Karma.Reincarnation 1 is a title by Auralab that looked promising at a glance. What you find instead, is a game lacking direction.
I'll dig right into it.
The main character, Pip, is a little blob whose movements are slow. It works at first, partly because the backdrops provide an atmospheric ambient coupled with catchy music. In fact, your first impressions of Karma. Incarnation 1 will most likely be positive. Who, after all, doesn't welcome unique visuals and cute designs?
And Karma. Incarnation 1 does have its charms.
I'm sure that many will find our ink-blot character adorable, in some weird way perhaps. Others will think the musical sounds that the creatures emanate as substitute for speech is whimsical and amusing. Most will, at least early on, enjoy the leisurely pace, and the color schemes making each level unique. Then is the key feature in-game, the "Astral Sight," that adds to its visual impact: upon triggering the ability, a bubble around Pip is formed, which shows the word in more vibrant colors. And as you might expect, that also serves a function: it reveals hints for quests and special items to solve puzzles and get to the end.
So why do I consider it a fail?
Well, here's the problem: artsy graphics aren't enough to make a game worth a purchase, even at a price tag of $8.99.
Karma. Reincarnation 1, as a solution for entertainment, excludes too many features found in gameplay, especially ones that make for the strengths and assets of 2D platformers as a genre. As a game plainly, it bypasses too many essentials of good game design 101, and consequently, it delivers little more than a shallow representation of what its competitors can be, to the extent that I cannot recommend the buy to even the most fervent advocates of indie gaming.
Underwhelmingly thin and monotonous are issues we often see with Steam greenlit creations from smaller studios, yet most releases also tend to be conservative in their marketing. But Publisher Other Kind Games has Karma categorized on Steam as a "Point-and-Click."
Now to fit, for the sake of promotion, a title into a genre that sets the bar high in terms of story, is I'm sorry to say, is a bit deceiving. After all, Point-and-Click is the home of content-rich, story-driven, and dimensional titles like Grim Fandango and or even classics like The Secret of Monkey Island, Myst, or Broken Sword. Karam, in juxtaposition, falls way short in terms of quantity and depth.
There's no doubt that the development team behind it is a very talented one, and I very much bow to their skills in design and visual artistry, but I must also condemn the fact that the game does little more than scraping the surface. The music for example and as mentioned above may be catchy, but it all so quickly becomes repetitive. That's the type of limitations that is tough to understand, from a production standpoint. Not only can lyrical accompaniments be acquired online in numerous ways nowadays, why would a studio that's clearly bent on quality production limit itself to just a few notes and rhythms, when the experience of an atmospheric platformer will be driven by the ambient accompanying gameplay?
Last but not least is the adventure itself. "Over 20 unique locations, lots of mini-games and original, surreal and mind-bending puzzles" may be advertised on the site's webpage at indiegogo.com, but the in-game experience feels otherwise. Puzzles are too few, and the density and depth of the ones to be found are neither original or mind-bending.
As much as I wanted to enjoy this game, Karma. Incarnation 1 feels lifeless. The story is severely lacking, gameplay is thin, and even at $8.99, it isn't worth buying. AuraLab and Other Kind Games could have put a lot more work into it, and with the talent they have, perhaps they would have had a hit. This, though, feels rushed out and unfinished, and that's a shame in light of what it could have been.