Killing yourself has never been more fun… or difficult!
Puzzle-Platforming games all have similar goals: get to the door, collect all the things, make your way to the top, and so on. Karoshi (or “Mr. Karoshi”) has other goals in mind. According to the games iTunes description, “Mr. Karoshi is an overworked Japanese salaryman who’s had enough, and his only goal is to end it all.” Disturbing stereotypes aside, I was intrigued by this premise, and you should be too.
The goal in Mr. Karoshi is simple: kill yourself by any means necessary. Depending on the level, this could me burning, electrocuting, or crushing yourself, as well as hurling yourself into a pit of spikes. Jumping from a high ledge doesn’t seem to do the trick… not in the game, anyways. As you progress through the game’s 50 levels, things get more and more complicated – and dark. At one point, two new characters are introduced: your boss, and your wife/girlfriend. When you come near your boss, the level changes to dark clouds, it starts raining, and you can’t jump as high. This is due to Mr. Karoshi becoming depressed from his boss’s constant oppressive gibberish. When you come near your lady friend, the world becomes a cheery place! Spikes turn into flowers, and you can jump much higher. Considering the fact that death is your goal, and that hurling yourself into a bed of posies doesn’t do much more than cause your allergies to flare up, the game get’s quite difficult at this point. Levels revolve around killing your boss (to make you happy), or killing your girlfriend (to make you sad), in order to change the level to find the path to death. I’ll be honest, as of writing this review I haven’t yet beaten all 50 levels. I’ve gotten about two-thirds of the way through, and have seen enough to know that the puzzles are very clever, and it’s extremely satisfying when that lightbulb goes off in your head and you find the “key” to the level.
Karoshi features a great 8-bit style, and the interlaced video filter makes it seems as though your’re playing it on an old CRT arcade cabinet. The music is quite perky for a game about suicide, but suits it well. I do have a few complaints though, as some aspects of Karoshi make it feel incomplete. Some of the more minor problems are the occasionally unresponsive controls and buttons, and the fact that they force you to tap through several screens to get to the main menu every time you launch the game. There are coins to collect in some of the levels, and the amount you collect affects when you unlock the “Karoshi ware” minigame, and when you get some of the achievements. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find any indication of how many coins I already collected, and which levels I collected them in. This meant I had to go back to each level, one at a time, and see if there was a coin available. Because there’s no “skip” button, and the buttons themselves aren’t that responsive, this took a lot longer that I would have liked. A simple coin icon on the levels that still have a coin to be collected would solve this issue.
With or without any minor annoyances, Karoshi is well worth shelling out a buck for. It’s a game that’s easy to play in short sessions, and will no doubt challenge even the most brainy puzzle-platforming fans. It’s the first truly original iOS game I’ve played in 2011, and is one that shouldn’t be missed! (For those wondering, it was released on the PC/Mac before coming to the iOS devices.)