Developer: Holy Pangolin
Disclaimer: I received this game from the developer to review. However, the game is free on Steam already.
I had been taking a break from developer-submitted games for a while as I've got such a backlog of new games to play, but Karambola caught my attention when it was sent to my curator profile. It's definitely unusual-looking and seemed like an interesting, short game I could finish in an afternoon. I was surprised to suddenly receive a game that originally was released in 2016, but the game has been receiving updates as recent as a month ago. Karambola is a surreal point-and-click puzzle game about rescuing the kindly fruit people from the power of evil thoughts. Karambola is wholesome and uplifting in its message, and while it is simple and fairly straightforward to solve it is definitely memorable.
When the game begins you see Karambola, a fruit-head character (a carambola is actually a fruit, commonly known as starfruit) with a mostly human-looking body. Karambola sips his drink through a funky straw and you interrupt him by clicking on flower petals that float away and make him sneeze. Once Karambola stops drinking this "time-freezing smoothie" he realizes that this calm and peace was an illusion and remembered that his village was attacked by evil "bird-thoughts", causing them to get separated. You're asked to help Karambola a quest to rescue his friends from these evil thoughts. You'll solve a series of puzzles to help each of his friends who are trapped in these dark thoughts. These thoughts are all different, ranging from feeling stage fright to feeling an emptiness that can't be filled.
The art style is pretty clearly what really stands out first about Karambola. The character art is intricate and abstract, with each character's fruit head being different and a little more unusual than the last. The environment art is a very textured-looking watercolor style, making it look like it's actually fresh, stained watercolor on paper. Hints for the puzzles are hidden in the art in clever ways, whether it's in the background or in the characters themselves. Within this short game, there were a few original tracks by various artists that were really great ambient vibes. I especially liked the more uplifting ending song (I had a hard time figuring out which song was which in the credits).
Most of the puzzles in Karambola were decently simple to solve, but involved looking closely at the environment and details in each space. There was only one that I really struggled with and found the guidance to be unclear, but I was able to skip it and come back to it after finishing the rest of the game. The game is always hiding a clue about what to do next. It was only a few times that I thought I had to "pixel-search" to click the right spot and trigger the next part. I was able to get 100% in the achievements as almost all of them come naturally through the game's story, and just one achievement required me to go back into the game for something I missed.
Karambola is an endearing and relatable game. The fruit-head people who you help are really just like all of us, struggling to escape the bad thoughts that can plague them and keep them from enjoying life. They would imagine the worst about themselves, then find that it was only the evil bird-thoughts that were making them think this. "Waking them up" from that dark dream was satisfying and let us see what each of the characters was really like. This game, to me, is about the power of community and support and how important it is that we help each other. When you're not feeling well mentally and emotionally, it can keep you from being close to the people you love. It's a very human game, despite the fruit-heads and the surreal environments. I believe this was the developer's first game, and it was clear that they poured a lot of love and creativity into it.
Karambola was more wholesome than I expected, and had a couple really enlightening and worthwhile takeaways. It's not too complex to complete and it is sometimes a little confusing what exactly the game is telling you about the story, but I think it's a game anyone could pick up and enjoy. The achievements actually add a little bit of detail to the story as well. I recommend it especially for anyone who enjoys surreal art and interesting depictions of mental health issues.
Karambola is available on PC
Note to developer: I played this game on my Steam Deck and it ran perfectly. You may want to consider trying to get the "Verified for Steam Deck" qualification on this game!
Played on: PC (Steam Deck)
Last Played: 8/8/2022
Playtime: 1 hr