KarmaZoo

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KarmaZoo (Steam) – Review

A few months ago, MKAU Gaming was invited to take part in the KarmaZoo hands-on preview, which you can read here, where I was able to play a few rounds with other media outlets as well as some of the development team from Pastagames, including Nadim Haddad, who I was invited to interview while we were in Melbourne at PAX AUS 2023. You can check that out on our YouTube.

Published by Devolver Digital and inspired by simple acts of kindness, KarmaZoo aims to bring players together in multiplayer-only randomized Loops, tailored to whatever avatars the players have active. Should your party contain an elephant, for example, you’ll find paths blocked by destructible items, or mouse wheels to generate power if there happens to be a mouse in your group, but it doesn’t just stop with animals. Using Karma Hearts, the in-game currency, players can unlock a variety of unique avatars, each with its own quirky perks, all useful in escaping the loops.

Although the Loops are relatively short, they’re full of small puzzles and mechanics that encourage players to work together, such as carrying an electrical charge between the original source and light bulbs positioned around the map or singing in a specific direction to hold a door open and allow your new friends to pass through. Players can also sacrifice themselves, leaving behind a block to create bridges across spikes, a new section of wall to aid in climbing, or a shield against acid dropping from above.

Other players can reward their actions, passing out Karma Hearts as a “Thank you,” helping to further increase the number earned during a Loop, with Nadim even mentioning that this is highly encouraged by the team as it will help every player if the Loop is successfully completed.

Players are surrounded by a regenerating Halo, and so long as they stick together, this will never deplete. It’s only if someone wanders off by themselves or gets left behind that they “die,” but even then, they become a ghost that can still assist in finding solutions to the Loop, and they’ll be reincarnated once everyone passes through the portal. While the session will end if every player succumbs to the shrinking Halo, any Karma Hearts earned during the Loop will still be awarded to the players, but if it’s successful, every player will leave the session with the total sum of what was earned – a very tasty incentive to work together and ensure that no one is left behind.

One of the things we weren’t able to experience during the hands-on preview, or even at PAX, was the party game mode. Players will move trophies around the menu, using them to vote on which games they want to play, but also determining how many rounds the session will go for. Each game type will use a pre-determined avatar, such as a sentient lantern in a game that requires players to compete by igniting the most torches as walls close in, or another mode where players control an owl, soaring through the level and avoiding spikes to see who reaches the finish line first.

As a 2D side-scroller, gameplay is very simple, regardless of using keyboard and mouse, gamepad, or Nintendo Switch controls. Simple movements control side to side, up and down, and jumping, with the mouse or another controller stick aiming the characters singing and abilities.

With cross-play support allowing players to play with every other system, communicating with your new friends uses cute emojis, although there is nothing stopping you from joining a discord server and communicating that way.

KarmaZoo uses 8-bit pixel art and a limited colour palette to create detailed worlds and cute avatars that are beautifully animated and full of life. The worlds are dark and mysterious, with paths hidden by the fog of war until you begin to explore, though you can easily identify hazards and your own avatar amongst the possible nine other players. The accompanying music is just as charming, playing a calm tune as you explore, and the endearing sound effects perfectly capture the personality of whatever creature or creation you’re in control of – even the turtle’s out-of-tune yodelling was strangely appealing.

With the previously mentioned cross-play support for every platform, KarmaZoo is a great game to casually pick up and play for a few rounds, and you’ll never have trouble finding people to play with. If anything, playing with random players and watching the emojis flying around only adds to the experience. As for the completionists, Pastagames intends on releasing even more avatars, including fan suggestions, and they’re actively working on even more levels to challenge their players. Either way, I guarantee you’ll have a rewarding experience.

YouTube player

 

The Good

  • A huge variety of cute avatars to unlock
  • Loops generate based on player compositions
  • Challenging levels encourage teamwork
  • Actively reward other players
  • Full cross-play support

The Bad

  • Lack of solo gameplay may deter some
8
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10

Written by: Mathew Lindner

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