We’ve spent all our years in gaming trying to avoid death - vaulting the firepit, ducking the flying spikes, or whatever it took to keep on going. So when a game like Karoshi comes along, which tells the player that the goal of every level is to kill oneself, we have to admit it's hard to break the habit. In fact, this simple sidescroller challenged us to pass through a wide variety of obstacles in pursuit of our own deaths … and we’ve got to say, there was something pleasant about it all. Call it a break from the usual. And that can be a good thing.
Hit the jump for more adventures in morbid, retro-flavored puzzle gaming.
Karoshi is derived from a Japanese word which means "death from overwork", which is a common concept in Japan's society of obsessive overachievers. The game has you playing as a "salaryman", meaning your typical Japanese work drone who dons a suit to take a long commute to a boring office every day of his life.
Fittingly for such a non-nonsense existence, the gameplay in Karoshi is very straightforward. Each screen will present you with a puzzle to solve in order to kill yourself in a delicious spray of blood and body parts. The first few levels are very simple to enable the player to get the hang of it how it all goes – leap onto spikes, press a button to crush yourself with a falling crate, move a box onto a switch so a flamethrower stays lit long enough to fry you, etc. On your screen, you'll see left and right buttons on the bottom right, a button in the middle to restart, and a button on the right to jump. We far preferred these controls to those of the original flash game (Karoshi: Suicide Salaryman), which used the up arrow as the jump button and was much less comfortable to control overall.
As the game progresses, the levels become much more challenging. Several different types of blocks come into play (such as lightning and fire-charged) and you'll have to figure out how to kill yourself with those too. You can also look forward to some level bosses, and after you've completed all 50 levels, you get to meet the end game boss, who is noticeably larger than you. Lucky for you, the whole point is to die, so you don't have to prioritize staying alive like you normally would. When you're not trying to stay alive, it all seems so much easier.
Karoshi works on a simple concept, but it works. We had a lot of fun arranging our own deaths through the succession of levels, and even once you wrap that up there's a bonus mode called Karoshi Ware that challenges you to either kill yourself, stay alive or not move at all. In addition, this version of the game has Game Center achievements, so if you're a completionist you can try to nail them all. Some will find the concept of killing yourself in every level a little on the weird side, but if you have a dark sense of humor and like using your noggin for logic, Karoshi is going to be just the thing for you.
Mar 9, 2011