Killer Klowns from Outer Space: The Game Review In Progress

Killer Klowns from Outer Space: The Game Review In Progress

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A bunch of smarmy teenagers with ridiculous haircuts trying to escape the gloved clutches of an alien race of clowns is the kind of absurd and cheesy premise that makes perfect fodder for the asymmetrical multiplayer horror genre. Following in the footsteps of Friday the 13th, Evil Dead, and many more licensed games, the 1988 cult classic film Killer Klowns from Outer Space is the latest horror movie to try its hand at capturing our still-beating hearts with high-stakes murder sports. I need to spend some more time with Killer Klowns once its servers go live, but so far I can say that trying to either escape those deadly Klowns with my life or do my best to murder every angsty teenager in sight is already stupid fun no matter which side I was on.

Bucking the traditional asymmetrical structure slightly, each match pits seven hapless humans against three killers, as opposed to the usual four on one you see in most games that followed in Dead by Daylight’s bloody footsteps. The Klowns are preposterously over the top, and run around turning humans into sacks of cotton candy with ray guns, hunting teens using a balloon hound on a leash, and mowing terrified victims down with an invisible car. It’s truly some of the zaniest stuff I’ve seen in a multiplayer game in a long time, and it never fails to make me laugh. I especially appreciate the little details, like how the Klowns’ shoes make a comical squeak when you walk, alerting everyone nearby to your presence and leaving cartoonish boot prints all over the floor.

Admittedly, it’s nowhere near as much fun to play as a human because they’re just not as original or goofy as their pursuers. You mostly just sneak around searching for weapons, keys, gas canisters, and other things they need to mount an escape. However, getting away does have a novel twist, because none of the rescue options will allow more than three of the seven teens to leave at once. The boat can be repaired, but only fits three people, while the bridge exit is so rickety it could collapse after it’s been crossed by just two (if they’re not slow and careful as they’re crossing it).

In the roughly 18 hours I’ve played so far, this has led to several hilarious and tense interactions where someone on our team will panic and use up one of the exits to escape a dicey situation alone, leaving the remaining survivors in a lurch. Because there’s only four or five possible exits on each of the five maps, that makes evacuation for the remaining six humans a lot more difficult, and you don’t wanna be that guy.

Amusing minigames let humans stay engaged even after they’ve completed their role in a match.

It’s also cool that if a human gets killed or manages to get out of Dodge early on, they’re given the option to play a series of simple but amusing carnival-themed minigames, like whack-a-Klown or a Simon Says memorization game. By completing these, they’re able to help out their remaining teammates with items to improve their chances, like health, weapons, or even a keycard they might need to escape through one of the exits. I’ve never seen something like this implemented in this genre before, and it’s a great way to keep you engaged after you’ve completed your role in the match – especially if you’ve got survivor’s guilt after taking one of the exits for yourself and leaving the others to fend for themselves.

It’s because of things like this that, even though Killer Klowns borrows a whole heck of a lot from the asymmetrical horror games that came before it, it doesn’t feel like an immediately dull carbon copy with yet another cult horror movie’s skin draped over it. Aside from the macabre humor, though, the biggest shakeup is that, with a full 10-player match, there’s a whole lot more action happening around the map at all times. As a human, you might find yourself coordinating with a small group of survivors to repair a boat to make an escape, while another posse across the map stages a daring rescue attempt to free an ally that’s been cocooned in cotton candy and is slowly being turned into Klown juice. Meanwhile, as a Klown, you might find yourself hunting down and killing a teenager hiding in a porta-potty, while elsewhere your two allies are collecting cotton candy to power their Klown machines in order to trigger the Klownpocalypse and win the match.

It feels a lot more chaotic and casual compared to a single bad guy slowly stalking the halls.

Compare that to a single bad guy slowly stalking the halls trying to kill everyone and Killer Klowns feels a lot more chaotic and casual, which fits pretty appropriately with its silly-as-heck vibe. With so much going on in every match, the vast majority of them end with at least a few humans making a successful escape while Klowns cull the weak, whereas the Klowns almost always get at least a few kills, which makes things feel a lot less sweaty.

Another way it achieves that is that the humans are able to fight back and even kill Klowns relatively easily once they find the right weapons. A solo Klown chasing a squad of four humans is likely to be in quite a pickle once those teens realize they can just turn around and wail on the grinning goof with axes and baseball bats until it’s forced to spend a minute in timeout before respawning. (And there’s no carnival games for you, ineffective Klown!) But because Klowns don’t have to loot to be powerful, don’t run out of ammo, and only die temporarily, there’s still a ton of reasons for humans to fear their wacky assailants, especially since ammo is scarce and human weapons break after just a few swings.

This means that both teams, Klowns and humans, have to work together to achieve victory – and my experience so far has been that whichever side forms a more cohesive unit is likely to win. That’s exactly what I want in a game like this, and it’s absolutely fantastic. It’s an all too common problem for asymmetrical games to become one-sided when it’s one baddie versus a group of survivors. But in Killer Klowns nobody can really go it alone, and I’ve been seeing a lot more close matches and interesting interactions than I’d usually expect.

What I did expect, of course, is that Killer Klowns would have unlockables that are earned by playing matches, including both cosmetic stuff for pure flair and, for the Klowns at least, new character classes and abilities that can have a very real impact in-game. You can get the beefy Tank class that has health to spare, or the small but mighty Brawler, who moves in quickly and uses boxing gloves to knock the snot out of any annoying adolescents. Meanwhile, the humans unlock different archetypes with names like Rebellious and Tough, which are descriptions that sound like they’re supposed to influence how they play but, as of now, don’t appear to. Still, unlocking the various Klown classes has really helped inject some variety into my time so far, and most of them feel great. My new favorite is the Tracker, who is an expert at sniffing out slippery earthlings and turning them into spools of sugar with his shotgun.

The biggest issue I’ve come across has been the stability of the matches themselves, which is always an enormous bummer in an otherwise solid multiplayer game. I and everyone I’ve played with have consistently experienced multiple crashes and a variety of irritating bugs throughout our matches, many of which have ended abruptly when the servers suddenly went haywire and booted everyone back to the main menu, leaving the entire Discord chat screaming with the rage and disappointment of a party that’s been fouled. Time will tell if these issues persist after the day one patch, but I’m currently pretty concerned that we’re careening toward a rocky launch, and these issues have significantly taken the wind out of our collective whoopie cushion.

So I still have a fair amount more to play of Killer Klowns from Outer Space: The Game before I put a final score on it – and I’ll especially keep an eye on its live servers once it fully launches. Here’s hoping the issues I’ve seen get smoothed out quickly, because I’d very much like to get back to the business of hunting down naive teens and evading evil Klowns. We’ll see if that holds up, and I’ll be back with a final review before too long.

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