Krampus Kills my enthusiasm for Christmas gaming.
The myth of Krampus has exploded in the past decade, going from obscure European folklore to a leading character in movies, TV shows, and more recently, video games. Krampus Kills certainly isn’t the first game to feature the anti-Santa himself, but it’s one I’ve chosen to play during this post-festive season. Let’s see how it gets on.
You play a young boy who is apparently a bit of a brat. Aside from notes you can find that suggest he isn’t the best, there’s a dedicated middle-finger button that you use to flip your mum off right at the start of the game. Anyway, it’s Christmas Eve, and you’re off to bed only to be awoken by flickering lights in a now empty house. It seems Krampus and his evil elves have come for your soul, and you need to escape and fight back.
In Krampus Kills you’ll be avoiding the titular demon, solving light puzzles, and fighting off hordes of lesser enemies in your bid to survive the night and maybe turn over a new leaf. The problem here is that the game feels quite confused in what it wants to be. It’s part stealth game, part fast-paced boomer shooter, and part survival horror. Because of all these elements vying for attention, there isn’t one that stands out as particularly good.
The stealth sections in which you avoid the invulnerable Krampus are fine enough, with you sneaking around and finding places to hide as you find keys and other items to move onto the next area. Krampus will instantly kill you — with a hilariously shonky animation — if he comes into contact with you, but your insult button can draw the demon in certain directions, and firing your limited ammo stun gun to freeze him in place for a few seconds will allow you to escape. They’re simple sections, generally taking place in small environments, but they work as intended. The stun gun isn’t great, as Krampus will still kill you if you run past him whilst stunned, and the walking sound effects don’t do enough to make it clear what direction he’s going in though, so it’s still a bit hit and miss as to how you’ll get on here.
The shooting fares somewhat better, but isn’t without its issues. You spend most of the game equipped with a shotgun and a melee weapon, both of which make short work of the elves and other basic enemies that turn up, but if you get swarmed they make short work of you too. The obvious solution is to not get overwhelmed, but your movement speed is so slow compared to how fast this game feels like it wants you to play. There’s a neat quick turn button that swings you around 180 degrees, but you then have to position yourself and aim quickly enough to handle your enemies. I liked the combat options you have, with your shotgun having multiple fire modes for different numbers of barrels, and your melee weapon being very effective. When you get yourself into a defensible position, the combat feels quite satisfying, with meaty shotgun blasts taking out multiple foes at once. There are explosive weapons to throw too, but that’s where the survival horror elements come in.
Part of me understands why these elements are here, especially later in the game, but for eighty percent of the playtime, this is just a pain. You have to use your inventory for switching weapons and healing, and whilst you have two quick change slots bound to the left and right D-pad buttons, one of those will certainly be for your stun gun. So if you want to swap to a throwing weapon, you have to faff about with the clunky inventory screen for a few moments, utterly killing the pace. When you’re in combat, Krampus Kills wants this to be a fast-paced boomer shooter, so having to stop to do a little bit of inventory management seems like a mad decision to me.
There are horror elements here, but they’re pretty mild, limited to jump scares and a few creepy character designs. Most of the basic enemies are pretty generic, including plain ordinary zombies for some reason. Krampus himself is creepy enough I suppose, looking intimidatingly large, but isn’t greatly detailed. There’s one standout though, and that’s the Reindeer, which was really well designed visually. Environments try to add to the fear factor, but just come across as pretty formulaic. You’ll visit sewers, creepy hospitals, and graveyards, none of which are desperately interesting and tend to have confusing layouts, particularly the sewers.
Krampus Kills is aggressively fine. It does nothing particularly well but also nothing offensively bad. Each element of the gameplay is reasonably well done without doing anything to stand out. With visuals and sound that are pretty basic, gameplay that is hit and miss, and pretty generic characters, there’s not a significant reason to go out of your way to play this one unless you’re desperate for a Christmas themed horror shooter.
Krampus Kills is available now on PC and Xbox.