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Killer Klowns from Outer Space review - a true DBD rival

Illfonic and Teravision Games have made the perfect replacement for Friday the 13th and a superb competitor in the asymmetrical genre.

Killer Klowns from Outer Space game review: Jumbo beckons forward the player with a big smile on his face in KKfOS.

Our Verdict

For fans of asymmetrical multiplayer games, Killer Klowns from Outer Space does what many others before have not, almost perfecting the likes of balance, down time, and match length, and it deserves to be considered among the best in the genre. Illfonic’s game fills the gap left by Friday the 13th and checks every box in style, but its lesser-known IP may prevent well-deserved longevity.

Not so long ago, I reviewed The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, an asymmetrical multiplayer from one of the co-creators of Friday the 13th The Game that seemed set to fill the gap left by the dead Jason Vorhees tie-in. Now I want to tell you about Killer Klowns from Outer Space, another asymmetrical multiplayer from one of the co-creators of Friday the 13th The Game that looks set to fill the gap left by the dead Jason Vorhees tie-in – and this one is what we’ve been waiting for.

The Killer Klowns from Outer Space movie is a 1988 cult classic. It might not be as well-known as, say, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Friday the 13th, and Nightmare on Elm Street, but it’s just as beloved in the right circles. You might think this ‘80s, neon-tinted, kitsch comedy horror isn’t as frightening as those other classics, but it boasts some scenes that still make me cover my eyes to this day. It has its own recognizable aesthetic, and its camp villains and gaudy circus setting lend themselves perfectly to its own horror game.

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And that’s where I’ll start. Developer Illfonic, one of the teams behind Friday the 13th, has done a tremendous job, as it always does, of porting the look, feeling, and story of the source material into the game. This is also one of the high points of Texas Chain Saw Massacre, on which the other KKfOS dev, Teravision Games, helped, so you know you’re in good hands.

Fans of the film have so much to take in and enjoy, from rare collectibles to the klown characters themselves and the expansive maps. Each of these maps has some connection to the film, be it the make-out spot from the start of the movie or the police station where that scene takes place, and smaller easter eggs are littered throughout. Players who may be coming in for the genre alone also have plenty to enjoy thanks to the vibrant-yet-gloomy surroundings and incredible set pieces, like burning cars and moving funfair rides.

Some of the asymmetrical horror genre’s biggest issues include gameplay balancing, repetitive or unchallenging games, matches being held hostage by either side, and death – especially early death – feeling incredibly disheartening. I don’t want to make too many comparisons to Friday the 13th for those who haven’t played it, but, in many ways, it’s an important parallel. One of the reasons I loved Friday the 13th was that it addressed the issues above, and thus these were among my priorities for KKfOS.

The player character looks up and admires a brightly lit funfair ride in one of the Killer Klowns from Outer Space maps.

The first huge difference to note between most other games in the genre is that Killer Klowns from Outer Space is 7 v 3. That’s seven humans against up to three Killer Klowns. I was worried about this balance at first, but it actually plays out perfectly. Sure, there’s a chance two or more Klowns might gang up on one human, but there’s an equal chance of multiple humans ambushing one or two Klowns, too. Yes, humans can fight back.

Klowns can’t be AI-controlled, so you might find that you wind up in a lobby alone or with just one other teammate. While the human team is always seven players, this can be made up of bots, and since these bots aren’t great at doing their job, they’re pretty easy to defeat, so the balance still always feels fair. As an example, two Klowns against four or five human humans and a couple of bots doesn’t ever feel like you’re being overpowered. That’s balance – check.

Killer Klowns from Outer Space review: The screen says "You've escaped" in front of an image of the KKfOS portal escape.

Then there are four main Killer Klowns from Outer Space exits, and each requires specific items to open. Similar to Friday the 13th and TXCM, these items range from fuses and fuel cans to keys and weapons, and all are found randomly throughout the map, providing unique gameplay to survivors in every match. This gives players so much more to do than, say, sit at five identical generators (no shade intended), so gameplay is massively elevated for humans. Of course, the standard skill check mechanic is here and fails alert the Klowns, resulting in many a showdown at the edge of the bridge or boat dock.

As for killers, there’s also more to think about than simply chasing and killing the opposing team. Cotton Candy Cocoons lie around the map, and the best place for Klowns to start is hooking these up to Lackey Generators. Actually, finding humans often becomes secondary to this. These generators spawn Lackeys that patrol the surrounding area for you, and if you and your team hook up 16 cocoons, you can trigger an early Klownpocalypse (I’ll get to that) to kill every surviving human. What’s more, you don’t have all the power here. Humans can fight back if they have the right weapons, and can even kill you, taking you out of the match for 45 seconds. Both teams have so much to think about and do, leading to incredibly fulfilling and challenging matches for both sides. So, diverse objectives – also check.

Killer Klowns from Outer Space review: The Klownpocalypse arrives - a pink mist starts to cover the map as a red warning alert scrolls across the top of the screen.

No single game of KKfOS can last longer than 15 minutes, and neither side is able to prevent this. Texas Chain Saw Massacre partly solves match length with Grandpa, who reveals victim locations after a while. This still requires a lot of work from the killers, though, and there is no timer on the match. In Killer Klowns, the timer is always counting down to the Klownpocalypse. This event starts after ten minutes, giving humans a further five minutes to get out. 30 seconds before the end of the match, one final escape option becomes available, then it’s a race against time before a bright pink bubble kills all remaining humans. With that final escape option, even the Klownpocalypse doesn’t feel weighted towards one team or another. That’s the inability to hold the game hostage sorted, and yet another check.

But what happens when you die? It’s a question we’ve all asked, and I can’t speak for reality, but in Killer Klowns from Outer Space, there is life after death. If you happen to be really unlucky in finding weapons and are taken down within minutes, or you put up a good fight halfway through the game and go down, there’s still more for you to do, and there’s no downtime.

Killer Klowns from Outer Space review: A Balloon Pop minigame is played after the player's death.

Naturally, you can spectate your teammates, but you can also participate in adorable minigames at the same time, perfectly fitting in with the game’s circus and fun fair vibes. By completing these minigames, you’re rewarded with random in-game items, from diversion items like baseballs to weapons, including guns if you’re lucky, and even rare exit items. You can then keep these for yourself or pass them to the player you’re spectating, aiding in their escape. But why would you keep it for yourself, you might ask? The Resurrection Machine. When you’re down, you’re not out, as a surviving player can use the Resurrection Machine once per match to bring all currently dead players back to life. That’s two reasons to stick around after you die. So, finally, not being completely out after death – a big ol’ check.

Sadly, the game’s current technical state lets it down a touch, as I’ve experienced my share of bugs and server issues. One of the biggest problems in the version I played was frequent match disconnections. That said, this is known issue and a fix is already in the works, hopefully before the public launch. The only other major downside I have found so far is that some features aren’t described well in-game, such as the human archetypes and what they do. Again, this has been fed back to the dev, but it’s not a big gamechanger, as you learn while you play, and once you know, you know.

KKfOS review: A female Klown goes to step on a scared human in a Killer Klowns from Outer Space Klowntality.

Something else I did notice almost immediately when playing as both a human and a Klown is that movement and item interaction often feels like it’s pushing against you. But I consider that a good thing. In, say, Dead by Daylight, movement feels very fluid, and that’s great, but there’s an almost nostalgic charm to the less responsive feel of Killer Klowns from Outer Space, a feeling that again reminds me of Friday the 13th.

Finally, I want to speak to the lobby and matchmaking. Yet again taking a leaf out of Friday the 13th’s book, Illfonic has made it so you can’t choose your team and can only select a preference. Switching teams and being forced to play both sides is so much fun, and I think it’s crucial to both improving your own skill and preventing a toxic environment. You might still be able to ‘main’ a side with your preference, but you know how it feels to play both. This also helps avoid matchmaking delays.

One of the biggest downfalls of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre was matchmaking issues, as many players dipped out permanently following long lobby times. This is something that worries me about having ten-player lobbies in KKfOS. Sure, bots fill up the human side, so you can make a match with even one real player, but if that’s where we end up, it’s not going to be a lot of fun. With a lesser-known IP than TXCM and Friday the 13th, I do worry that the pool of players will be shallower, but this game deserves to do well – it’s just so damn fun.

Killer Klowns from Outer Space the game review: Six survivors stand together before the start of a KKfOS match.

It feels like Illfonic and Teravision Games have thought of almost everything when creating Killer Klowns from Outer Space, and it’s a real labor of love, just like, and occasionally even better than, the genre’s best. Alongside the myriad easter eggs, collectibles, and unlockables, there’s even an in-game QR code to download the game’s dissonant, haunting yet rousing soundtrack. Let’s just say my new ringtone is awesome.

Killer Klowns from Outer Space The Game ticks almost every box I have for a dream asymmetrical multiplayer game and executes each with near perfection while nailing the source material’s feel and aesthetic. I only hope the player numbers reflect the passion that has gone into it, as KKfOS is truly the game for fans of the genre.