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Cult classic ’80s movie inspires Dead by Daylight’s hottest new rival

We went hands-on with Killer Klowns From Outer Space at PAX East, and this colorful Dead by Daylight rival gets the balance just right.

A creepy clown with green tufted hair and a huge red nose grins menacingly into the camera

Illfonic, the studio behind the likes of Predator: Hunting Grounds and Ghostbusters: Unleashed, has found a comfortable niche in making games like Dead by Daylight. Killer Klowns From Outer Space is very much in the same vein, but while the core mechanics look similar to other horror multiplayer games, it offers a few unique twists that make it stand out from its competitors.

I had a chance to check out Killer Klowns From Outer Space during an extended demo at PAX East this year, and the first thing that struck me is that, compared to other multiplayer games of its like, the balance of power here feels more, well, balanced.

Instead of one all-powerful killer taking on a handful of muscle-bound marines or SNL alumni in jumpsuits like in previous games, Killer Klowns divides the power up into three separate assailants. Humans, on the other hand, are slightly more powerful than you’d normally expect from similar games. These Klowns may be killers, but they’re no Predator. Instead, they’re vulnerable to a well-tossed baseball to the nose or a lead pipe to the back of the head.

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Instead of arming humans with a specific loadout at the beginning of each round, they’re instead forced to scrounge for survival supplies. Some items are offensive, like a loaded revolver or a baseball bat, while others serve a defensive purpose – ice cream bars, for example, provide a speed boost. These items spawn randomly across the map, meaning your favorite toolbox or cooler probably won’t have the exact same goodies as last round – think Fortnite, but creepier.

But savvy looting will only help you delay the inevitable. Any killed Klown will respawn after a minute, meaning going on the offensive won’t give you the win. Instead, you and your comrades are tasked with escaping through various points on the map, but you’ll still need to scavenge loot to be able to execute your final getaway. You’ll need to find items like gas cans and keys, but be aware that some escape routes may have been sabotaged in advance. Encounter one of these, and you’ll have to whack the Klowns’ stringy cotton candy off the gate before you can pick the lock and ride off into the sunset.

A man aiming a revolver at a creepy clown character with pink energy sparkling around it

I had much more fun (and faced more challenges) while hunting humans as a Klown. Armed with a bizarre cotton candy gun and a pair of boxing gloves, your goal is to kill all of those pesky humans before they can escape. If you’re able to cocoon them in cotton candy, you can hook them up to a bizarre, twisted funfair ride that feels reminiscent of Dead by Daylight’s hooks.

In true DBD style, human players have a brief countdown before they die, meaning others can save them. While this means that an unfortunate candy-cocooned victim could be the perfect bait, a pair of properly armed humans can easily take on a Klown, so make sure you’ve got the upper hand first.

You can do that using the myriad powers that the Klowns have at their disposal. While seemingly basic, the Klowns’ jump ability is unlocked from the get-go, and gives you a bird’s-eye view of the forest – I don’t need to explain why that’s important. The Klowns’ other two abilities are tied to which one you’re playing as, which is randomized every match. You’ll need to get used to a handful of different abilities to master the art of murder, so practice is key.

A man struggles while being blasted with pink laser beams in a dark carnival

My favorite ability was one of Shorty’s, which sees him turn into a pizza box with feet. When you stop moving you just look like, well, a pizza box, allowing you to blend in with the scenery if one of the humans turns to look at you. It’s very Prop Hunt-esque, but with a twist: if you can get close enough to a victim, you can pop out of the pizza box with a powerful uppercut. Sure, it’s pretty tough to land, but the payoff is well worth it – plus it’s funny.

I came away from my preview of Killer Klowns From Outer Space surprised. DBD-style horror games aren’t usually my thing unless I’m playing with friends, but the push and pull of trying to survive and fight off Klowns while simultaneously attempting to escape kept me engaged. I’m curious to see how Illfonic continues to balance the game and build upon the genre that it clearly knows so well.