written by Isaac Thummel (@_IsaacT)
Some of you discerning patrons might recognize this game from my coverage of PAX West. Welcome back to the acid trip. Karma, Incarnation 1 is a point & click adventure game brought to us by Developer Auralab and Publisher Other Kind Games. It boasts hand drawn 2D frame-by-frame animation with music composed by Zmeiraduga. In this game we follow Pip on his adventure to save his pink love from the grips of the dark evil that has taken over the world.
The story begins with us smooching and touching tails with our love in space before the big bad evil arrives and captures said love while we run away. After pleading our case to the weird sun god we are told that we are going to be sent down to the planet where we will inhabit a T-Rex that breathes fire to kick the butt out of the big baddy and save the world. Of course that doesn’t go our way and we end up inside of a lowly worm whose only power is to eat things.
Oh did I forget to mention that this is all explained to us via mind images between characters? There is no text or dialogue in this game. Everything is commuted via music, tone, mood, and mental thought bubbles. Some of you may have gasped in awe at the beauty of this. Others, who have played many a point & click adventure, have just had their face meet keyboard. So the thing with many of this genre of games is that you have to get into the mindset of the game devs to solve their puzzles. Think along the same logic line as they have and you can solve their problems. A little tough for you? No worries you can just listen to their dialogue to have a character give you a hint as to what’s going on and what you need to do.
Whoops this game doesn’t have dialogue or text.
So before I sound like I am beating this game down without any positive notes. The art in this game is spectacular! The foreground tends to be in black with red and white highlights. The characters are very expressive and emotive in what they are doing. The background is a technicolor wet dream of kooky colors and imagery that is a more kid friendly LSD trip. For the full trip experience you use your ability to see the world through Astral sight for even more trippy colors. The accompanying music from Zmeiraduga is a mix of drum beats and deep horn notes that keep your head bobbing throughout the game including a period where Pip jumps on a drum to jam out with some other denizens of the world.
Going back to the gameplay itself they have stream lined the normal point and click style of having to rub items on everything to progress by just having thought bubbles appear over things that you can interact with which is both a help and a hindrance. Think you should click on a thing to progress? Guess what, you don’t have the desired item so you can’t. By the way we may or may not actually tell you, you are missing something. You might just not be able to click on the thing you want to.
Multiple times in my play though of the game I was stuck on what to do and nothing seemed to make sense as to what the next step was. In other P&C games there is a hint button you can click that will feed you a line of dialogue or something that will help push you forward in the puzzle. Problem is that this game has no dialogue. Plus this games hint system only pops up when it feels like helping you. Click the lightbulb that acts as the hint system when it isn’t lit up and Pip just shrugs at you. Maybe it does light up. Sometimes it offers you hints for part of the puzzle that you have already solved leaving you floundering around trying to figure out what is next. In one of my attempts I was using a time traveling phone booth ala Bill & Ted to go between worlds and solve puzzles. Because I went back to one world before solving a puzzle I got stuck in a loop that wouldn’t let me progress. How I was supposed to know that is beyond me. I had to reload from an earlier save to be able to progress in the game.
This game also states that the game includes a morality system that will affect how others see and react to you. Between my play throughs of saving people and killing people I didn’t feel any notable change. You grew a couple of spikes on your head but everything played out the same for me. Maybe there were subtle actions from npc’s but they were missed on me. I remember playing through Day of the Tentacle, Monkey Island, & Full Throttle without very many hiccups while Grim Fandango had me staring at the screen for hours on end trying to figure out what I was supposed to do.
This game felt to me like most P&C games where your enjoyment is going to correlate to your ability to stick to the devs train of thought for each puzzle. Spend thirty plus minutes screaming at the screen with no apparent solution and you might not want to keep going. I think it is definitely worth picking up for the illustration as well as the music. Whether you play it through to completion will be on your own tolerance level for guessing and deciphering what is supposed to happen. I think playing this once others have completed it and there are walkthroughs available on line will lend to a much better experience. I want to see more worlds and see what other weird things the art team comes up with!!