Killer Klowns from Outer Space – The Game Review

Killer Klowns From Outer Space The Game

by Matt Kamen |
Published on

Platforms Xbox Series X|S, PS5, PC

What’s the best legacy for a classic horror movie? Oscars glory? A few decades worth of sequels? A lasting impact on pop culture and the public psyche? Nope – apparently, it's getting adapted into an asymmetric horror-survival game years afterwards. From Friday the 13th to The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, slasher flicks have become prime inspiration fodder for a cluster of team-based multiplayer outings, and now it’s the (incredibly unexpected) turn of Killer Klowns From Outer Space.

However, unlike the majority of this growing gaming subgenre, the source material was less "video nasty" and more "camp classic". With its eponymous invaders travelling the stars in a circus-tent-shaped ship and prone to turning their victims into cotton candy cocoons, the 1988 flick from special effects maestros The Chiodo Brothers always had its tongue firmly wedged in its cheek. It’s a goofy tone that carries through well to developers IllFonic and Teravision Games' offering, serving up breezy matches that seem to channel the 'anything goes' approach of Dead by Daylight or even the wackiness of Fortnite more than any serious horror vibes.

Each 15-minute match will pit three Klowns against seven humans, battling it out across impressively designed maps drawn from the film. Player roles are randomly assigned, with Klowns falling into one of five classes (Ranger, Tracker, Trapper, Tank, or Brawler), each specialised towards hunting or capturing their prey with a variety of bizarre weapons such as a Popcorn Bazooka or Klown Mallet, while humans (who come in Athletic, Rebellious, Heroic, Resourceful, or Tough flavours, none specifically based on any of the named characters from the movie) have to evade detection, find key items to unlock escape routes, and survive the Klownpocalypse. As the clock runs down, the movie's ice cream-peddling Terenzi Brothers crash into the map in their truck, creating one last path to sanctuary before everything goes boom.

While matches ultimately play out much like Dead by Daylight, the expanded scale – double the players, with an uneven split – makes for more frenetic battles, where the tide can turn far more frequently. Similarly, humans have more of a fighting chance here, with an array of weapons to tackle the Klowns with – one well-placed blow to an incredibly prominent schnozz and the Klowns explode into konfetti, buying you some breathing room.

In an especially smart move, if you are unlucky enough to be taken out by a Klown or one of the creepy minions they can summon, there are a host of minigames to play instead of merely spectating on the surviving players until the clock runs down. They're simple affairs, couched in the 8-bit video game visuals of the original film's 1980s setting and evoking fairground games such as Whack-a-Mole (here Whack-a-Klown, of course) but they're all surprisingly fun diversions. Better still, these have a material benefit, generating items you can gift to a still-active player or hoard to fill your inventory should you be revived – which can happen once per match – if remaining humans activate the Resurrection Machine. It's a great way of keeping players invested even if they're not currently active.

What's here works well and offers some very welcome twists on the asymmetric survival game.

Sadly, while the variety of Klown and human abilities have the potential to keep things varied across multiple matches, the only way you'll get to grips with any of them is through trial and error, thanks to the online-only nature of the game. That, combined with the random assignment of roles, makes it tricky to pick up the nuances of how each side, let alone each class, works. A text-only tutorial doesn't really help, and the closest way to kitbash a playable training mode is to start a private match and not invite anyone, allowing one-sided practice as a Klown against AI bots.

Killer Klowns from Outer Space also suffers from slow match-making. While slots will be filled with bots where necessary to ensure a full ten players each match, waits of several minutes to start a game aren't uncommon. Given the property is even more niche than the other horror movies to get this sort of video game adaptation, that does give rise to some concern over the game's longer term viability. Plus, while there is a roadmap from the developers to add more content, there is only that one source film to draw from – despite The Chiodo Brothers spending decades trying to get various sequels and spin-offs off the ground – which likely means more anonymous characters and a scant number of locations to repurpose as maps.

Still, what's here works well and offers some very welcome twists on the asymmetric survival game. The iconic Klowns in particular are great to play as, and not feeling entirely helpless as a human makes for a pleasant change for the genre. Just like the source material it so lovingly adapts, Killer Klowns has all the makings of a cult favourite.

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