It’s amazing to think that developer Love-de-Lic only released three titles that stayed in their native homeland of Japan. Despite its flash of existence, the company’s design philosophy has long outlived it. Chulip, Chibi-Robo, and even Tingle’s Freshly Picked Rosy Rupeeland all subscribe to this philosophy of trying to solve people’s problems. Joy-makers, I call them, and there really isn’t enough of them in the world.
24 Killers wears its influence on its sleeve. Its deliberately uneven visual style even harkens back to Love-de-Lic’s first title, Moon: Remix RPG Adventure. That puts it in a tricky predicament because it invites direct comparisons. I wouldn’t wish that on anyone, but 24 Killers has been training hard and doing its squats.
24 Killers (PC)
Developer: Happy Shabby Games
Publisher: Happy Shabby Games
Released: March 9, 2023
24 Killers is the story of Home, a little ghost-hand thing (otherwise known as an “Echo”) that gets crammed into the corpse of a soldier by an alien named Moon. The alien, who acts as a benevolent guide, tasks Home to grab pictures of the “Mons” who inhabit the island they’re on. Functionally, this is a lot like Chulip or Moon: Remix RPG Adventure, in which you’ll need to help the Mons out in order to open them up to having a picture snapped. As you do this, you’ll gain strength that allows you to do more tasks in a day and haul more Mons out of the depth of the Earth.
The story has a huge cosmic bent. There’s a lot of talk about “the Foam,” and creation, and alternate dimensions. In fact, the save files each have a modifier on them that mutates the game in small ways. Completing 24 Killers unlocks more dimensions to try out. It doesn’t go into a huge amount of depth, but the fact that there’s just this sort of describable religion about the game’s world is a bit charming.
Each day unfolds with you trying to accomplish as much as possible with the strength you have. You can refill your stamina by eating food, but you can only eat so much in a day, meaning eventually you’ll need to crash. Doing so allows the island’s inhabitants to mail you toast. There’s no limit on the number of days you can take to complete the game, they work more as barriers to allow events to progress.
There are various ways to progress in 24 Killers. Helping Mons and getting their snapshot is key, but by collecting specific ones, you are granted more abilities like a dash, a jump, and a lift. You also collect Whispers in the world that function as currency. These can buy you upgrades, items for your health, and some of the game’s key items have to be purchased with these.
Unfortunately, this is where I hit one barrier. At one point, you need to buy something to proceed, and it took an uncomfortable amount of time to gather up the needed Whispers. However, the developer addressed this by adding dialogue that pointed out the importance of using “Shabstars” to increase the multiplier at which you gain Whispers. This can be used to the greatest effect during blood moons, which themselves increase the Whisper multiplier. After learning this, I found accumulating Whispers to be much less of an issue. Weird economy, though.
Otherwise, 24 Killers is largely free of of the sort of cryptic time-wasters that I found common in both Moon: Remix RPG Adventure and Chulip. There were moments when instructions weren’t crystal clear, but nothing unreasonable, and I completed the review build provided a month before release, so these might have been adjusted in the intervening time.
The grout of a mosaic receives no honor
If there’s one place I found somewhat lacking, it’s that 24 Killers is lacking anything to ground its weirdness. The characters aren’t terribly well defined, and most that I remember are because of their visual design rather than their personalities. It’s not that they have no defining traits, but nothing that really makes them relatable or sympathetic.
Likewise, the island is pretty abstract. It was garrisoned by the military some time before the events of the game, but they left with only some of their unwanted junk remaining. It’s a bit desolate overall, and I think it would have helped to have more of a believable locale. A town, maybe, but at the very least, something that implies all the Mons are trying to make the best of their weird exile.
Todd at Happy Shabby Games has told me that he’d like to provide post-release updates, and that more side stories and character development would be “awesome.”
Let this toast reflect our gratitude
In my now-legendary introduction, I mentioned the danger that comes with inviting comparisons to Love-de-Lic and its adjacent games. Surprisingly, 24 Killers holds up to those comparisons rather well, providing both an excellent homage and an enjoyable game in its own right. Actually, it’s a bit easier to recommend than Moon: Remix RPG Adventure and Chulip as those games, as much as I love them, have a habit of stepping on your face. 24 Killers is a lot friendlier than that. I can say that you should play it without having to put up a number of caution signs along with it.
I’m legitimately surprised by how 24 Killers manages to be so closely related to its influences yet still provide a unique experience. A studio’s philosophy is an intangible thing to try and mimic, but Happy Shabby Games seems to have taken 24 Killers protracted development period and nailed it. It feels like a spiritual successor, directly related to Moon. It features the same askew artstyle, a strange but relaxed soundtrack, and an atypical narrative with off-kilter dialogue. Meanwhile, it’s more player-friendly without being overly modernized or sterile. It’s great to see other developers pick up the torch, as the world could use a bit more love in it.
[This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]