I’ll confess. Even though I’m of an age where dial-up internet was a thing, and I would have to intermittently play my Game Boy on car rides in time with the passing streetlights, I can’t claim to be someone that was all too familiar with the phenomenon of late-night radio.
I speak about it as if it’s something that no longer exists, which simply isn’t the case, but with the rise of music streaming, the abundance of podcasts out there, and those little computers in our pockets we were assured by teachers and our parents that we would never have, it means that radio is far less relevant than it was in, say the eighties.
The eighties was a time when radio was king, cassettes, and vinyl were the primary ways for artists to sell their music, and there were only a handful of channels on public TV. Which meant that radio tended to be a lot of people’s primary form of entertainment.
People would sit and listen for hours just to hear their favorite track of the moment, the whole town would call into the local station to wish their loved ones a happy birthday, and if you were lucky, you would hear some hot gossip as it happened.
Many folks still have a nostalgic fondness for this simpler time, and that’s something that Killer Frequency really leans into, with a killer twist.
Killer Frequency has you roleplay as a local Radio disc jockey on a night when a serial killer is at large, and because the sheriff has been murdered, you’re the only one in town with enough experience to man the 911 phone lines.
It’s a scenario that promises scenes of panic, chaos, comedy, and as the killer draws nearer to the radio station, the cheesiness gives way to genuine horror that will give you the creeps! The question remains, though, is Killer Frequency all killer, no filler?
Or is it the gaming equivalent of Hospital Radio? We find out in IGC’s Killer Frequency review, conducted on PS5.
Gallows Creek Is Pretty Sleek
We begin with the overall presentation of Killer Frequency, and let me tell you; it’s fantastic. I’ll immediately offer some clarity on this statement by saying that this title doesn’t aim for hyper-realism here, or go avant-garde to produce some art house visuals.
What I mean when I say, these visuals are amazing, is that the setting of Gallows Creek is about as authentic as it could ever be.
If you picture a radio station in a backwater town in middle America, what is presented in Killer Frequency will pretty much match it note for note. I was personally expecting more cigarette smoke to engulf the booth, but aside from that, it’s bang-on!
Much like the hit show Stranger Things, Killer Frequency leans into the nostalgia factor and litters the booth and beyond with retro-tech and items of a bygone era to set the scene. The walls are adorned with an abundance of band posters and framed vinyl records.
You’ll acquire a lot of the information needed for puzzles the old-fashioned way, by reading maps and magazines, and all the tech you encounter is quintessentially eighties, with antiquated soundboards, and paid advertisements on cassette. As they would have said back then, it’s a trip.
Much like games like Gone Home, which uses its environment to set the scene, Killer Frequency allows the player to interact with just about anything you can find, and each asset has its own little story to tell. Whether that be about the Radio Station staff, the local business owners, or a little subtle nod to the era you are living in.
To create a game like this which is so rooted in a time period and satirizes not only the era, but the horror movies of that era, you need to replicate the themes, ideals, and aesthetic of that era, and Killer Frequency knocks it out of the park!
Get in the Groove
To go one step further in my praise for this game’s dedication to authentically placing the player in the 1980’s, I need to talk about this game’s soundtrack, and the fun way that players can engage with the music on show. As you might have gathered by now, you are the DJ for Gallows Creek’s KFAM 189.6 ‘The Scream.’
This means you not only need to respond to this killer on the loose, but you also need to fill the airwaves with top-shelf radio. Which means you’ll need to man the switchboard, press a few buttons on the soundboard to make funny noises, and you’ll need to rummage around in the record collection on hand to play some tracks between calls.
This makes choosing each track a genuinely interactive experience, and you can find more records scattered around the station as the night goes on. It might be a gimmick, but it’s one I really appreciated. Then to speak of the tracks themselves, they are a blend of appropriate genres for the era, with synthwave hits and punchy rock tracks.
I will concede that they are pretty unremarkable tracks when taken out of the context of this game. It’s nowhere near as cathartic as playing Tears For Fears as you bash alien heads in Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy, for example. However, as a way to take control of your own musical output, these tracks are great.
Dead Air, Quite Literally
We then move on to the story of this game, which is the main reason why you will stick around for the entire run. The puzzles are fun and all, but without the corny writing they just wouldn’t hit the same way. To boil it down, you play as Forrest Nash, a former big-time DJ from Chicago who has been demoted to a small-time radio station in the sticks.
He’s been there for a little while playing the graveyard shift, but on this night, as Halloween draws near, a masked serial killer returns to Gallows Creek after a long hiatus to wreak havoc.
His first victim is the local sheriff, and because the deputy has to drive to the nearest town to get back up, you are the only person available to man the phones. Leading to a series of tense 911 calls, where you will need to be the town’s savior.
It’s an ambitious approach to storytelling, and one that requires a certain level of precision as it’s all told through audio alone. Yet despite these self-imposed limitations, Killer Frequency delivers a handful of pocket-sized stories where you get to know the town’s residents, outsmart the killer at large, and inject your own brand of cheesy DJ humor for good measure.
Then in the moments in between calls, you’ll get to bond with your assistant, explore the radio station, and might even have some close calls with The Whistler.
I’ve always been a big fan of games that use long-form media like this to enrich the narrative and world-building. GTA has always done this through its radio stations, Fallout 3 used Three Dog’s news broadcasts to great effect, and more recently, Backfirewall included a podcast you could intermittently tune into. However, the ability to take this concept and create an entire narrative-driven game around it is a stroke of genius.
Due to the wonderful voice acting on show, the rich setting, and the comical writing that takes notes from slasher films of old, Killer Frequency delivers an excellent, nostalgic horror epic.
The only downside is that when you wrap up proceedings, you’ll know all the solutions to each scenario, and because of this, it doesn’t really warrant you hopping in a Delorean and hitting 88MPH to give it another try. However, based on the quality of that first run alone, Killer Frequency is a triumph.
There Are No Do-Overs on Live Radio
Then we move on to what you’ll be doing while in the booth. The gameplay in Killer Frequency takes a two-pronged approach.
On one hand, this game is a pretty traditional puzzler that will have you listen to the scenarios put before you by the callers, and then you’ll have to find items and literature that can be used to solve their problems. Pretty straightforward. Then the other prong is something somewhat similar to games like The Quarry and Until Dawn. What I mean by this is, these puzzles have stakes.
Throughout each scenario, there will be a handful of timed dialogue options that will need you to think on your feet, with failure to do so often leading to gruesome consequences.
Plus, even when time is taken out of the equation, you’ll be given some multiple-choice options, and if your plan fails, you’ll essentially be signing your caller’s death warrant live on air.
Killer Frequency doesn’t succeed on the back of its puzzles, because if you take a step back and take off your rose-colored sweatbands for a moment, you realize that they are pretty run-of-the-mill. The gameplay succeeds because it is able to create an air of tension to accompany each puzzle.
Even if you feel you have cracked the code, you’ll still have that moment of hesitation before making the final call. It’s akin to that feeling you have when a key character is hiding from the killer in a slasher flick. You are rooting for them, and you want them to escape. Yet, you know it could all go wrong in an instant.
So, in short, if you are looking for a mild-melting puzzler, this one is not going to float your boat. However, if you want high-stakes, snap-decision problem-solving, then Killer Frequency does this better than most.
A Few Scratches on the Record
It’s a rare occurrence when I have praise for a game in every major department, but even on those occasions, there is usually something to complain about, and today is no exception.
Killer Frequency has a few minor flaws that stop it from being the best thing that happened to radio since World War II, which sounds bleak, but the war really did send radio into the stratosphere. Firstly, the game has some pacing issues in between each puzzle. This is the time when players get to know their assistant Peggy, and explore the station.
However, due to the mechanics mirroring that of a walking sim, there isn’t a lot of stimulation for the player, leading to moments where you just want to get on to the next chunk of high-stakes action.
Then Secondly, It was rather annoying that the game would have you return to your booth every single time you needed to respond to a question posed by Peggy or a caller.
Having a menu that you could toggle as you walked around would have been preferable. I also wasn’t super keen on the consistent hand-holding from Peggy when managing the audio and taking calls.
The immediate hints took me out of it in the moment, reminding me that I was being funneled through a video game. So being able to toggle these hints, or simply having them be less frequent and prompt, would have been better.
These may be small gripes, but because the game has next to no replayability, the short runtime needs to be as refined as it can be, and at times, the UI and the more gimmicky game mechanics became a bit of an issue.
Before we go off the air, we need to give you a handful of close alternatives that will offer players a narrative-driven adventure akin to Killer Frequency, or a way to feel like a clever-clogs in a pristine puzzler. Check these out below:
- Gone Home
- Until Dawn
- The Quarry
- The Dark Pictures Series
- Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes
- Not For Broadcast
I went into this one thinking that there was no possible way that this title could deliver on such a promising and unique concept, and I hold my hand up; I was wrong. Killer Frequency is another title that proves the walking simulator genre isn’t dead; it’s just evolving.
The game has the same energy as titles like Tacoma, or Gone Home, where players will need to explore, solve puzzles, and uncover story beats as they go. However, Killer Frequency does this through the lens of a cheesy eighties horror movie, asking the player to make spur-of-the-moment decisions that literally are life or death.
The aesthetic is fantastic, using authentic musical choices, brilliant vocal performances, and assets of a bygone era to offer an authentic setting for this serial killer epic, not unlike what Stranger Things has masterfully done to captivate audiences.
Plus, the story is a perfect blend of corny, touching, comedic, and tense. Culminating in a beautifully paced story that wraps up with an intense encounter with The Whistler.
I will concede that there are a few lulls in between puzzle sequences, as there isn’t a lot for players to do in their booth aside from shooting paper scraps into a basketball net. Plus, there is the inherent issue that comes with games like this. When you know the solutions, there’s no reason to go back and replay this one, making it a one-and-done experience.
All-in-all, though, this is a very strong outing that blends walking sim mechanics with the real-time butterfly effect present in games like Until Dawn or The Quarry, and if you love cheesy horror flicks and retro chic, this is an absolute must-play!
- An authentic 80’s setting, complete with an awesome soundtrack
- The Vocal performances are on-point
- Puzzles are fun, comedic, and tense in equal measure
- Gameplay really slows down between puzzles
- A rather linear experience
- Not much reason to replay unless you really mess up your first run
Question: What Platform is Killer Frequency On?
Answer: Killer Frequency will launch on the 1st of June, 2023, on all major modern platforms. These include the PS4/5, Xbox Series X/S, Nintendo Switch, and PC.
Question: Who Makes Killer Frequency?
Answer: This game was developed and published by Team 17, who were responsible for other great titles, such as Dredge, The Serpent Rogue, Blasphemous, Overcooked, and many more.
Question: How Many People Can You Save in Killer Frequency?
Answer: Taking Forrest out of the equation, you will have twelve scenarios where you will have to save one or more people. No spoilers here!
Killer Frequency Review: The Graveyard ShiftPlay Log
Callum played through the entire story once, and managed to ensure that everyone met a very grizzly fate at the hands of The Whistler, but he does intend to go back again and do a clean run just for kicks too.