Killer Klowns From Outer Space: The Game Review – A Wacky Adventure in Clownin’ Around

Illfonic has consistently created captivating games from well-known films, and their latest endeavor with Killer Klowns remains a testament to their success.

By Mark Delaney on June 5, 2024 at 1:36PM PDT

I’m not a fan of the “so bad, it’s good” philosophy. Instead of enduring notably poor movies, I prefer engaging with content that genuinely interests me. It’s been about 25 years since I last watched the cult classic horror film Killer Klowns From Outer Space, rooted in my early fascination with horror as a genre before I realized it wasn’t quite my taste. Initially, I had reservations about the game adaptation, despite my general appreciation for the growing genre of asymmetrical horror multiplayer games. Surprisingly, Killer Klowns presents a sophisticated and entertaining PvP experience, adorned with just enough playful absurdity to keep it light-hearted. It surpasses the notion of “so bad, it’s good” by being genuinely enjoyable.</

Killer Klowns shares a gameplay style with other horror-themed games like Dead By Daylight, Friday The 13th, and The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, where players are divided into groups of three killer klowns versus seven survivors who aim to withstand the ordeal and flee the map within a 15-minute timeframe. While each game in the asymmetrical horror genre establishes its unique identity, Killer Klowns bears a resemblance to Illfonic’s prior work with Jason Voorhees, which I personally appreciate. The game is not an exact copy; it embraces useful similarities and generally thrives in its distinct elements.

Survivors must gather essentials like weapons and medical supplies while also finding and activating one of the several exits in vast, complex maps featuring shortcuts and pathways to master. This enables a skilled survivor to maintain distance from pursuing klowns. On the other hand, klowns focus on eliminating all humans either through direct attacks or by trapping them in cotton-candy cocoons until demise.

The outcome of the game isn’t particularly critical, as it’s possible for klowns to eliminate several survivors while others manage to flee, leading to outcomes termed as either a “modest” or “poor” victory. While significant victories are achievable, after spending 15 hours in the game, it appears the community isn’t heavily invested in scores, which differs from the highly competitive atmosphere in Dead By Daylight. Despite the threat of klowns, the playful danger maintains the entertainment value, even when losing.

The persistent allure of the game comes from evading comical adversaries. Hiding in dense bushes or dumpsters and watching enemies pass by remains exhilarating. Additionally, the melee combat system, although somewhat crude and reliant on rapid button presses, introduces humor when fighting klowns, occasionally allowing a narrow escape.

Defeated klowns face a respawn screen with a 45-second delay, encouraging aggressive gameplay or cooperation among players. This window allows survivors to make significant advances by completing tasks such as gathering resources, finding necessary items, and dismantling barriers at exits, which klowns may have strengthened during the game.

One aspect of the game I find less enjoyable is the movement speed, or it might actually be the animations. As a human player, options include crouching to move silently, walking to create minimal noise, or sprinting which generates significant noise. The walking speed feels excessively slow, compelling me to run even though it’s tactically unwise, which results in a frustratingly sluggish pace in what should be more urgent scenarios, such as those in a so-called Klownpocalypse. A slight adjustment to depict walking as a slow jog might ease this psychological burden, offering a pace that better matches the game’s stakes.

In contrast, the game brilliantly addresses what happens after a player’s death or escape. Instead of waiting passively for a match to conclude—a process that could take considerable time—the game presents the option to engage in quick-time-event minigames. Success in these games provides items that can be sent directly to teammates’ inventories as gifts from an anonymous benefactor, or saved for later if the player is resurrected via a special machine that revives deceased players. This feature innovatively enhances both the game and its genre, eliminating the usual downtime following early player elimination or escape and employing the quirky Killer Klowns theme to allow for magical in-game item appearances with vibrant, arcade-style visuals from the late 1980s.

Playing as a klown mirrors the experience of wielding Jason in another of Illfonic’s games. Klowns have multiple abilities specific to their classes, cooldown-managed powers, and a variety of weapons like a cotton candy ray gun that incapacitates survivors, a popcorn shotgun that forces its victims to emit noise, and a mallet for melee attacks. Working strategically as a team is crucial for klowns, as isolated klowns are easily overwhelmed by groups of well-coordinated humans. Despite an increase in enemy numbers, the expanded map sizes ensure the gameplay feels balanced and engaging.

Regardless of which side you play on, the learning curve for this game is quite steep, primarily due to the inadequate tutorial system. The tutorial merely uses text and images from the main menu, offering some deeper insights but falling short of the impact an interactive demo could provide. This lack of hands-on guidance may leave newcomers struggling to grasp the functionalities of various items, often making them easy targets initially. As you progress, you begin to understand the game better and strategize effectively, yet the initial experience can be unwelcoming for even seasoned players of similar games.

The game’s launch was also somewhat problematic. Issues with the melee combat mechanics and challenges that are currently being reset due to backend issues are causing players to lose any incomplete challenge progress. This is especially frustrating for those who paid for early access, making the game’s introduction less than stellar. However, one might hope these problems are temporary.

More persistent concerns stem from the game’s metagame structure. While the gradual unlocking of cosmetics and weaponry is typical and engaging, the game imposes restrictions on character builds based on levels. For instance, a match with ten new players might only feature two distinct builds, limiting diversity and strategic variety. This system feels overly restrictive, forcing characters into predefined roles with identical stats until they reach high levels. Unlike other games where character variety is immediately accessible, this game locks that diversity behind player progression, which doesn’t seem to enhance the gameplay experience.

While the clunky combat and simplistic tutorials might be forgiven or even charming, the restrictive nature of character customization is a significant detractor. In games like Friday The 13th, another game of similar genre, characters have unique builds available from the start, allowing for a richer variety of play styles from the beginning. The decision to limit this aspect in the current game removes strategic depth and player freedom, which is a puzzling and unwelcome choice.

Maps in Killer Klowns feel larger compared to those in Friday The 13th, making the increase in enemies appropriate rather than overwhelming.

Despite its flaws, the game remains enjoyable as it lacks the high pressure or competitive nature found in similar games. The issues it does have seem minor and manageable because the game consistently offers fun. Regardless of the map or team, I anticipate engaging and often comical situations in each session.

The game displays a brilliant sense of humor, incorporating elements like chaotic proximity chat and voice-muffling for characters encased in cotton candy. The ‘Klowntalities’—unique elimination animations—feature whimsical scenes such as a pizza delivery ambush, a carnival mallet challenge, or a klown who enlarges to crush foes. These animations are more amusing than horrifying, adding a light-hearted touch to the chase. Escaping a towering klown with squeaky footwear provides a delightful twist to the genre’s norms.

Killer Klowns, inspired by a cult-classic ’80s film, may not have the immediate appeal of games with well-known killers but compensates with its engaging gameplay. The game features complex maps, a variety of weapons, and a more relaxed player versus player experience. There are some issues with the metagame and it’s somewhat unpolished like previous horror titles from the developers, but its vibrant, playful essence ensures it’s a circus worth experiencing.

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