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Indie Nation #36: Karoshi 2

9:02 PM on 10.17.2008 // Anthony Burch

Karoshi 2.0 is the following things:





-Free, and downloadable here.

Since much of Karoshi 2.0's charm comes from its ability to consistently surprise and befuddle the player, I won't say anything more. It's really fun, really original, and the best Karoshi game ever (in other words, don't bother with the first one, Karoshi Factory, or the online flash adaptation until you've finished Karoshi 2.0).

Hit the jump for a more detailed explanation of why this game kicks butt, but be warned -- you will be spoiling a lot of the fun for yourself, should you do so.

The sequel to Karoshi (Japanese for "death by overwork"), Karoshi 2.0 has one goal, spread throughout 42 levels and a boss fight: kill yourself. Find a way to throw yourself on spikes, shoot yourself in the face, or crush yourself under some boxes. Whatever you gotta do to end your own life, that's how you win.

The first half of the game plays almost exactly like the original Karoshi, which is to say it's full of cute block pushing, switch pulling, and bullet bouncing puzzles. That's great and all, and was definitely fun enough to sustain the original Karoshi's humble running time, but Karoshi 2.0 thankfully begins to get rather bored with itself about a dozen rooms in.

For no apparent reason, and with little to no explanation, Karoshi 2.0 devotes the rest of its levels to breaking the fourth wall whenever and however possible.

And it's awesome.

Since all but one of the game rules (namely, the suicide goal) begin changing from room to room, the player is put in a state of constant, bemused confusion. You'll trek across a level full of pits and small platforms just to get to a blue button which, when pressed, will teleport you back to the beginning of the level. You'll be given cryptic instructions which seem to make no real sense until you actually begin to follow them. You'll even have to use the damned pause menu to solve certain levels.


Karoshi doesn't really adhere to a particular design philosophy or even deliver consistent gameplay, and that's what makes it so enthralling. It's a game that hates conventional rules and limitations: so what if custom dictates you shouldn't have to insert a music CD into your disk drive in order to solve a puzzle? Even if it's so mind-bending a solution that you might not think of it without a walkthrough, it's weird, unexpected, and startlingly imaginative, so Karoshi 2.0 does it. By comparison, other puzzle games seem square.

The only problem, I think, might be that the solutions are so off-the-wall that many players will resign themselves to assuming that whenever they come across a particularly difficult puzzle, it involves some degree of insanely lateral thinking like editing the command line of the game's executable or something, and will quickly rush to a walkthrough and have all the magic spoiled for them.

I'd be lying if I said I didn't end up running to a walkthrough after getting about 60% through the game, and, as is always the case with walkthroughs, I became far too reliant on the guide and used my own skills of deduction less and less as the puzzles got harder and harder. I feel like it's possible I would never have solved something like the music CD puzzle without looking it up online, but I have a sneaking suspicion that I'm just trying to comfort myself from the reality that if I had, it'd be one of the most brick-shittingly awesome solutions to a videogame puzzle I'd ever encountered.


Either way, Karoshi 2.0 is one of the only games of its ilk I can think of. The next Karoshi game, Karoshi Factory, reverts to the traditional puzzles of the first game only you control several characters instead of just one. I really love fourth-wall-breaking gameplay, though, and I'd really love to see more of it (I pray that, given the plot and marketing campaign, Matt Hazard will include a lot of this metagaming awesomeness). 

Once again, get Karoshi 2.0 here.

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