Killer Klowns From Outer Space – Send in the Klowns

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Killer Klowns from Outer Space header

In 1988, The Chiodo Brothers released a film that would spawn a huge cult following. That following endures and thrives even now in 2024. That film was Killer Klowns from Outer Space, and now there’s a video game that puts you in the oversized, squeaky shoes of the alien menace.

Many legacy horror franchises and characters have received the video game treatment in recent years. The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, Evil Dead, Friday the 13th, Puppet Master, and Dead by Daylight all feature iconic characters and locations from their cinematic inspirations. They also have one other thing in common. They are all asymmetrical team-based multiplayer survival games. Killer Klowns from Outer Space is no different.

The movie is one of my favorite 80s B movies. It’s bright, silly, and filled with excellent practical effects. Asymmetrical multiplayer survival games are one of my least favorite game genres. I faced a dilemma: Play another entry in a genre I generally do not enjoy for an IP I love, or learn my lesson after previous disappointments and ignore it.

I’m writing this so you can guess which one I have chosen.

The Movie

Let’s start with a recap of the movie. The sleepy town of Crescent Cove suddenly finds itself under siege by a group of aliens that look like clowns. Luckily for the freshly landed aliens, Crescent Cove is bizarrely circus-themed, with a burger joint called Big Top Burger, an amusement park, and an ice cream truck topped with a giant clown head run by the Terenzi Brothers.

After landing in their Big Top spaceship, the Killer Klowns terrorize the locals, cocooning them in cotton candy and taking them back to their ship for food. The only people to truly understand the threat facing the town are teenagers Debbie and Mike, who see the Big Top land from their vantage point on Lover’s Lane – the go-to destination for all teenagers in every horror movie.

Of course, no one believes Debbie and Mike, and the residents of Crescent Cove soon find themselves trapped inside cotton candy. The Killer Klowns spend the movie tricking the town with circus acts before ultimately being defeated in a rain of cream pies. At one point, one of the Klowns pretends to deliver a pizza. When the unsuspecting recipient opens the door, another Klown pops out of the pizza boxes and shoots them with a cotton candy ray gun. In one of the most famous scenes from the movie, one Klown performs a shadow puppet act. The performance ends when the shadow dinosaur it has cast on the wall springs to life and attacks the audience.

The Game

The gamified version of the movie is an asymmetrical horror game where two teams compete. Each match features a team of seven humans and three Klowns. The humans need to escape the Klowns and work together to create exits from the level. The Klown’s goal is to kill and/or cocoon all the humans, or at least kill more than survive each match.

One feature that Killer Klowns has that other asymmetrical horror games don’t have is the ability to play offline against bots. This is great for helping new players acclimate to maps and weapons as one of the Klowns. However, you cannot play as a human offline unless another player is playing as a Klown. It also allows for cross-play for all platforms, making matchmaking much easier.

Image Credit: Illfonic, Teravision Games.

Humans can be one of five archetypes, provided you have played enough to unlock them. Your options are Athletic, Rebellious, Heroic, Resourceful, and Tough. Each of these will give different stat boosts. For example, choosing Athletic as your archetype will make you quicker. All the characters are reasonably customizable, with varying skin tones, makeup, outfits, and voices to choose from. Again, most cosmetics are unlocked by playing the game and/or completing challenges. Challenges can be found on the main menu, and there are specific ones for each class as well as for the overall game. The only humans you can’t customize are the movie’s pre-order characters, Debbie and Mike.  

Klowning Around

You can customize your character load-outs from the main menu and switch them between matches. Humans don’t get any weapons or supplies to begin with. As a human, it’s up to you to survive the attack by finding weapons, buffs, heals, and escape items. Look for areas lit up by a green glow to find larger caches of supplies. If you get caught in a cotton candy cocoon, you might have the chance to escape. If not, you can either die quicker or wait to see if a teammate will rescue you.

As a member of the Klowns team, you get to choose between five different classes that represent one of the five main Klowns from the movie. Ranger, Tracker, Trapper, Tank, and Brawler are your choices. Once again, each class is unlocked by leveling up, and with each class comes new weapons that any class can equip.

Image Credit: Illfonic, Teravision Games.

In each match, you have a ranged cotton candy firing weapon and a melee weapon. Cocooning a human means you can hook them up to a cotton candy generator, which will spawn lackeys that will attack and humans that pass by.

Some tricks can be equipped to help you take down the humans. There’s one called LOL, which will heal you over time and give you a brief strength and speed boost. One trick can briefly hypnotize humans, making them easier to cocoon or kill. Another trick is to deploy a balloon dog that will track humans down. Each trick has a cooldown, meaning you can’t spam them. There are also killer moves called Klowntalities. This is a terrible moniker for them. However, each flashy kill is based on a scene from the movie. You can pie someone to death, pop out of a pizza box, or use shadow puppets to end a human’s suffering.

Killer Klowns From Outer Space: The Game Is An Incredibly Faithful Adaptation

This leads me to how the game stays faithful to the movie. There are currently five maps available, each one a fairly accurate rendering of locations in the film. There is an abandoned amusement park where the movie’s final showdown occurs. Downtown and suburban Crescent Cove are also represented, as well as the area around Lover’s Lane and a clown-themed summer camp that isn’t featured in the movie but easily could have been.

Image Credit: Illfonic, Teravision Games.

The Chiodo Brothers were directly involved in the game’s development, and it is clear that the source material has been given all the goofy respect it deserves. The game is a love letter to the silliness of the film and incorporates so many little things from the world. The Klown’s weapons are based on those seen in the movie, even those with minimal screen time.

When there is one minute left in a match, a Klownpocalypse is triggered. This will lead to an explosion of cotton candy, killing any remaining humans on the map. An emergency exit is also created by the Terenzi Brothers. As in the movie, the brothers will burst through one of the blocked-off exits in their ice cream truck as a last-ditch escape method for trapped humans. The game also uses the incredible theme song from the movie Killer Klowns by the Dickies. The music kicks in whenever you get near to a human, alerting you to their presence.

The Verdict

As someone who actively hates asymmetrical horror games, I actually enjoyed playing Killer Klowns from Outer Space. It’s an incredibly unserious entry to a genre that takes itself all too seriously. The team at Teravision Games and Illfonic love the source material and have put a lot of effort into the game’s visuals. The Klowns and their weapons are screen-accurate, and even the brutal kills are lifted straight from the film. Having the Chiodo Brothers involved also can’t hurt the styling of the game.

When it comes to gameplay, yes, the weapons and kills are sillier than the usual asymmetrical horror game fare, but it ultimately boils down to playing like every other entry in the genre. What elevates it is the clear love of the original movie involved in the development. Unlike Dead by Daylight, which has long since jumped the shark with NFTs and dozens of paid DLCs, it doesn’t feel like a money grab. Some of the weapons are unbalanced. For example, the Klown’s Pentashot is terrible and slow, with a recoil that makes it almost impossible to fire continuously.

Killer Klowns from Outer Space is fun yet familiar, both to its benefit and detriment. The nostalgia and reverence for the movie is tangible and leaks through into the gameplay. However, it is still another asymmetrical horror game with copy-and-paste gameplay underneath.

Killer Klowns from Outer Space is out on June 4 on PC, PS5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X/S.

A code was provided by the publisher for this review.

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Killer Klowns From Outer Space – Send in the Klowns
Killer Klowns from Outer Space: The Game is a faithful adaptation of the iconic 1980s horror comedy that's enjoyable, but at times, falls victim to trappings of the asymmetrical genre.
Love for the source material is evident.
Doesn’t take itself seriously at all.
Visually excellent and faithful to the film.
Buggy, disconnects.
Exactly the same gameplay as all other asymmetric horror games.
Unbalanced weapons.
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Written by Emma Oakman

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