Karma. Incarnation 1

Karma. Incarnation 1 is a game I want to enjoy. It has beautiful, high-contrast art, a mesmerizing and original soundtrack, and an interesting take on non-verbal storytelling. I just don’t think it’s a very good game. Coming from Auralab and Otherkind Games, Karma feels like an experiment that will delight some but bore others.

The art, as I mentioned, is beautiful. Sure, eye of the beholder and all that, but this art is eye-catching in the way it uses bright, saturated colour alongside the mostly black characters. In a way, you’re looking at the foreground like it is a silhouette against the much more colourful background. The character design reminds me of 1991’s Toejam and Earl on the Sega Genesis. Both games share a love of eyestalks, blobs, tentacles, and odd numbers of limbs. The environments were varied flavours of weird, ranging from snow covered wilderness and alien jungles to rusted-out shells of long-dead cities and alien raves.

Speaking of the rave, the game’s music comes courtesy of the “neo-aboriginal” band Zmeiraduga. Heavy use of tribal drumming alongside electronic elements and throat singing gives the band a space-primitive vibe that fits the world and creature design well. Several puzzles involved manipulating music or following along to it and I often found myself leaving the music on in the background once I had become bored of the gameplay.

I have a firm belief that a point-and-click game should contain puzzles that are just difficult enough to feel smart when you solve them but not so hard that they require using outside resources to solve. Karma is a game in which puzzles are either so easy you stumble into them and progress the game without even making decisions or they contain logic so bizarre and alien, due to the bizarre and alien world, that solving them becomes a matter of “rub blob x on blob y until it works”. I think the game’s adherence to its non-verbal story telling style is commendable as an artistic experiment, but I believe it hinders the game more than it elevates the art of the project.
I would recommend this game as a curiosity. The art and music alone are probably worth the price ($3.29 CAD), but don’t expect satisfying point-and-click gameplay here. You’re just following along to an odd but beautiful story.
~~S. W. Jackson~~

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