KarmaZoo PS5 Review: A Whimsical Safari of Cooperative Bliss
Platforming games have been a beloved genre for generations, captivating players with their challenging levels and skillful protagonists. Over time, they have evolved from side-scrolling pixelated landscapes to gorgeous 3D worlds, and the room for something truly distinct is becoming increasingly difficult by the day. Fortunately, KarmaZoo, by Pastagames and Devolver Digital, emerges as a whimsical standout, introducing an unusual twist to the platforming experience.
“KarmaZoo emerges as a whimsical standout.”
Unlike traditional games that focus on individual prowess, KarmaZoo places a spotlight on cooperation, friendship, and, well, good karma. The game has two distinct modes, with Loop Mode being the core mode where you will spend most of your time.
In Loop Mode, players take control of different animals (of the zoo) and work together to complete a multitude of different levels. These levels change and adapt to the animal selection, so everyone has a purpose and feels as if they are helping. For example, the elephant can barge through select walls, so choosing this character will more than likely provide barricades for the person playing the elephant to help. The vast list of over 50 playable characters adds depth to the gameplay and encourages players to experiment and try different characters in order to tackle various platforming challenges.
The characters are also incredibly diverse. While not every character feels quite as useful in terms of their ability, no two characters feel identical. The wonderful pixel designs could also play a significant role in their distinctiveness, but every animal’s animations and singing voice (a critical feature to complete challenges) are distinguishable from one another. This made unlocking new characters consistently rewarding, as you knew that the game was about to present a new challenge for you and the team.
“The wonderful pixel designs play a significant role in each animal’s distinctiveness.”
In each Loop game, you play through five levels. The first level is reserved essentially for a lobby while you wait for more players to join. In the next three levels, players must work together to collect fruit and complete the level within the time frame. There is no consequence for dying in KarmaZoo, rather, it’s encouraged. Everywhere you move, you will have a bubble around your character, and the only way to truly die is if you are separated from your teammates long enough that your bubble pops. Fortunately, if you stick with your team, that bubble will never pop, and you can reap the benefits of unlimited lives.
After each level, you will receive cards that alter the next round, and collecting more fruit in the previous level will earn you better cards. Players must vote on their favorite card, and the one with the most votes wins.
My personal favorites were the hilariously titled “Next Bonuses are very Woah” or the Kazoo music because who doesn’t want to play an entire level with a kazoo in the background? However, some more practical choices increase jump height or provide sticky walls, so if you want to smash through the next level, you have the option. Ultimately, all card choices are excellent and always provide something to look forward to when completing a round.
As no cards are available for selection after you finish the game, the final level is the ultimate test of teamwork. There is no fruit to collect, and it usually involves a large set of similar challenges for players to band together to figure out.
“Next Bonuses are very Woah”
After completing all five levels, you will finish on an equal podium that adds all the Karma each player has earned together before awarding every player the total amount of Karma accumulated throughout the game.
Players can earn Karma by helping others complete obstacles, using their unique ability, shooting a rechargeable heart at other players, and heroically sacrificing themselves by jumping on spikes so their teammates can use their tombstone as a platform. I’m sure there are plenty more ways to earn Karma, but these are the most notable from our experience in the game. This feature means that players around you constantly throw themselves at spikes to help other players out.
Considering all Karma is combined at the end, and no player gains an advantage for being quicker to sacrifice themselves, it only adds to the game’s overall humor. If you’re playing KarmaZoo with friends, you’re bound to laugh, and it’s impossible not to have a wonderful time.
Karma, the main resource in the game, allows you to purchase and unlock characters, extra abilities, and information books. The extra abilities are quite minimal and provide you with basic skills, including increased seconds of being a solo bubble, emotes, and the capability to dance. Therefore, most of your Karma will go towards unlocking characters, which is the most exciting aspect of the game anyway.
“It’s impossible not to have a wonderful time in KarmaZoo.”
Each character also features three missions that must be completed to unlock a star in a constellation, which, when finished, will allow you to play as a Sherpa or guide in a level. Unfortunately, with the sheer amount of content available in KarmaZoo, this isn’t something we could experience before the game’s release.
In terms of replayability, KarmaZoo is filled to the brim. There are over 300 different levels and 50+ unique characters, with the promise of more to come in the future. Plus, if you’re bored of spreading Karma and want to itch your competitive side, there is another multiplayer mode called Totem Mode.
Totem Mode is the other mode available in KarmaZoo. It’s a little different and doesn’t earn you Karma; instead, it pits you against your friends in some healthy competitive games. Players pick a color and allocate totems into one of four categories: Rush, Eat, Descend, and Burn. This will then take you through a series of minigames where you must beat your opponents in the game. There are no tips or anything before the game starts, but you’ll get the hang of it after a few rounds. Overall, Totem Mode feels like a decent addition that doesn’t take away from the essence of the game.
“In terms of replayability, KarmaZoo is filled to the brim.”
One of the most notable aspects that is missing from the game is the ability to play solo. You must always play with at least one other person, and there are no bots to fill any spaces in the lobby. While teamwork and building karma is the fundamental element of KarmaZoo, it does limit the game’s longevity with no clear solution, as no one wants to play a game with lag.
This also means you can’t play offline, and any unstable connection can result in you being disconnected from the lobby and losing all the Karma you have earned in the current round. Being an Optus user from Australia, I have already had a few dropouts, which left me frustrated and far from the warm and wholesome feeling the game portrays. However, this could also be due to us reviewing the game before release.
“Karmazoo comes at an incredibly affordable price.”
KarmaZoo’s adorable visuals not only enhance the game’s overall charm but also complement the diverse and enjoyable soundtrack. The inclusion of humor throughout also adds a lighthearted touch, elevating the game’s overall enjoyment.
KarmaZoo truly shines in its cooperative gameplay experience. Its unique Karma system fosters a sense of camaraderie and transforms each level into a shared adventure. Karmazoo is available at the incredibly affordable price of just US$7.49 / AU$10.87, making it a cost-effective choice for the substantial amount of content it offers. Ultimately, it’s hard to find a better, wholesome multiplayer game for the price you’ll pay.
*Disclaimer: Reviewed on PS5; code was provided by publisher.
KarmaZoo brings a whimsical twist to the platforming genre by emphasizing cooperation, friendship, and good karma. The game features over 50 distinct characters, each contributing uniquely to the challenges, with the humorous card system enhancing replayability and altering game dynamics. Despite lacking a solo or offline mode, KarmaZoo's adorable visuals, engaging soundtrack, and affordable price make it a delightful multiplayer experience.