Karoshi, a quirky platformer where survival is verboten, has been released by YoYo Games and is now available from the app store. Pulling inspiration from the dark side of life, the goal of Karoshi is to use environmental variables to end your life, rather than struggle to achieve a more positive goal.
- Great 8-bit retro look
- Arcade-like background music
- Simple controls
- Terrific level design and challenging puzzles
- Unlockable Karoshi Ware mode
- Some wonky control issues
- The 50 levels are quick to complete
- No level skips
Evidently, “Karoshi” is a term used to describe being worked to death, which is fitting for this game. Unable to handle the stress and pressure of his job, Mr. Karoshi plows through 50 levels of play imagining a quick, and often gruesome, way to end it all. Electrocution, combustion, impalement… nothing is off-limits for this suicidal guy. Of course, simply running off of a cliff would be too easy. Instead, he must manipulate objects in the environment to give himself a way out. This could be pushing blocks onto buttons, shifting objects so that they will fall and crush him, creating platforms to reach higher platforms that contain the means to kill himself. Early levels are ridiculously easy, supposedly familiarizing you with the game’s mechanics. Latter levels ramp up the difficulty and make Mr. Karoshi really work to meet his maker. Unfortunately, you cannot skip difficult levels, so getting stuck on a level will halt your progress until you figure out the solution. The game is also interspersed with static images of Mr. Karoshi stressing out, which are presented in a sort-of comic book style. While 50 levels sounds like a good amount, they can go pretty quickly, leaving us wanting more.
Graphically, the game has a great 8-bit retro look, which allows for Mr. Karoshi to get fried, charred, and dismembered without getting too uncomfortably graphic. Levels are colorful and well-designed. His wife and boss also make appears that impact his jumping ability and provide a little life in a game focused solely on death. The soundtrack is arcade-like and surprisingly upbeat. Controls are easy to use, with left/right arrows for movement, as well as a jump button. However, the movement buttons occasionally seem to stick and cause forward progress to continue even after removing your fingers from the screen. Typically, this isn’t as big a deal as in other games where this could accidentally kill the main character (after all, that would be the preferred outcome here), but it can wreck the positioning of puzzle elements that you had carefully set up, requiring you to start over. This, more than getting stuck on a puzzle, was the most frustrating aspect of the game.
Replay value is mediocre, as once the puzzles are solved, there is little exploratory or trial-and-error discovery value left. We really hope that more levels will be forthcoming, as we really enjoyed working through the ones provided. A level editor would be a killer future add-on, as well. There is no timer and no points to earn, so leaderboards do not come into play. An achievement system also would have been a fun addition. There is a smattering of coins to be collected, which can unlock Karoshi Ware mode, a reaction-based mini-game that offers something else to do when you finish the main campaign. For $0.99, Karoshi is a 4.5-Dimple challenge and a worthwhile pick-up.