I grew up playing video games from the '80s, which is unusual when you consider I was born in '93, but I have my uncle to thank for that. An OG game and tech guy, he had it all; stacks of gaming magazines, retro consoles, and the patience to introduce me to a hobby that still brings me joy.
Why am I bringing this up now? Well Krampus Kills was a nostalgia trip that sling-shotted me back to the late '90s and brought a smile to my face with its gleeful gore, grungy aesthetics, and irreverent approach to this old folkloric tale... and what better time for a review of this game than on the run up to Christmas.
Krampus: The Ultimate Christmas Villain?
I couldn't write about this game without touching on the actual mythology behind Krampus. Of course, I'm no expert but here's an overview.
Krampus is the other side of St. Nicholas, or Santa Claus, in many ways; his sinister sibling if you will. While Krampus seems to be found throughout the Central Europe, he probably originated in Germany where his name derives from the word Krampen (or 'claw').
While Santa brings nice children toys and gifts, Krampus beats naught kids with branches and sticks... in fact, depending on who you ask he may even eat them or drag them to hell. So, with all of this in mind is there any doubt that he's the perfect creature to face down in a Christmas action/horror game?
Gross, Gaudy, Fun; The Brass Tacks
From flipping the bird with a nasal "Shut Up" (pronounced sheddap by the games pre-pubescent, sawn-off savage of a protagonist) to the kitschy heavy metal posters and cartoonishly corpulent main monster, Krampus Kills is a '90s themed acid trip. Call me old, but it gives me the same vibes as Day of the Tentacle in a way that I refuse to explain... mostly because I can't.
It's not a survival horror fright fest, to be fair; it's more of a shooter. Think OG Doom and you won't be far off because one short sprint from the starting house to a parked cop car yields an SMG. While this pea shooter won't kill Krampus, you'll need it for his horde of minions. As the game progresses, Finley will pass from his home to the sewers and all the way down to, ahem, warmer climes and his weapons will get more powerful and messy.
So will the monsters. From the bug-eyed, large-eared, comically pot-bellied 'elves' that form the shock troops to the cute but creepy snowmen that haunt some later levels, most of the enemies are appropriately themed and kitschy.
Despite this, it's a fairly clever little game; it rewards the savvy shooter who knows how to target enemies weaknesses and work around Krampus's tendency to patrol.
The Nice List
Seems appropriate to put what I loved about this game on a 'nice' list, so here it goes:
- The game commits to its chosen bit; it has no shame and doesn't care about cringe
- Krampus is a gross, lumbering nightmare and I love him for it
- You can modify weapons to frankly ridiculous ends (ever wanted a four barrel shotgun? If so, I have good news for you)
- There are some genuine jump scares
- The maps are interesting and distinctive despite this being far from a 'big budget' game
- There's a weirdly festive yet spooky atmosphere that makes this game stand out
- It's great fun
The Naughty List
- The inventory function can be pretty clunky
- There are some points where the game play feels a little repetitive
- The low lighting can be a real pain in some areas of the game
- The controls aren't always well optimized
- Some of the puzzles feel like a frustrating grind
Overall, however, its a fun little slice of irreverent festive horror that has good atmosphere and lots of spirit. It's worth the price tag, and counts as a great way to pass the hours on Christmas eve, especially with a mug of mulled wine in hand.