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  • Writer's pictureOle Gamer Joe

KarmaZoo Review - Rising Above Angry Gamer Culture

KarmaZoo review by Ole Gamer Joe (Steam/PC, XBOX, PS, Switch)

Released 11/14/23

Pastagames, Devolver Digital



Videogames have the unique ability to bring people together, and the developers of Karmazoo have a great understanding of that fact. I've never played a game quite like this one, but is it a soaring eagle flying brilliantly through the skies? Or is KarmaZoo a big heaping pile of Elephant poop?


Karmazoo is a game about teamwork and compassion. You'll work together in a group of up to 10 animals, entities, and inanimate objects like a pear or a teapot, platforming your way through perilous situations and earning good karma for your many deeds and sacrificies along the way. It is a 2D platformer at it's heart, with some light puzzle solving mechanics.


A Screenshot of some of the many creatures in KarmaZoo
KarmaZoo flips the script for online gameplay

The game is broken up into 2 main modes: Loop which is the heart and soul of the experience, and Totem which is more of a local party game mode, though it can also be enjoyed online. Unfortunately the loop mode has to be played online, but with good reason. The entire point of the game is to do good deeds and gather karma between total strangers. Loop mode takes competition out of the equation entirely, focusing on what you can do to help your fellow player instead of how you can get yourself ahead.


If doing good deeds out of the kindness of your heart doesn't motivate you, than the plethora of unlockables certainly should. As you earn karma by sacrificing yourself on spikes, opening doors for your friends, or other means, you'll use that karma to both unlock new abilities and new animals in the game's sanctuary, which acts as your main hub. The karma you've collected can be spent in any order you wish, with every new creature having its own unique set of abilities and adorable dances. As an example the pear can float in the air longer with a little leaf propeller, and the armadillo isn't susceptible to spikes. I loved the variety between all of the different characters, and how they sing in different voices is the adorable icing on the cake.


A screenshot of loop mode in Karmazoo where players are working together to cross spikes
Choose from loop mode or the more competitive totem mode

Not only do you work together with the folks you happen upon online, but the entire world's collective karma (or at least everyone playing this game) goes towards the Karmapass. This is not like your average battlepass, as it is built into the game without an additional cost, rather it is the total amount of karma gathered through the entire community, which goes towards unlocking even more fun.


Once you are dropped into a loop you'll choose a bonus card, with more being available depending on how much fruit you collect. There is a set amount of fruit in each level, so the more you gather the more perks you'll potentially carry forward. These perks range from the ability to perform higher jumps, to even turning everyone into an elephant. My personal favorite was when we turned all of the fruit into pizza but that's just the italian food lover in me. Karmazoo is truly about sticking together in the literal sense. Your characters all have a halo around them, think like that episode of Seinfeld with the bubble boy or that terrible movie, and the size of this aura will increase the more you stick together. Should you drift too far apart from one another your bubble will shrink and you will eventually die. So yes, death doesn't come from the actual dangers within the levels, it comes from drifting apart. This is a truly unique mechanic that works to surprising effect. It's worth noting that levels are timed, and while I usually hate timers in games they are pretty leinient in karamzoo and were never all that much of an issue.


Levels adapt to how many players are on screen, along with which characters you are using so no run will ever feel quite the same adding almost infinite replayability to Karamzoo. Still, in the unfortunate event that the game doesn't find success, the loop mode could potentially die off which is really quite a shame. It is a mode that will quite literally live or die by its audience, which is kind of poetic when you think about it. Your good karma is what will feed this game and their is something poignent about that.


Thankfully when it comes to Totem mode local play will always be an option. Here you take part in 4 different types of minigames, that showcase the only competitive spirit Karmazoo has to offer. There is a treacherous race to the finish line, eat--which has you trying to consume more fruit than your opponenets, a descent which is more of a race to the bottom, and a mode where you have to light more torches than everyone else. All of these modes were surprisingly fun, almost reminding me of a more fleshed out Mario Party minigame with the addictive simplicity of something like 2015's Duck Game. We were only able to experience 3 players for the review throughout every mode, but having previously played the demo it's obvious that the more players, the more chaos and subsequent fun will ensue.


A screenshot from a level within KarmaZoo showcasing the unique visuals
KarmaZoo has a unique visual style featuring colorful backdrops with monochromatic characters

KaramZoo's visual presentation is pleasently different. It has a bit of a dark neon vibe using a charming pixel art style. The world's themselves are appealing to look at, and the animations of whichever character you are controlling are all very well done. The game oozes with charm, and there is a soothing nature to its simplicity. Despite having the potential for so many players at once, Karamzoo doesn't feel all that chaotic or cluttered. I also really enjoyed the music and sound effects. The tracks are rich with bossanova beats, heavily bass driven, and a little bonkers. The game sounds like something created on a casio keyboard in the late 80s early 90s. I also loved subtle touches such as an announcer that will innunciate words that you highlight differently each time, which just further adds to the charm. All told Karmazoo looks and sounds downright adorable.


There isn't all that much bad to say about KarmaZoo, except for the fact that it is going to need players. This is a bit of a risky proposistion for the developer, but the game is coming in at a very low price tag, and I believe it will find an audience. That said, this is not a game for everyone. If you crave precision platforming, and don't like working with others, Karmazoo won't appeal to you. But if you enjoy the idea of people coming together from all walks of life to better the world, it is a game that will stimulate your senses and warm your heart.


A screenshot of the halo in KarmaZoo with a single blob
Work together and don't stray too far from the halo!

Karmazoo is the perfect game for those intimidated by the stereotypical online gaming experience. There is no mean spirited, angry gamer culter to be found here. This is a game that reminds me of the power and creativity within the indie scene. I am awarding Karmazoo the golden genie lamp of approval. There is just nothing quite like it, and we need more risk takers instead of developers making the same game over and over again. Even if the loop mode does die off, I can see myself hosting many a party night with the totem mode. Karmazoo is exceptional in its creativity and compassion.


Pros:

+Highly original

+Adorable graphics and sound

+Easy for anyone to play

+Free of toxic angry gamer culture

+Totem mode is a riot!


Cons:

-Will love or die by fanbase


Golden Genie Lamp of Approval
Golden Genie Lamp

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