Is This What You Meant? Karma (analysis)

Yesterday I picked up a copy of Treasure Adventure at GOG.com for free. I opened it up today and found out that it has an unfinished predecessor called Karma by the same designer, so I fired that one up first.

Now I am afraid to play the actual finished game. Wording it that way makes it sound like the game is supposed to have the same story as the unfinished one, which I don’t think is the case, but the fear is there. Needless to say, Karma is not very good.

To be fair, both the incomplete and completed games were free. They look fine, and they don’t promise much, so what they deliver almost doesn’t matter. But Karma’s story still horrors me to my bloody core.

Karma is a platformer, wherein you play a little uni-hued seeker of enlightenment. You jump about and eventually expand the gameplay a little by reincarnating. I only made it about halfway through the prologue, so I don’t know how many times you reincarnate. The first incarnation is a little man who looks like a walking shadow, the second is a worm. I would guess that all of your forms are ruled by the single colour you choose before beginning play.

The beginning of the game has your character speaking with his master, a grey sprite who bangs on about enlightenment and karma coins. Apparently your character has been training in this fashion for his entire life, and the master has great hopes. He sends you upstairs to sleep, and for some reason instead of doing that, you go outside and watch the sun set from the roof. But it only sets a few pixels before your master sends a cry for help through the door behind you.

If any of this sounds familiar, then you have probably played video games before. Any. Video game.

When you go back inside, there is a note waiting for you. This is where my horror began and I have to say that every occurrence of the villain only made that horror grow. The letter addresses you as “Meddling Hero” and informs you that the villain has kidnapped your master, and you may see him again provided you don’t interfere with his plan. His plan involves taking over the world, so getting your master back under these conditions is a little undesirable. The letter also says that he is sick of you and your master foiling his plans or something like that. I’m paraphrasing, but my summation of this letter is not only free of typos, but it also sets itself apart from the actual letter by not being utterly ridiculous.

Meddling. Hero. As far as the game has told you thus far, you’ve been in spiritual pursuit all of your life. When did you meddle? Why would you? Who is this tool? Why would he take your master in the first place, and why would he dangle the idea of you getting the man back if his plan would just subjugate the entire population anyway? Why not just kill you and your master if this guy could enter your home and carry out a kidnapping within SECONDS?

Is there anything about this that makes sense?

I certainly didn’t think so. As I alluded to in my post about elements, this is all just a bunch of elements thrown together with no attention to logic or a greater story. It’s not even a bland, vanilla story. If stories were ice cream, this one would be rotten beef and parsley in a cone made of wax lips.

Why do so many stories start this way? Deadly Sin did the letter from a disappeared mentor, and I thought it was stupid then. It was handled much better than this, but as with any time a writer tries to indulge in this particular trope, the letter is lengthy, rambling, and dull. At least when the main character in Deadly Sin catches up to her master, something interesting has happened to him and he joins your party.

When you catch up to the villain (who actually insults you like a child before this point, angry that you’re following his trail), he delivers some tangential speech about consumerism and brain-washing. It’s very cliché, right down to the mention of an “iPlant” device.

Again, questions are raised. Why would this guy bother with a robot army when he is basically the hypocritical villain version of Steve Jobs and Michael Bay? He says himself that he controls trends and the economy with “the push of a button”. The best part is that he is using crystals to accomplish all of this. A revelation that he follows with a comment about it all being possible to his genius.

And then he bloody shoots your master in the head in spite of all of his talk. And tells you to chase him and die.

Sigh. Intro rewrite to follow. I’ve run long in my post again.

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