Stories of romance and tragedy have been told through the ages. People are fascinated by other’s pain and misfortune and vie for the underdog to save their one true love. This theme is as popular today as it always has been. Karma Incarnation 1 has jumped on the bandwagon, using this heart-wrenching concept at its core.
Developed by Other Kind Games and Auralab and published by ChiliDog Interactive, this is a puzzle game with a humorous narrative. It’s bizarre, surreal, confusing, and mentally taxing. A short game that offers very little in the way of hand-holding. You are left to solve each problem in this strange tale.
Karma Incarnation 1 tests your logical thinking and observation skills.
Part adventure, part point and click puzzle title, Karma Incarnation 1 isn’t a walk in the park. You must wander around many levels of an alien environment, helping the locals, and slowly moving towards your end goal. You are required to scan the surrounding environment, looking for clues, and finding further puzzles. Like with many of these games the problems and solutions are obvious, but this doesn’t make working them out any easier.
It tells a tale of astral beings who have found love in the most unlikely of places. The pair are inseparable until one fateful day when evil monsters ruin their peaceful existence. The pink entity is swallowed whole as the white one escapes with his life. He is told that his love is alive, and can be saved if he reincarnates as a dragon and destroys the monster. Willing to do anything, he begins his transformation only for an error to occur. His soul has been reborn as a worm named Pip, not a fearsome beast.
This sets the tone for the whole game. Throughout you are tickled with; humorous cutscenes, interactions with odd creatures, and strange tasks to help the locals.
Pip’s appearance changes depending on his actions.
Karma Incarnation 1 isn’t a straightforward linear tale. Yes, the action follows a set path, but depending on how you behave, and the things you do, influences others. Karma affects all beings, but none more so than Pip. If he’s bad, his appearance alters, impacting how others interact with him. This idea was simple, but sheer genius. The narrative of the game alters depending on what you do, and this opens up additional storylines for you to enjoy.
Alternatively, this can be quite a confusing aspect to understand. It isn’t always clear if a behaviour or action is good or bad. And this can sadly alter your gameplay unintentionally. What is also frustrating is the lack of guidance. It can be tough exploring stages when you have zero idea of what to do, or how to proceed. There is a hint system, but it seemed to offer advice when it wanted, and not when it was needed. This difficulty was rewarding in a sadomasochistic sort of way. There was lots of time wasted and many profanities muttered, yet it was worth it when the solution was found.
A stunning yet bizarre look.
You are instantly struck by how beautiful this looks. With hand-drawn images and contrasting tones and colours, it looks great! The small areas you explore vary in look and design and you quickly flit between shadowy caves and bright icy tundra. The dream-like theme continues with the characters appearance and the odd thought bubbles that convey the dialogue. There is a lack of complexity to the images and much of it appeared tribalistic in its style.
The gameplay is split between two views, and the first is Pip’s worm vision that sees the world as it should be. The second is a psychedelic space aura that sees an alternative reality. Both add to the weirdness of this game, and you will flit between the two to help overcome the many puzzles you face.
The audio continues this bizarre theme. There is a lack of dialogue, instead, you hear inaudible ramblings. These emphasise emotion and progress the story alongside the thought bubbles. There is a nice variety of sounds and music depending on which zone you visit. I particularly enjoyed the environmental sounds as Pip slid his way around the world. The developers took a minimalist approach, and this was great as it let you focus on each puzzle.
Oh, how I hated the controls.
Karma Incarnation 1’s controls are awful, as they are clumsy, unresponsive, and badly mapped. Undoubtedly they’d work better with a Mouse and Keyboard, sadly you are stuck with a controller. It was just about serviceable, but you are constantly reminded how clumsy they are. You’ll experience slow movement, button-mashing to perform actions, and plenty of mistakes as you select the wrong action. It was disappointing, as it tainted an otherwise very enjoyable experience.
This is a short game and will take between four and five hours to complete, which includes all the achievements. This quick playthrough alongside a lack of additional modes dents its replayability. Other than the aforementioned control issue, you’ll really enjoy it. Though it lacks a reason to return to it, it’s still worthy of your time.
Karma Incarnation 1 is odd, enjoyable, and a great indie title.
I love when a game does something unusual and Karma Incarnation 1 certainly does that. With a bizarre story, surreal aesthetic, and challenging puzzles, this will keep you working until the end. I won’t sugarcoat it, the controls are terrible, but the rest of the elements work well, so this setback is forgivable. I really enjoyed it and recommend you buy it here! Solve the puzzles, overcome the monster, and bring the lovers back together.