Karaski: What Goes Up… Review: Oh, the Humanity

Karaski: What Goes Up… is a story-driven “whodunnit” adventure game created by Unbound Creations. Karaski tells the story of a fictional Eastern European nation’s first blimp’s ill-fated maiden voyage. When everything starts to go catastrophically wrong, it’s up to you to solve the mystery and uncover the saboteur. Should you punch your tickets and take this cruise? Let’s find out in my Karaski: What Goes Up review.

We met with the Unbound Creations team at PAX South back in January. We visited the booth and checked out the game at the con, and then Jakub from Unbound hooked us up with a review code.

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Karaski’s story centers around the titular blimp, the A. A. Karaski. Invented and designed in the aforementioned fictional Dunabe Commonwealth, it is the first of its kind. Invitations to several VIPs are sent out, including you. However, a few days after takeoff, the ship is sabotaged and begins to rise uncontrollably. You awaken on one of the lower decks with no memory of the start of the journey, with a strange voice guiding you. Who sabotaged the ship, and why? Can it be fixed? Can anyone be saved?

Karaski is told from a first-person perspective, and the details of your character are left for you to decide. Most of the game takes place on the various decks of the A. A. Karaski, with you chatting with other guests, exploring, avoiding being detected by the crew, and trying to find clues.

There are a set of tools that Karaski doles out to you which make it possible to traverse the various challenges of the ship. For instance, one tool allows you to open vent covers, while another gives you the ability to pick locks. These are considered suspicious actions, though, so you will need to be out of sight while “conducting your investigation” to avoid arousing suspicion.

The exploration part of the game ends up feeling like playing Deus Ex. When encountering a locked door, do you go try to find a keycard, do you bribe someone to let you in, do you try to pick the lock, or do you look for a vent to crawl through to bypass the door altogether? Compounding this are the various “crew only” areas that have patrolling guards who will accost you if they catch you.

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Stealth in games where stealth isn’t really a focus can (and often does) end badly. Karaski’s stealth sections are relatively short, not particularly difficult, and the punishment for failure is pretty low. I felt like these sections added a bit of tension to the game that wouldn’t have otherwise been there, without being annoying.

That leaves us with the character interaction portions of the game. This is the most “adventure game”-y part of Karaski. Each of the major characters is aligned with some faction that, in some way, opposes the A. A. Karaski’s launch. Uncovering their motivations involves convincing them to reveal their stories to you.

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Spoiler Warning I don’t want to spoil too much of the story, but I do want to talk about its structure. You might want to go into the game without knowing anything, and if so I suggest you skip this section. There will be an “end spoiler warning” block when I’m done talking about the story structure.

It’s probably a bit extreme to call this even a mild spoiler, seeing as there’s a character inside the game that basically says what I’m about to reveal. Still, better safe than sorry.

Many games give their players choices, but most are only the illusion of choice. Fallout 4 is one recent example of this illusion in action. Even Telltale’s adventure games present you with choices that they claim impact the story, but by and large the broader, overall arc of the story is determined the moment you start the game.

Karaski’s story is largely dependent on the actions of the player. How you react to various bits of evidence and the things you learn can fundamentally change the story. Do you believe other passengers’ excuses or explanations for the things you find? Do you suspect yourself?

Who you trust and what you believe fundamentally changes the story, which leads to different outcomes. I don’t know of many games that treat player choice with this level of flexibility.

End Spoiler Warning OK, all safe from here on out :)

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If you take your time in Karaski, it can take three or four hours to clear. Chances are decent that if you enjoy it, you’ll want to replay it, which ought to take an hour or two if you’re moving quickly.

Karaski’s got a few rough edges. Art-wise, the game looks like a Half-Life 2 mod. The textures especially are quite low-res. I found it a bit distracting, especially in long vents where it looked like the vent texture had been stretched all the way down the length of the vent. Some of the “vent parkour” is a bit troublesome as well. I found myself stuck trying to jump on top of bookcases and climbing up from there into small passageways.

Karaski: What Goes Up…
Links:Homepage, Store Page
Release:3/2/2016
Price:$10.00
Rating: - Awesome!
Our Thoughts:

Karaski is an interesting, unique, story driven adventure that plays with the notion of player choice.

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