Being a fan of the late 80s early 90s cult tv program ‘Midnight Caller,’ I have always fancied trying my hand at being a late-night DJ, taking random calls from strangers and getting involved in their lives. Obviously, I don’t want to do that in real life, but I have been given a chance to simulate the experience in the new game from Team17. Let’s spin some electro albums on vinyl and attempt to get through a whole shift in one piece.
Time for a Large Coffee
The story premise (without giving away any spoilers) is that you play as Forrest Nash, the resident late-night disc jockey at the snappily named KFAM 189.16 “The Scream” radio station in Gallows Creek. After starting your show, an incident at the local Police Station results in you becoming the local 911 operator for the night, and before long, it transpires that a killer is on the loose in the area. As Callers under threat ring for emergency services, you are required to advise them on how to escape a murderer known as the Whistling Man, live on air. Things quickly get very dark indeed.
Visually the graphical style reminded me of the classic game ‘Thirteen’ with a cartoony look about it which, is no bad thing. Gameplay is based within and around the claustrophobic confines of the radio station and consists of communicating with your producer Peggy and various callers while playing cool electro records and adverts.
When an emergency call comes through, it is necessary to listen to the caller’s predicament and then search the building for a source of information that will enable you to talk them (via a multiple choice system) through an escape from the slasher, or a brutal death if you mess it up. Fetching clues enables you to save lives, but only if you properly interpret the information at your disposal, which is not always easy. An old town mystery needs to be solved over the course of the night and it is up to Forrest to use his detective skills to work it out.
Harmy on the Wheels of Steel
The music is great and fits in nicely with the period in which the story is set, while the voice acting and sound effects are impressive. The sound of the Whistling Man slashing a victim is particularly brutal. After hearing it once, I set out to try to avoid hearing it again and failed spectacularly. The story itself is not only an original spin on the slasher genre but is well-written, with the whole package creating a creepy atmosphere that develops a deep sense of dread within the player. Jump scares are not relied upon, which is refreshing, but the one that I experienced during my play-through was a bloody good one!
I played through the game on my Series X and while the controls were adequate once I got used to them, they were a bit cack-handed, particularly when trying to open doors and pick up/examine items. The game is available to play in VR on Meta Quest 2 and I suspect that would be the ideal place to play it due to the first-person perspective and the extra functionality that would be gained from the two controllers.
One piece of game design that caught me several times when under time pressure to select a life-saving option was that you have to use the D-pad to move up and down the choices in front of you. Placing the cursor on an option and pressing the A button will always end up selecting the top option and was responsible for the deaths of many innocent townsfolk on my watch, which was rather annoying.
Puzzles presented at various times protecting useful information were nicely balanced and generally not too frustrating to solve. There are some complicated scenarios and a few (in my opinion) unfair penalties, such as an old man being too late to warn someone due to his walking speed, but not enough to put anyone off checking the game out.
What was that noise?
There are some pacing issues at the beginning, but once the killing starts, things move on nicely. The story is intriguing and sucked me in during my relatively short (roughly five-hour) playtime, although completionists can play for twelve hours plus. I particularly enjoyed playing random comedy sound effects on air while desperate people begged me for help, and after being given a choice to either save a bunch of annoying teens or lead them straight to their deaths, it was very tempting to get them sliced and diced, but maybe that is just me.
The game ran glitch-free for me until the end credits, where it disappointingly crashed out and cost me about 280 Gamerscore for all of the achievements that did not get a chance to pop. Now that is horror! The spoof Alice Cooper track during the closing credits almost made up for it.
Rounding things off, Killer Frequency is a good use of your gaming time. It is well-written, nicely voice-acted, fairly short, and can be seriously creepy at times. Fans of slasher films will have a blast playing this. While I think it would probably be best experienced in VR, it is worth experiencing on a console.
XBOX Series X
- Great voice acting.
- Interesting puzzles.
- An intriguing mystery.
- Use of a DJ booth complete with comedy sound effects.
- Some pacing issues at the beginning.
- Controls are a bit Janky but not enough to spoil the game.
- D-pad choice selection can cause issues under time pressure.