We’ve all woken up without any idea of where we are, or what has happened the night before. Haven’t we? It must be true because I can’t remember half of my mid-twenties. But what would happen if you woke up surrounded by cats with boxes on their heads, in a petrol station in a Middle Eastern country and you can’t remember your name? Well, the protagonist in Abo Khashem starts the game with that exact problem, and as you gather yourself to find out the truth about your circumstances, this weird, crazy, very funny journey begins to slowly unfold.
Abo Khashem is an RPG open world adventure that combines humour and multiple gameplay elements to provide an unusual experience. It reminds me of the late 1990’s console exclusives where developers weren’t scared of creating unusual wacky stories involving mad characters and the placement of games within games. This reminds me of those times and it has the last generation mechanics in place to ram those thoughts home. Whilst it’s nice to occasionally have retro, it can also get rather annoying.
You start out with Abo Khashem by talking to a few people and getting some quests handed to you. The first one is to bury a dead cat, which is the strangest first quest that’s ever been seen. You soon get arrested and find yourself in a big town with the world to explore. And as you head on out, you soon meet a tiny lizard with sunglasses on, who talks like a private detective from a 1940’s black and white film noir. You can swap between the two and even play a sort of enjoyable running mobile mini-game with the lizard to get experience.
This is a game that involves a range of missions from fetch quests, to combat quests, some driving opportunities and a bit of mad property management all thrown into the mix. The RPG section works by getting experience points and topping up your attributes, talents, and skills, and it all seems to work well enough. The combat sections involve a mix of melee and weapons, as well as using and obtaining different combos to try out in your attacks. There is even a completion achievement for those who want to get them all. There are cats to fight before freeing them from the cardboard VR headsets they are wearing. You also have dumpsters that take you to another magical world where the cats are living like us, with big boss battles and experience to be gained aplenty. Exciting, yes? Confusing, definitely.
Well, what you can’t fault about Abo Khashem is the ambition and amount of things to do. They’ve picked and selected loads of different tropes and designed this mad, crazy world where you have a mountain of quests and game styles to experiment with. The problem is that some of the mechanics don’t feel quite right and never live up to the ambition that it wants to achieve. The driving is the worst, with no weight or decent physics to it; it’s like the last twenty years of driving games hasn’t happened. The main character can be hard to control at times too, whilst jumping in the magical cat world is annoying and can result in a lot of missteps. The combat is okay – at best – but it’s nothing special and I tried to avoid it as much a possible, instead wanting to explore the world and the writing which is where the developers come into their own.
See, the writing, characters, and the world created is very unique indeed. The humour is the strength of this game, and there are loads of laugh out loud moments. I really liked the non-playable characters you meet and I absolutely adored the lizard. The mix of the real world and the magical cat world is enlightening and very clever, with some great set pieces and game design. It’s a shame that the gameplay doesn’t work on the same par as the creative vision.
In the looks department, Abo Khashem is all fine but can look very last gen at times. The character design is very good with its cartoon aesthetic and brilliant use of cats, with a special mention going out to the cat bosses. The sound design meanwhile is also okay with some good effects and pleasing music. The voice acting is generally very good, but it certainly isn’t consistent throughout. Thankfully the good overshadows the bad here though.
Overall I feel there is a lot of really brilliant stuff included in Abo Khashem, with a hell of a lot to do. You could easily spend many hours in this delightful, unusual world exploring every last inch, while building up your anonymous character. The cat worlds are great fun and the writing, humour, and characters are superb. However, the game mechanics are hard to work through and at times it feels like there is actually too much included; were a couple of things taken out it would have focused the whole a bit more. The price is quite heavy too, but if it comes down a bit in the future and you want a to try something completely different from the norm, then give Abo Khashem a go.