. Of course, this also means that the radio booth can look like a huge mess as the night goes on as players move used materials out of the way but considering players can while away the time by throwing crumpled paper into a garbage basketball hoop this is nothing.
The various dialogue options that players make are handled fine with players occasionally being given choices that are only available for a limited time. Some of these are completely innocuous while others may play a role in saving or risking someone’s life should players speak up incorrectly. It is a bit unfortunate that dialogue boxes are only displayed in specific locations, meaning that players who want to look around or examine something may not notice an impromptu choice or need to return back to their desk to continue a conversation properly. Many of the choices players make revolve around the puzzles players complete and documents they find with the game automatically offering some answers depending if the player has found the proper clues.
The puzzles themselves aren’t too difficult but there are some real head-scratchers mixed in and some that feature unique twists that players will need to be careful of. It is also nice to note that while some come off as a bit simple, there are many occasions where multi-step complicated resolutions are required to save everyone involved though a few calls do allow for a little bit of wriggle room. It is worth noting that while players may be able to figure out things well-enough from the clues provided, there was one puzzle that left things a bit down the middle where the clues boiled down to two separate victims that needed to be warned but only one being the actual correct choice. This can lead to a rather unfortunate outcome for said victim, though thankfully Killer Frequency not only sports multiple save slots but also the ability to save at any time, allowing players to undo a mistake if they want to play carefully.
Visuals & Audio
Set in the late ‘80s Killer Frequency features the colorful and fitting aesthetic for the time with all of the technology and designs matching the time period perfectly. The radio station is filled with nice horror themed touches ranging from posters and writing ideas to various easter eggs in the form of movie references. Character designs are kept to a minimum as there are really only two characters shown but the design of the Whistling Man is fittingly spooky for the game. It is also worth noting that Killer Frequency is very much a tell, don’t show, type of game meaning players will not actually see any of the brutality that is going on around town, only hear it through the calls they receive.
The voice acting is top-notch and works wonders throughout Killer Frequency as not only does Forrest work excellently as the host of the show turned savior but the voice work from the victims is also handled exceptionally well. These callers will sound like they are truly on the run for their lives or hiding from danger and it makes each call a real treat. As for the soundtrack players will be delighted to learn that there is a great collection of music to be played in the game including four albums that are hidden throughout the station that can be found and automatically made available for playing back in the booth. None of these songs have vocals but sound quite fitting for the theme of the game, ironically with most of the song names being horror themed.
Team 17 has been on a roll when it comes to taking the horror genre and blending it together with a different one to create a unique experience. After their success earlier in the year with a certain fishing game, Killer Frequency offers a great blend of horror and puzzles as players guide callers to safety while trying to learn the true reason for the Whistling Man’s rampage. The game could use a few touch-ups and is a bit on the short side, clocking in at a little over five hours with full exploration, but Team 17 is proving that horror remains a versatile genre and Killer Frequency is a great example of that.
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