Khara: The Game (PS4) Review

Khara: The Game is the 7th PS Talents supported title we have reviewed this year, a Programme which operates in Spain and helps smaller indie developers bring their games to the PS4 in both Europe and America. Khara: The Game is the first game developed by a small team known as DNA Softworks, a team which consists of students from U-tad – the University Center for Technology and Digital Art. As their first experience at a commercial game, they have done a great job with a beautiful art style, an interesting story, and a fun overall experience. As this is an indie title at heart, not everything is as polished as you may hope for, but if you look past the flaws then you are left with a fun 3-hour game.

Nice and peaceful

Khara: The Game has a nice simple story which doesn’t require you to think about things too much or dwell on what to do next. Khara and her father were out sailing in a small vessel when suddenly, a violent storm emerged and threw the two of them from the safety of their ship and into the rough, deadly waters of the ocean. Whilst frantically trying to remain above the water, Khara could feel her breath get shorter and was unable to breathe as she tried to signal to her father. Her father who was also struggling to remain above the ferocious waves.

Somehow, both Khara and her father were swept up onto the shore of a fantastical island next to each other. As she slowly opens her eyes, she sees her father getting carried off by what can only be described as ‘walking rocks’. Unable to move, all she could do is lie there and watch as they walk into the distance and eventually out of sight. Upon regaining consciousness and the ability to move, we are given control of Khara as she sets out to explore the island. Shortly into our exploration, we spot a rather majestic owl who leads us to a mysterious lady who explains to us who we are and what we must do…

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Khara wasn’t brought to this island by chance, she is the last Atlantean and the land which we are now standing upon is the legendary Atlantis. It turns out that the son of Poseidon, Triton, had killed all of the inhabitants and was the sole reason for the downfall of the island. This mysterious figure had managed to lock up Triton previously, but he has started to regain his strength and thus, sent his minions to capture your father from the beach. Now, this part I’m confused about – the reason he took your father was that, just like the Highlander, when there is only one Atlantean left on Earth, the remaining one can use the power of Atlantis to rule the world. What’s confusing is, why didn’t the minions take Khara instead of her father?

Ignoring the plot hole, the lady grants you your Atlantean powers then transforms into the owl which you were following and flies off into the distance. And thus begins Khara’s adventure. With her newly acquired water-based powers, she must venture across Atlantis in search of Triton and her father, with the ultimate goal of saving him and putting an end to Trion once and for all. You’ll also obtain more powers as you go and use them to solve puzzles and progress in this magical adventure.

The LoDs seem pushed right out in this game.

Full disclosure, not all of the above is explained in-game the way I just have. That’s my version of the story based on playing it through to completion and taking in whats going on. The story itself is presented in one of two ways throughout the game, either in static images with a few lines of text (like the intro) or in-game cutscenes (like talking to the woman). Through both of these styles, you can easily pick up whats going on but I did have a few issues with the presentation of the story, specifically the actual words.

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As the team are fairly small over at DNA Softworks and the team are Spanish, not everything is translated perfectly into English within the current version. You will still be able to make out what they are trying to say, but there is a lot of broken English and some spelling mistakes here and there which you’ll spot as you progress. There is also an issue in the first part of the game with text pacing as the text boxes seem to move on quite fast. This isn’t an issue later on in the game, only the first area and the initial cutscenes. I do feel we should get an update to correct the translations as the majority of the gamers in Europe and America will be playing it in English rather than Spanish, but if it’s an issue for them then I wouldn’t hold it against the game as it’s not a game breaker or an actual ‘issue’ as such.

These eyes have seen terrible things!

The next thing you’ll notice, which is also a result of the game being their first since graduating, is the physics, general control and combat. I’ll start with the physics and controls. First of all, a massive bugbear of mine – no invert Y-axis option for the look mechanic. I know a lot of people, myself included, only play games with the invert on due to being hard-coded to that control method for gaming. I managed to complete the game non-inverted though, so it is possible and not that much of an issue as it’s only a short game. It’s like Timothy Vs. The Aliens, another PS Talents helped title, as that game never had an invert option added either.

The movement, in general, feels floaty. Your character doesn’t act like they are walking on the ground at times and jumping gives off the impression you are in a place with a lower gravity as you tend to glide as you fall. Now, I know these observations are most likely due to this being the studios first game (and it’s a really good first game), but I just pretended that the physics and jumping mechanics were like that because you are on the mythical island of Atlantis, and who knows what laws of physics apply there? Thinking that helped see past the issues and concentrate on other things instead…

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Set up a clone and shoot it in order to explode walls.

…such as combat. now, I’ll split this into two parts as well, as one of the parts is good and the other suffers from the same issues as the movement above. First of all, your attacks in general. Your attacks don’t feel like they have any impact on the enemies and the world around you. You can spam the attack button and you will perform a standard water-based melee attack, but the enemies don’t seem to have any feedback like getting knocked back or moved about. This is also true for the heavier water splash attack and the jump and water spin attack. It’s a shame because just having a bit of feedback would have greatly improved the combat in my opinion. That being said – mechanically it does work, so it isn’t broken, it’s just got the feeling of a lower budget title.

On top of your melee attacks, you also have a ranged attack. This is bow and is operated by tapping R2 or holding L2 to aim and R2 to fire. Or at least it should be. To do manual aim, you must hold both the L2 and R2 to get the reticule and then release the R2 in order to fire. It’s a bit confusing at first but you get used to it.

Secondly, we have the new abilities you obtain throughout the game – these are cool. You gain an ice spray, which freezes enemies and water which can also double up as an ice attack for your standard attacks. You also get access to a cloning ability, which lets you create a clone to distract the enemies and a secondary ability which reduces your mana points instead of health when you are injured. The clone can also be shot by your ranged attack and it will explode and blow up walls and certain enemies. Finally, you obtain the ability to teleport to glowing rocks. This is performed by shooting the rocks with your ranged attack, upon doing this you will begin to teleport over there in a stream of water. At any point, you can aim again and shoot another to change your destination – time also slows down whilst aiming which is really helpful.

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I really enjoyed the new abilities you gained as they opened up the game to a more strategic element when you are fighting. For example, you can’t punch or use water attacks on enemies made out of water as it wouldn’t be effective. However, if you freeze the enemy first so they become an ice sculpture, then you can easily attack them and take them down. Later segments also require you to use your abilities to traverse through various hazards, such as teleporting around whilst avoiding raising lava (something I had to do in Rangi as well), and freezing water outlets so you can climb up them.

I spent ages here, it’s rather simple but I just missed the obvious solution!

Khara: The Game isn’t a combat heavy game though, sure you have the odd fight with minions and you will encounter a few bosses (who are quite tricky, but easy once you learn their patterns) but the majority of the time will be spent wandering around as you follow a semi-linear path towards your next destination. Along this path, you will encounter quite a few puzzles and story elements. The puzzles vary and aren’t very difficult, you will have times where you have to move crates in order to activate switches, find secret entrances, map out things on a map, and more. I feel there is a decent balance of combat and puzzles, just don’t go into the game expecting anything complicated as most of the puzzles are simple and straightforward. The trickiest puzzles for me were figuring out the bosses weak spots and the aforementioned ice and teleport sections.

One thing which wasn’t included, which would have been a nice addition, is collectables. Because the world is quite linear, I’m not sure where they would have been hidden, but it did feel strange playing a puzzle-platformer without any items to search for and collect. However, you do have a number of tapestries scattered around the island which changes into a new image once you touch them. These seem to tell the story of you, your father and your mother on Atlantis up until this point – these don’t seem to serve a purpose other than as something for you to look at, I didn’t notice any trophies regarding them and they didn’t unlock anything for looking at them all. It would have been nice if the Extras menu on the main menu displayed the ones you found so you could look at them later, or given them a trophy based on viewing them all.

Atlantis – supposedly no longer under the ocean

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Graphically, the game looks really good. The developers and artists have gone for a bright, colourful aesthetic with plenty of bloom and post effects. The result is magical looking environments and dream-like lighting effects. I found the bloom a little high in some places, but that’s just because I was trying to line up Khara for a photo and the brightness of the sun was washing out her details. So that can’t really be classed as an issue as I was trying to do something different. The environments and character models all look really pretty, like a lot of love and care has gone into creating them.

Similarly, the level design is also very good. As it’s quite a linear game, you are guided towards your goal the majority of the time with little reason to explore, but I never had an instance where I couldn’t move on, or the jumping was impossible to perform etc. The only issue I had was with the part you had to turn water into ice and climb it – but that was a mixture of the controls and my patience, not the level design itself.

I like these puzzles, I can do these!

The sound design is a bit of a let down if I’m being honest. Don’t get me wrong, I like the music and it does change based on your situation into a more suited piece, but it’s not subtle in its change. For example, if you are listening to a peaceful piece of music and then some enemies appear, the music instantly stops and the battle music appears. A similar thing happens when going into a new area. I feel a bit more merging or crossfading may have helped. Another problem with the music is the fact it loops. I know all music loops, but these pieces of music seem pretty short so the loop stands out a bit. Also, some of the tracks have a clear end, gap, then start up again – rather than a smooth continuous play.

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That being said, I did like the music and it was relaxing whilst playing the game, it just had a few issues that’s all. Also, another impact of the game being the studio’s first title is the lack of voice actors throughout the game. I’m fine with this as I play a lot of Japanese titles, so I always have subtitles on and usually just read those, but I know some people may not like it if they don’t talk. My advice would be, don’t worry about it – make up your own voices in your head.

Yes, this is the area in the second picture above.

Finally, the trophies. I have touched on them above, but for all you trophy hunters out there, Khara: The Game is a nice easy platinum. It takes about three hours to get from the beginning to the end and all of the trophies are story related and impossible to miss. I also experienced no glitches or issues with trophies, so you should be good to unlock them all in one or two sessions.

Overall, I really enjoyed my time playing Khara: The Game. I know it may seem like I didn’t like a lot of things but please don’t get that impression from myself, I always state the facts but sometimes they aren’t based on how I feel. It was a joy to play as the last Atlantean as she searched for her kidnapped father, regardless of the floaty movement and impact-less combat. The various locations all looked really good, the extra abilities were fun to use, and the bosses offered a challenge whilst I learnt their patterns. For DNA Softworks‘ first game, I would say well done to them. I’m sure they will take the experience and feedback they have gained from Khara: The Game and use it within their next project in order to bring us something even bigger and better.

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Official Trailer:

Final Conclusion:
Khara: The Game is a fun puzzle platformer which will take you around three hours to complete. Some sections will have you frustrated due to the controls, and some bosses will anger you the first time you stumble upon them. However, once you have adapted to the mechanics and learnt the bosses patterns and weaknesses, you realise that Khara: The Game isn’t that bad. With your new abilities you gain throughout the course of the game, and the introduction of new enemies and puzzles – things are kept fresh and interesting right until the end credits. This is DNA Softworks‘ first game and it was a pleasure to play it for them. If you enjoyed other PS Talent games such as Timothy VS. the Aliens or Flynn and Freckles, then I highly recommend you take a look at Khara: The Game. Otherwise, if your a fan of puzzle platformers, easy platinums or indie titles, then I also recommend it to you as well.

A copy of the game was kindly provided for review purposes

Khara: the Game

£8.99
7.8

Final Score

7.8/10

The Good:

  • Great art design and texture quality on the environments and characters
  • Fun-to-use special abilities
  • Good balance of puzzles and combat
  • Easy Platinum [three hours]

The Bad:

  • Movement is a bit floaty and combat doesn't have impact
  • The music is good but it loops too often with no smooth crossovers
  • Some sections get a bit frustrating due to the precise controls
  • There are a few glitches which cause you to do a checkpoint restart (there are lots of checkpoints)
  • The first area has a few optimisation issues with the framerate, but after that it's fine.
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