I know I may not be the most recognizable name among oprainfall writers, but if you’ve read our Most Anticipated Games of 2014 articles and happened to stumble across mine, you may recognize the title Karmaflow: The Rock Opera Videogame. The idea of having a game’s story be told in the form of a rock opera is so unique and, quite frankly, awesome, that once I learned Karmaflow would playable at the Indie Minibooth at PAX East, it became a stop I had to make.
The game features singers and musicians from a variety of different European metal bands, as well as the Dutch Metropole Orchestra.When most people think of metal music, they think of screeching guitars, screaming vocals and basically just obnoxious noise. The European style is a bit different. While the bands represented are from a variety of different sub-genres, they all share a similar focus on songwriting and musicianship, resulting in a much more refined melodic sound, almost to the point of sounding orchestral. It is this melodic focus that will keep the music from offending those accustomed to more traditional video game music.
And that’s not to say the game doesn’t use traditional video game music. The soft ambient sounds heard while exploring provided the perfect background as you wander through a snowy landscape, interacting with various objects you encounter such as creatures and trees. Upon reaching certain areas, the music starts to intensify. Soon after, a character appears and begins to sing their part of the story. Unfortunately, this particular section of the Indie Minibooth was right near another large booth that had some kind of presentation going on, making it difficult to make out some of the lyrics being sung. Even so, I got the sense that what was going on had somewhat of a dark twist to it.
The visuals for the game a just amazing. The colors are vibrant and landscapes and scenery well-defined. The Karmakeeper (the character you control in the game) has a rather elaborate design that’s quite impressive if you take the time to fully examine it. Immediately upon seeing the game, I couldn’t help but think how similar the style is to Journey, right down to how your character is constantly floating in the air.
The gameplay, however, is a different story. My experience with the demo got off to a bit of a rough start. While it may look like Journey, the game is actually more of a 3D platformer. Exploring around at your leisure is only allowed to a certain point. There is a specific path to take, a path that I only found with the help of a very patient member of Team Karmaflow after I spent what seemed like hours fumbling with the controls and trying to traverse impassible terrain. Somehow I got it in my head that the camera worked like in Ocarina of Time and pressing the left shoulder button would center the view. It seemed to do the exact opposite, resulting in wasted time trying to reset the camera angle and find my bearings again.
Once I finally got the hang of the controls and figured out where I was supposed to go and what I was supposed to do, the game got a bit easier—and a lot more fun. As you travel, there are objects that appear to be glowing red or purple. The job of the Karmakeeper is to adjust the flow of karma in the world, so you can take karma from objects of one color and give it to objects of the other. This mechanic eventually became the key to unlocking the path to continue onward. Similar to the way switch puzzles work in Zelda games, infusing certain objects with karma can activate platforms and other various means of advancing.
Although it did take me a while to figure out the game’s mechanics, once everything started to click, I had a blast playing it. I will state on record that I am a big fan of many of the bands represented in Karmaflow, and of rock operas in general. However, it was the game itself that really sold me. I can’t wait for Karmaflow to be released late the year.