Back in the 1980s, there was a TV show called Midnight Caller about an ex-police detective who became a late-night radio host. He would get calls from listeners and use his detective skills to solve their problems and various crimes. It was an interesting premise but not one that would really work in the form of a video game… or would it? Killer Frequency is developed and published by Team 17 and the basic premise of the game is very Midnight Caller.
“Killer Frequency is a first-person horror adventure that puts you in the shoes of Forrest Nash, a late-night radio host whose callers are being stalked by a mysterious killer. Solve puzzles, save lives and run the switchboards, all while listening to a jukebox of retro ‘80s tunes!”
Set in 1987, you play as DJ Forrest Nash. Once on a very popular station in Chicago with millions of listeners, you now find yourself doing the graveyard shift on a tin-pot station who are happy to get 35 listeners, in Gallows Creek. A small town where a lot of nothing happens. The last time that anything of note did happen in Gallows Creek was 20 years ago when a serial killer known as The Whistling Man was found dead.
However, when the police station is attacked, leaving the Sheriff dead, you are deputised into acting as 911 and begin to take calls from the town’s residents. The calls start to come in and it seems like The Whistling Man is back from the dead. You have to try to save people from being killed and work out who The Whistling Man is and how has he returned from the grave.
I may have likened Killer Frequency to Midnight Caller in my introduction, but aside from the idea of being a radio DJ solving crimes, they are tonally different. Killer Frequency is a horror game with a very interesting twist, you don’t see the horror. At first, you are stuck in your DJ booth and your only (non-caller) companion is your producer, Peggy. Now, since the news that The Whistling Man has returned, Peggy has locked herself in her own production booth and refuses to come out. Still, she is more than happy to help you out running your radio show, all while you deal with calls from people being stalked by The Whistling Man.
The way the basic gameplay works is that you are having to host your radio show and you still have to play records and ads, all while you get people calling in. As The Whistling Man’s killing spree continues, you’ll get calls from people who are being stalked by the killer and it is up to you to do your best to talk them out of the situation they are in. Each caller has their own scenario that you need to get them out of. For instance, I had one where I had to talk a caller through how to hotwire a car so that they could escape. Another had me guiding someone out of a maze. One had me having to give a stab victim second-hand medical advice. The scenarios are quite varied and offer some pretty fun gameplay.
I honestly loved these little scenarios and they really give the game a unique twist to a horror game. Because you are stuck at the radio station, you don’t see anything and everything is delivered to you via dialogue. It’s really effective too. You don’t see any blood or gore, there are no cheap jump scares (save a very telegraphed one during the opening tutorial, which I’m sure was put in there by the devs to make fun of cheap jump scares). You have to rely on your ears and sometimes what you don’t see is more terrifying than what you do see.
Killer Frequency does a fantastic job of building tension and fear. It also does something else, it’s genuinely funny. Yup, this is more of a horror/comedy over a straight horror. With you having to deal with prank callers and even a really annoying (but bloody hilarious) pizza restaurant owner. This game takes the 80’s horror vibe and has fun with it. While you are in your DJ booth, you can play around with volume sliders and you even have a sound effects board. You can sit there, taking a call from a terrified victim being stalked by The Whistling Man, and hit the button for a cheeky jingle, a laugh track or even the classic ‘ba-dum-boom-tish’ drums. It’s stupid but really great fun.
The game starts with you being stuck in your DJ booth but as the story progresses, more and more of the radio station becomes available. Outside of all the calls, you do get to walk around a fair bit. You’ll soon be exploring the staff office, reception, the staff room, the basement and your boss’ office. You even go outside to the back alley for a short spell of the game. What seems to be a relatively small playing area slowly opens up the more you play and there’s quite a lot to discover too. There’s a ton of 80s horror references, the town map alone is crammed with notable names. There are hidden records to add to your play list and tapes to find. Even though there’s a killer on the loose, there’s still time for some classic gaming exploration.
Around £21 and is available now for Steam, Meta Quest 2, PS4 & PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series S/X and the Switch, basically everything. Killer Frequency is a tough game for me to review and sum up. I love it and think it is brilliant. A fantastic story with some wonderful characters and very clever and funny writing. But… it’s just not £21 good. The price point is a wee bit high, I feel. I got to the end credits in just over 4 hours and saved all but one victim. Now, I didn’t rush through this, I took my time. I explored the radio station, found all the hidden records and such and I still only got a little over 4 hours out of it with an almost perfect playthrough.
Despite my not saving everyone (one person died) I felt no pull to go back and go for another play and to go for 100%. Perhaps if for your initial run, you do worse and have multiple deaths, it may be worth another go to try and save everyone. But for me, not so much. Really, Killer Frequency is a bit too easy. Aside from one puzzle near the end of the game where I had to cross-reference clues and become a real detective, everything else is really straightforward and even a bit ‘hand-holdy’. There is nothing terribly taxing here and the puzzles are all too easy to work out. But I still adore this game and might even go so far as to say it’s one of the best I have played this year.
I have no problems with a short game, in fact, I welcome them over several dozen-hour slogs. However, a short game (depending on the price) really needs to offer you something to come back and play again. Sadly, I didn’t get that with Killer Frequency and that £21 price is not exactly welcoming. Maybe pick it up a bit further down the line when it drops in price? But still, get this on your radar and give it a play, because it really is great fun. I bet it’s awesome in VR too.
You must be logged in to post a comment.