Sunday, November 27, 2011

Broken Robots, Burning Zeppelins

A... year ago, was it? A year agoish, I played a silly free flash game online. K.O.L.M. Recently, I played the sequel, K.O.L.M. 2. Both games are short, powerful, and incredibly atmospheric, and I recommend them to anyone and everyone, even people who don't normally go in for silly free flash games online.

The premise of K.O.L.M. is that you are a broken robot in a system of underground caves. After an unknown period of time, the voice of your mother prods you into action. You begin by crawling across the floor, the screen a blurry mess, until you find a pair of replacement eyes. Soon you also acquire replacement legs, a gun, the ability to jump, a more powerful gun, the ability to jump even higher, the ability to swim in water, and then in acid, and so on. K.O.L.M. 2 builds on its predecessor with sad little robot's quest to reunite with his father and his sister.

Gameplay focuses on the acquisition of new bits for the little robot. Often you are presented with a puzzle that you just can't solve until you find something that adds some new functionality to the robot. The overall effect is very satisfying - there's nothing quite like watching a puzzle that previously stumped you fall before the awesome might of your new laser or swimming capability - though there are a few moments of frustration.

The game very quickly establishes that something is a bit... off-kilter. I know from passive-agressive mothers, and this mother definitely fits the bill. Definitely much more GLaDOS than Ma Ingalls. The format of the game is classic side-scroller, but instead of the usual smooth transition from frame to frame, each "zone" is a view from a security camera. In addition to being, frankly, just a bit weird, it allows the game to zoom unexpectedly in and out. Trust me - it's hard to explain, but the effect is extremely creepy. Between the mother's creepy dialogue and the weird atmosphere, the game sucks you in very effectively. For best results, play at night. Alone.

I will concede that K.O.L.M. 2 is somewhat weaker than its predecessor. The gameplay introduces two new wrinkles: sunlight pouring in from holes in the ceiling which can harm or even destroy the little robot and, later, the robot and his human sister (now now, that would be telling) cooperating to solve puzzles that the robot couldn't solve on his own. However, the game is much shorter and much more... is linear the right word? Both games are linear, but the first game seemed to have a lot more problem solving and atmospheric wandering, while the second game seemed much more straightforward. Both games - and the third game that I fervently hope for - are certainly worth playing.

I believe that video games are fiction, but I don't normally talk about them because I don't normally play them. The K.O.L.M.s would make a great introduction for someone who doesn't believe. Both games tell a beautiful, sad, and creepy tale that I was very pleased to be a part of.

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