The biggest question that came to mind when I was playing Karmaflow: The Rock Opera Videogame – Act I was “How in the world did they afford this?” The answer was crowdfunding, of course. There was a campaign on Indiegogo that raised around $34,000 and apparently paid for artists from AAA metal groups like Cradle of Filth and Arch Enemy to lend their talents to the game. The means by which a game was made are as irrelevant to my view of the game as ever, but it’s still a little impressive that this kind of thing can be done by a small team.
What about Karmaflow as a game? Well, this is an indie puzzle platformer. Chances are you’ve got some experience with them. You play as the Karmakeeper, a little floating totem who needs to jump and run all over the place to redistribute Karma and maintain the world’s balance. The mechanics are pretty simple; essentially you’ll get Karma from one source and put it in another to change the environment and make a path to follow. Even the boss fights are more of the same, though naturally they’re framed a little differently.
You’ll also do a fair amount of platforming in the process. In fact, the focus really seems to be on platforming moreso than puzzle-solving given the rudimentary nature of the brainteasers on offer. The platforming’s not really mind-blowing either, since the collision detection can be pretty iffy, there’s vision-obscuring fog everywhere and the correct path isn’t always clear.
Long story short, then, you’re not going to be playing this one for “videogame” part, you’re going to be playing for the “rock opera.” Karmaflow stands out against the faceless mass of indie puzzle platformers by being…well, a musical. Everything in the game, from plot points to collectible blurbs, is presented as a heavy metal musical. Even the gameplay tutorials are little songs in themselves. Your mileage will vary based on your feelings for the genre, though I personally loved it. When you aren’t fighting with the gameplay it’s pretty impressive! All the music and vocals are really well done, which is unsurprising considering the names involved in producing the game’s sound.
Still, at $20 on Steam you’re going to need a little more than some nice presentation, particularly when the game is a little buggy. Otherwise, why not just watch a Let’s Play video? The first Act of Karmaflow is also pretty short, clocking in at around 3 hours, though devs Basecamp Games have promised a second act in April. It might be worth a second look on sale or perhaps a bit closer to April, but as it stands now Karmaflow: The Rock Opera Videogame – Act I doesn’t have enough to offer for the price.