Mr Karoshi is having a bad hair day.
You've had a bad day at work, your boss is an ass, and although your girlfriend loves you there is only one thing that you can do and that is to kill yourself. Over, and over, and over again it would seem.
For those of you who are not familiar with the word "Karoshi" (a group of which I was one up until recently) it comes rather unsurprisingly from Japan, and its literal translation into English is 'death from overwork. It is a word usually attributed stress illnesses such as strokes and heart attacks, but for the sake of this IP it has been taken one step further by its developer, YoYo Games. In a novel twist on the usual idea of survival at all costs, as your only goal for each level of this game is to die. That sounds easy, right?
'Karoshi' is an exclusive conversion from the PC to the iPod and iPhone. It stars our hapless (anti?)hero Mr Karoshi who simply wants to end it all due to the stresses he endures at work. You take control of Mr Karoshi, and your task is to guide him through 50 levels of trying to commit suicide. These range from the simple and obligatory first few training level, right down to the "WTF!!" final ten.
The controls simply left, right and jump (which is all pretty much standard fare for any 2D platformer). There are buttons to step on and boxes to push; come into contact with your girlfriend and you become happier and can jump higher; come into contact with your boss and you become depressed and your jumps are lower. You can control other characters, change spikes into flowers and back again, but the objective always remains the same... Mr Karoshi must die.
It is such a simple idea, and YoYo games have done a very good job at turning something simple into something hugely enjoyable. The first few levels will present you with painfully simple puzzles, as you might expect. The following thirty do get progressively more difficult, but still you’re only going to have to restart a few times per level before you crack each one. Simples, you're thinking. And then, without any real warning, it hits you with a final 10 levels that will really test the old grey matter. Who would have thought it would be so difficult to kill yourself?
The graphics are not ground breaking by any stretch of the imagination. Nor is the sound*. There is virtually no story to speak of and the game is (to put it harshly)just another remoulding for the Apple generation. But none of that matters. Its beauty lies in its simplicity, its charm lies in the numerous ways you have to find of killing Mr Karoshi, and its genius in the mid bending puzzles you will have to overcome to beat the game.
This, then, is the crux of the game. It is at its heart a puzzle platformer, and this it does very well. You will think, you will frown, you will smile when you complete a level, and then you'll have to go through it all again. The 50 levels will be a test for most people, and for those who wish to stretch that little bit further there are the usual collectibles (in this case coins).
Overall I'd say this is a fab little game. For just 59p you'll be getting yourself a well executed 2D puzzler with enough 'gameplay' to last several hours. I say 'gameplay', of course some of that time will include grinding your teeth, pulling your hair out and wondering how on earth you can get Mr Karoshi to kill himself. But just remember, if you're not enjoying work at the moment, there are plenty of worse things you can be doing than playing Karoshi.
*The Jake Almond soundtrack does become quite catchy after a while.
- Sound: 5
- Graphics: 5
- Gameplay: 10
- Longevity: 7
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