Have you ever played a game that defies explanation? I’ve played plenty of abstract or odd games in my time, but Abo Khashem is easily one of the weirdest ones. I don’t want you to take that statement as a negative one, however. In fact, the weirdness is exactly what makes this game interesting.
Set in a fictional modern city, you play as a protagonist whose defining feature is his gargantuan nose. Together with a talking lizard, you must overcome a variety of obstacles in the real world and a realm beyond our own. Ready to dive into this weird and whacky world? Let’s find out Abo Khashem managed to hold all of its disparate pieces together.
A Whacky and Unpredictable Story
Abo Khashem takes place in a city called Torrid. Within the first few minutes of the game, you’ll be tasked with burying a dead cat in the center of a highway. If you think that’s odd, you should strap on your seatbelt. This ride gets a lot wilder.
You’ll soon find yourself in the company of a talking lizard who wears sunglasses. Since your character doesn’t speak, he does all the wisecracks and jokes for you. Everyone you meet in Abo Khashem has their own unique personality, for better or worse.
The humor casts a wide net that ranges from cheap jokes about your character’s nose, to the casual mention of “diabeetus.” Some of it is just plain odd, while other scenarios are actually pretty funny.
You won’t spend your entire time in Torrid, though. Instead, you’ll also gain access to a realm with anthropomorphic cats that you travel to by jumping into a dumpster. In this fantasy realm, you fight cats dressed in armor and robes.
Back in Torrid, the majority of your enemies are, wait for it, also cats. They all seem to have what I can only describe as a cardboard VR headset strapped to their faces. When you defeat them, this headset flies off and they return to normal.
If there’s one thing Abo Khashem does well, it’s variety. I could never quite predict what my next task would be. One minute I could be fighting cats, and the next I could be driving someone around, only to be rushing to the hospital in another quest.
There’s not really any rhyme or reason to Abo Khashem’s story, unfortunately. The humor is seemingly random and spread across a wide variety of styles. I did enjoy playing just to see what insane thing would happen next, but I wouldn’t call this a structured story, or even a story really.
It feels more like a disconnected series of events, like a bunch of jumbled ideas strung together by our large-nosed friend and his talking lizard. It doesn’t make a lick of sense, and I don’t think it’s supposed to anyway.
Even so, I did find parts of it really funny. If anything, this was a redeeming quality for the narrative aspect of the game.
Gameplay Identity Crisis
Talking about Abo Khashem’s gameplay is a tricky subject because there’s a lot to it. This is a game that combines RPG elements with micromanagement, multiple currencies, and even platforming.
It’s a lot to take in, but to the game’s credit, everything works generally well. While the inventory and skill tree screens can be daunting, I was able to understand everything fairly quickly, even if the weapons range from a banana to garden shears, and everything in between.
The combat is a simple affair from a control standpoint, but the game does allow you to unlock moves that you can use to customize your combos and special moves. Despite everything boiling down to simple button presses, the animations and damage outputs will change based on your decisions.
There are separate skill trees and stats for your lizard friend, who helps you in combat. You’ll put points into RPG standards like strength, intelligence, and so on. There are three skill trees to choose from as well, providing some flexibility in how you spec your character.
Some builds are easier than others, but I didn’t encounter any overtly difficult combinations of stats and skills. The game’s controls are best described as fast and loose, which makes combat feel exceptionally clunky at times.
Certain attack animations have a long windup, which makes aiming them difficult. The game’s general lack of realistic physics also results in situations where you’ll send an enemy flying across the area without warning.
It’s very simplistic combat, made more frustrating by the lack of precise controls, but it does work. Once you’ve wrapped your head around the combat, the other elements begin to come into play.
You can purchase and customize property, but more than that, you can also manage businesses and hire people to run them. It’s a pretty robust city management system, but there’s not a lot of explanation on how it all works.
Furthermore, the menus all have small text and confusing layouts, which made it very difficult for me to truly grasp the mechanics of this element. The game even throws driving into its open world, but the controls are extremely loose.
Combined with the wonky physics, driving is not a feature I would recommend if you’re trying to get somewhere accurately. All of these things combine into a game that is utterly bloated with features and mechanics.
There’s just too much going on for all of it to work in tandem. The underlying foundation isn’t strong enough to support all of these elements, which is a shame, because they’re all pretty good ideas in theory.
The game’s general lack of polish, combined with the wonky physics, and the half-baked nature of these ideas all contribute to a generally confusing and sometimes frustrating experience. It’s not all bad news for Abo Khashem, as I did enjoy the combat and RPG elements, as they seemed to be the most fleshed out.
The combat is still a far cry from being polished and deep, but using the various weapons was always good for a laugh. The chaotic sandbox nature of the game honestly brought to mind Goat Simulator: a similar title that flaunted its unpolished and chaotic nature.
For those who enjoyed that experience, Abo Khashem will feel pretty similar. Had it decided to trim some of the unneeded features and focused more on a sandbox style of game, I would have been able to forgive more of the unpolished glitches and wonky physics.
Wonky Visuals and Presentation
Abo Khashem has some moments of beauty in the simple graphics. This is thanks to the lighting that gives everything a shimmer and sheen. Textures and character models are defined but kept to a pretty simple level of detail.
The voice acting and music are both hit or miss. While much of the acting is earnest and enthusiastic, some of the performances feel a little forced. The fact that the game has an “I’m Stuck” button to warp you out of level geometry kind of sums up my points about the presentation.
At $30, I can’t recommend Abo Khashem as it stands. It has some high points, but these are overshadowed by too many lows and lack of polish. If you’re interested and you catch it on a sale, it’s good for a laugh, and there’s a healthy amount of content for your money. It’s just wrapped in a less than an ideal package.
Final Score: 6.0/10
Article by - Bradley Ramsey
Insert date - 5/14/18
A copy of Abo Khashem was provided to PS4 Experts for review purposes