Karma: Curse of the 12 Caves

Review by Orb
September 2002

Karma: Curse of the 12 Caves was the follow-up to Jewels of the Oracle from the now-defunct publisher Discus. Made by Chinese developer Interserv, a different team than the one that produced Jewels, Karma is a watered-down and inferior-to-the-original puzzle game.

Karma features the de rigeur super-flimsy "who cares?" storyline that is the hallmark of all puzzle games. The player's task is to find a fountain that cures all disease. Actually, the real goal is to complete all 15 puzzles in the game without going mad. The story is presented by an Asian gentleman dressed in flowing white garb, who appears at the beginning and prior to accessing each puzzle spouting mind-numbing platitudes that would be a good substitute for a hefty dose of Sominex.

As far as puzzle games go, Karma has all of the usual suspects, albeit each done in innovative styles. That is, if you can call a Tower of Hanoi or a slider puzzle innovative. Regardless, the 15 puzzles contained are the strongest point of the game, and really what it's all about to begin with. It also contains a music puzzle, matching tiles and a couple of arcade games as well as some really different games that were very entertaining.

There are a couple of nice design touches to the game. The cursor is a throbbing, spinning lotus, which extends a petal to let the player know that a directional movement is available. Music is light and unobtrusive, a tinkling bit of strings and flute with the sound of the Orient. The endgame sequence is a very nice animated bit that is a fair payoff for the amount of time it takes to complete the game. (For me, three sittings.)

Each puzzle has a menu, a good thing. There is a "help" feature that explains the purpose of the puzzle and sometimes gives clues to complete them, which is a nice thing mostly lacking in many puzzle games.

There are also some not-so-nice elements. Firstly, the game movement is done in a little window around an unnecessarily beefy stone-looking interface screen. Secondly, if a puzzle is exited, each time you reenter, you are forced to endure the nonsensical rambling of the introductory character.

The game screen is really a distraction. While moving about, it is far too small to get a good look at anything in the pretty fuzzy-looking environment. The player only gets a full screen while in puzzle mode.

Despite the fun factor of the puzzles, the design of them was uneven. Some were very simple and took just a minute or two to get through, and some were frustratingly difficult, including an 80-move slider.

Probably the greatest design drawback is a horrible movement system, whereby if you go into one of the caves to contact a puzzle, you cannot turn around and walk back out but instead must go all the way in, open the puzzle, and choose "exit" in order to return to the central hub. Given the fact that there are six caves, all of which look pretty much the same, giving access to two puzzles each, this can become very tiresome. You can get stuck into a "hit-and-miss" situation, returning to an old puzzle or finding a new one.

Karma is okay, it's just not exceptional. There are so many better puzzle games out there, new and old, such as Safecracker, Pandora's Box, Cassandra Galleries, The 7th Guest, even this game's predecessor, Jewels of the Oracle, it does not make much sense that, in looking for just straight puzzles, you would put up your money for this one versus one of the other, better games. The End

The Verdict

The Lowdown

Developer: Interserv Multimedia
Publisher: Discus Entertainment
Release Date: 1995

Available for: DOS Macintosh

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System Requirements

486 processor
2X CD-ROM drive
256-color SVGA video card

68030 processor
System 7.1 or later
2X CD-ROM drive
256 colors

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