Imagine that you are a radio host in the small fictional American town of Gallows Creek sometime in the late 1980s. You’re a recent arrival in the province, and it’s purely by coincidence. Since you’re not here by choice, you don’t have much interest in the local news. However, work is work, and you have another night shift ahead of you, from which you hardly expect anything special. But in fact, it will change your life.
|Platforms||Windows, Xbox One / Xbox Series X|S, PlayStation 4/5, Nintendo Switch, Meta Quest 2|
The night of Killer Frequency is an exceptional night for Gallows Creek. In the past, on this very day, the town was shaken by horrific events: a masked maniac, who later became known as The Whistling Man, took to its streets (all because of his habit of announcing his appearance with a quiet, eerie whistle). Unfortunately, there were victims. This tragedy was engraved in local history, and the shocking The Whistling Night – the night of the killings – was commemorated annually.
However, human memory eventually smoothes out traumatic memories, and attention shifts to new problems. So now, The Whistling Night is mostly an occasion for pranks and black jokes for the campus. Expectedly, these are the first things that start your shift. Someone calls the direct line and breathes ominously into the phone, whistles tunes, and then laughs and takes the prank in a drunken voice…
This would all be funny if it weren’t for the sudden news of the sheriff’s murder. The circumstances of the attack are unclear. His assistant urgently goes to the neighboring town for help, and the Gallows Creek police have no extra hands. So you are asked to act as a kind of substitute for the 911 operator. You’ll be in the studio at the phone until the morning anyway, so it’s no problem to take any urgent messages.
The hero has no choice here, but he hopes that maybe the night will pass without additional bad news. In the end, all you have to do is answer the phone, play music, and talk into the microphone as usual. Nothing complicated, right? The studio is cozy and safe. Your optimistic partner Peggy confidently reminds you of the rules of conduct on the air and the nuances of working with the equipment, tells you interesting facts about the history of Gallows Creek, and generally encourages you. You’re going to make it!
But, of course, it didn’t go as planned.
According to the rules of the genre, it quickly becomes clear that The Whistling Man is walking the streets of the town again. But who is he? Is it the same killer who decided to remind us of himself on a memorable date? Or maybe some impostor under the mask? You’ll have to find out, but in any case, the threat is real. And so are the new murders. Metaphorical clouds are gathering over Gallows Creek, and the mood of the story begins to change rapidly. And now, instead of frivolous conversations and juggling vinyl, you are already trying to save the life of another guest of the show who called the studio in hopes of getting help.
The gameplay of Killer Frequency is quite inventive here. You can’t leave the studio, you never see the person you’re talking to, and you’re completely dependent on the description of the situation they provide. But you can use various auxiliary findings and Peggy’s advice to voice clues that (theoretically) will help you escape from the maniac’s knife. Is the potential victim trying to escape by car but has lost the keys? Wait a minute! A colleague had a magazine that clearly explained how to start the engine with a simple screwdriver. Did the killer find a lost guy in a maze park? Don’t hang up the phone! I think you saw a map of the park somewhere in the studio – it could help you figure out which route to take to get to the exit.
Killer Frequency uses such limitations quite skillfully, relies on the audio component and turns on your imagination to the fullest: most often you are listening and imagining where the characters are, what state they are in, what exactly is happening around them. When they manage to escape, you feel really relieved, and Peggy (whom you constantly see behind the cloudy glass of the neighboring studio room) throws her arms in the air in victory! When the maniac finally catches the victim, and you hear his screams and the sound of the knife… Well, it’s a little shocking. It’s a bit of a shock.
Killer Frequency generally knows how to keep the right rhythm. After intense episodes, you are given a break and a distraction. The game does not forget about the comic relief technique and tries to defuse the situation with witty jokes or sudden jerk calls to the studio. As soon as you feel that the hero has been sitting at the microphone for too long, you are offered to “stretch your legs” and explore other areas of the studio in search of clues or plot information.
However, in the second half of the story, this scheme fails a bit. There aren’t many game mechanics, so gameplay situations start to repeat themselves, and it feels like the game is a bit long. Nevertheless, the twists and turns that are mandatory for this kind of story keep the attention and intrigue until the ending. It’s not necessarily a happy one: all the key characters (including the protagonist) have a chance to die. But you will find out the terrible secret from the history of Gallows Creek, around which a tangle of events is wound.
Killer Frequency was easily overlooked among other releases this year. The game was released in the summer, a traditionally “lazy” period, and now it is lost next to the high-profile autumn giant projects (and it should be added here that in the Ukrainian military realities, there is often no time for games at all). It’s a shame, because Killer Frequency is a really unusual and interesting mix of adventure and interactive radio drama. It’s definitely worth a try if you like narrative games and/or horror (for horror fans, the game has a lot of hidden and not-so-hidden references). And, of course, if you’re wondering what to play this Halloween, here’s the answer.