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Indie Treasures: Karoshi

by: AmyHill ; edited by: Michael Hartman ; updated: 4/17/2012 • Leave a comment

There have been many bizarre concepts for video games; perhaps none more so than that of the idea behind "Karoshi," an independent puzzle game about a suicidal salaryman.

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    Overworking Karoshi, by Jesse Venbrux, is partly a satire on a new phenomenon in Japan, where businessmen have been dying suddenly from overworking, and partly a satire on the grueling, deadly effects of being a corporate drone.

    The game itself is half platformer and half puzzle game. In similar games, such as the original Prince of Persia or Exit, you control a player that is trying to escape the stages. In Karoshi, the whole point of the game is to die. In each of the 25 levels (with a bizarre boss fight at the very end), you control a businessman who has to commit suicide using the elements in the stage. Each level presents a different head-scratching challenge, which will usually involve letting a block fall on you, shooting yourself with a gun, or jumping into a pit full of spikes.

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    Blood and Guts

    Blood and Guts The graphics are starkly utilitarian. Everything is drab grey, with important objects labeled in bright colors. The most prominent color, probably intentionally, is the blood-red that fills the borders and the HUD-text. Important objects that the player can pick up and use, including handguns, switches, keys, and so forth, are colored bright yellow.

    The game is mind-bending not only because some of the puzzles, especially in later levels, require lots of lateral thinking and platforming dexterity, but also because you're never used to killing yourself. Most games people ever play involve avoiding death, so much that this reversal is an interesting mechanic all by itself.

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    Sequel Jesse has proceeded to release additional versions of Karoshi, including Karoshi 2, a straight up sequel with more environmentally focused puzzles, and Karoshi Factory, a multiplayer game where all the businessmen have to die.

    The graphical style could certainly stand to be polished up a little, but the series are an excellent exploration on the reversal of death.