Killer Frequency Review – Holding The Line

You're radio DJ trying to save lives in a game that deftly balances tense thrills and campiness for a unique narrative experience
Killer Frequency game review

In Killer Frequency, you are radio DJ Forrest Nash, as he begins the night’s broadcast of his graveyard shift call-in show in the fictional tiny U.S. mountain town of Gallows Creek. Forrest has only been in town and on the job for a short while, and is deeply begrudging of the circumstances that led him there. 

After a clever tutorial that takes the guise of a pre-show systems check, guided by producer Peggy, the show goes live and you’re thrown your first caller. It’s the woman who operates the town’s 911 emergency dispatch line, and she’s panicked. The sheriff is dead, his two deputies are on vacation and incapacitated, and a local masked serial killer who plagued the town years earlier is back. You’re informed that all 911 calls will now be rerouted to the radio station and will have to be handled by Peggy and yourself live on the air.

It’s a ridiculously contrived situation for sure, but Killer Frequency hangs upon this framework a deftly crafted blend of storytelling, critical thought-led puzzle solving, and truly creepy environmental exploration. The fact that it manages to do so in a tidy and well-paced five and a half hours is wonderful.

The gameplay loop is largely built upon a series of intense phone calls from people attempting to flee or catch the killer. Each will lead you to explore the empty radio station building, looking for information that can help with the situation at hand. As Forrest is new in town, Peggy acts as your guide to the town, its people, and the station building itself as she dispenses keys that unlock new areas as the night progresses.

In one early example, a woman calls you from her car phone. She never bothers locking her ride, living in a snoozy town such as this, but she has seemed to have dropped her keys while running for her life. Peggy slides you the key to the staff offices at the station, and suggests you search the desk of the host of the station’s weekly motor enthusiast show. Eventually, you’ll find a magazine with a spread on ways to hotwire a car and attempt to guide the caller through the multi-step process. You’re free to attempt to just wing it too, but failure to successfully navigate a caller out of their situation will invariably result in their grisly murder. The complexity of these puzzles steadily ramps up in a very satisfying manner, and in the back half of the game I found myself actually taking down notes on my phone as callers were talking.

Killer Frequency game review

Despite how campy they can be, each victim call is incredibly tense. I even found that the mostly absent lack of any actual time pressure mechanic didn’t diminish how driven I was to find solutions and get these people to safety as quickly as possible. The dialogue and voice performances are absolutely top-notch and go a long way to really selling the abject silliness and absurd contrivances of the situation.

In between calls you’ll spin records, play advertisement tapes, and banter with Peggy. I appreciate how the game never throws you from one intense and complicated situation straight into another, as doing so would absolutely have just been too fatiguing. There’s good levity and character building in these downtimes too, which gives the world and its inhabitants a lot more personality.

While I absolutely adored my time with Killer Frequency, I wish my first experience playing through it hadn’t been on the Nintendo Switch version. 

The game appears to have been designed with VR in mind first and foremost, which becomes utterly apparent as soon as it teaches you the controls. Frankly, they’re strange, and it did take me most of the first hour to become accustomed to them. All gameplay beyond walking around exploring the station centres on precise pointing and left-hand/right-hand interaction and object manipulation. I played through the game on Nintendo Switch, using a Pro Controller, and though I did get used to them fine enough, the way in which you inhabit Forrest never felt truly natural to me even by the time the credits rolled. 

Killer Frequency game review
Images: Team17

In addition, a core part of the game is analyzing notes, magazines, and maps to get callers to safety and help catch the killer. Unfortunately, the Switch version crunches the textures on many of these objects down so much that they’re almost entirely unreadable. It’s an absolutely crushing problem to have, and one that’s all the more baffling as completely irrelevant environment decorations, such as band tour posters on walls, are crystal clear and entirely legible. My eyesight is okay enough that I could fumble my way through it without it directly leading to getting anyone killed, but it’s a really heartbreaking problem to have in what is otherwise an exceptional experience.

Killer Frequency is an absolutely marvellous meeting of vision and execution that is engrossing from start to finish. It deftly manages to balance tense thrills with self-aware campiness, echoing the best traits from 1980s slasher movies. Problems unique to the Switch version aside, the fresh and unique qualities of the Killer Frequency experience still come through loud and clear.

Four stars: ★★★★

Killer Frequency
Platforms: Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X/S
Developer: Team 17
Publisher: Team 17
Release Date: 2 June 2023

The Nintendo Switch version of Killer Frequency was provided and played for the purposes of this review. GamesHub has affiliate partnerships. These do not influence editorial content. GamesHub may earn a small percentage of commission for products purchased via affiliate links.

Jam Walker is a games and entertainment journalist from Melbourne, Australia. They hold a bachelor's degree in game design from RMIT but probably should have gotten a journalism one instead. You can find them talking entirely too much about wrestling on Twitter @Jamwa