Where do I begin with Abo Khashem? I imagine it’s most likely a game which flew under your radar which you have no idea what it is, or about – If so, I wouldn’t blame you as there has been very little in terms of advertising and whilst performing a quick search online, it appears there wasn’t much coverage in terms of major review outlets either. Abo Khashem is a ‘Jack of all trades, master of none’ type of game where the developer, Moving Dimensions, clearly had a set vision yet decided to throw in every single gameplay mechanic they could think of. The sad thing is, I really enjoyed playing Abo Khashem and some aspects were done really well, but it was let down by a lot of the tacked-on secondary mechanics. One thing I will say before I begin to get into things, don’t judge a book by it’s cover – the devs have done a lot to improve the game over the day-one trailers so don’t push it aside based on an initial glance.
Please bear with me, I’m going to explain the initial 15-20 minutes of the game for you – it’s going to get weird yet this is one of the normal parts!
Abo Khashem is the namesake and the protagonist of the game. However, we initially don’t know his name so people will call you Nose Guy or something to that effect as your nose is huge (about 90% of your head is nose). Abo wakes up at a gas station on the outskirts of a city with no recollection of who he is or how he got there – he has been almost ‘full-on MiB style’ memory wiped. Upon coming to, he is greeted by quite possibly the strangest thing I’ve seen in a video game this generation – a cat wearing a google cardboard VR headset… backwards. After the initial shock, Abo proceeds inside the gas station and begins his, first of many, rather strange and slightly morbid conversation.
After speaking to the gas station clerk, you inquire why there is a dead cat on the desk (I said it got morbid), to which you are asked to go and bury it outside so the other cats will know not to bother the clerk. You agree, taking the huge water cooler as a weapon (not the strangest one you can pick up either) and proceed to half-bury the cat in the middle of the road. Upon finishing the rather undignified burial, you notice a cat on its hind legs mocking you as it holds your sandals in its mouth. You take chase until you smash the VR headset off the cats head with your water cooler and retrieve your sandals.
As soon as you begin to feel better, now you have footwear and the knowledge you can beat up defenceless cats, a police car pulls up and you are instantly arrested. Whilst being transported, Abo keeps leaning forward and due to his massive nose causing the driver to become distracted, the police car topples over and you escape into the depths of the City of Torrid. Shortly after, you encounter your first and only companion in the game – a talking lizard who wears sunglasses.
Both yourself and Shukman the lizard (whom you can also control) must now explore Torrid as you take on side missions, complete main missions, build your friendship and skills, manage a property business, traverse through magical worlds as you fend off anthropomorphic cats and many, many, many more mechanics which I’ll explain below. The game is crazy, the dialogue is borderline insane, the voice acting is hit-and-miss, the physics were broken when I played it (but fixed now), and the story is very silly – but I’ll tell you one thing… It’s a lot of fun!
So, how does that sound? Are you still with me? Great! So, as I mentioned above, the game has tried to be too ambitious and that’s the main downfall of the game. I’ll try and recall everything below but I’m sure I will miss out some mechanics/abilities. It does get a little confusing but that’s because there is so much crammed into this game.
I’ll begin with the controls – I didn’t like them. By default, the look with the right stick was so sensitive that if you even breathed on the stick you would spin around really fast! Luckily the options menu is basically the PC options with all the same or similar settings. You have the ability to reduce the sensitivity, and I recommend you do this straight away to around 10. Another strange thing, which I’ve noticed in a few indie games recently, you can use the touchpad as a means to look around – so swiping your finger on the pad will do the same as the right stick. Some people may like it but for me, it just means I would spin around frantically whenever I accidentally touched the touchpad. Jump, move and attack are fine – I’ll come to the combat later – you are a bit floaty and it is a bit hard to do precise jumps, but thankfully a lot of the jumps in the cat-world are forgiving and can be manipulated to your advantage.
The combat is one of the good things about the game – weapons feel weighty depending on what you have equipt – and even though the hitboxes are a bit ‘big’, it actually feels satisfying smacking the cats with the multitude of strange weapons you can pick up (cats are your enemies throughout). Where it does get a little messy is in the ‘progression’ of the combat. You can buy and pick up hundreds of different weapons, each with their own stats – which is great. However, you can also learn (via getting experience) and buy combo attacks – so things like the charge attack or an uppercut are obtainable extras and there is a lot of them to collect. You can then build your own combos by placing up to seven of these moves together in the order you want the combo to play out if you continuously hit the attack button.
Not only that, you have a set of combos for each weapon type as well as a passive trait that’s always active. There is too much going on, to be honest – it’s a nice idea putting all these moves and extras in here but the game seriously doesn’t need them.
The game also sees itself as an RPG with not one skill tree, but three (based on attack, money and special attacks) for both yourself and the lizard (who has an attack, backup and ability one) – so that’s six ‘talent trees’ in total. I don’t know if these were put in to parody RPG games of if the developers wanted us to take them seriously as it’s another case of overkill. Some of the abilities are useful towards the end of the game but they would be perfect in a harder game-mode playthrough but there is no NG+ so starting again will remove everything you have unlocked.
We’re not done there either! Upon levelling up, you also get ‘stat points’ which can be used to increase things like Strength and Luck (again, for both Abo and his scaley companion separately). If the developers would have forgotten about all the stat points and talent points and just had it that certain things unlocked and went up a set amount each time you level up, then I believe the game would have been a lot less confusing and wouldn’t have caused me so much pain trying to navigate the menus (an issue with has been thankfully fixed with later updates).
Now, something that’s either completely broke or it’s like Goat Simulator – intentionally bad. After a while, you gain access to a house where you will be hiding people who join your group later on – within the house you can buy and place various items which first of all sounds great. Then you find out you can use the D-Pad and change the size of every item and stick them on any floor, wall or ceiling. Before you know it, you have a massive bed in one room, 50 chairs in another, and a massive 400″ laptop in the living room – I’m going to presume they meant this to be intentionally bad as a joke as it gave me some laughs.
Whilst on the topic of houses – the developers have even thrown in a property ‘mini-game’ but again, this feels incomplete and like it was placed in here at the last minute. You can go to the main map and purchase any building within the game – it doesn’t do anything other than generating cash, but it only generates cash if you have staff and staff come and go so fast it’s impossible to keep up. It’s also impossible to make a decent amount of money as you get hardly anything from the buildings you buy in comparison to what you spent in order to obtain the property. Even the residential buildings which cost about $1m will only give you $18k-$70k every few minutes.
With regards to the property, you also have to deal with the enemy cats buying your buildings, stealing from them, vandalising them, and even causing them to shut down. This means you have to micro-manage and employ staff and manage their happiness all whilst you are playing the main game too. I’m not going to lie – I played the property part for about an hour then gave up as I was getting nowhere with it.
As a break from the semi-realistic open-world aspect of the game, you can jump into dumpsters and become teleported to another dimension where the cats have evolved into human-like creatures with a thirst for Abo Khashem blood. There are about seven or eight of these worlds before they loop, each with their own collectables and even bosses. These offer a change of pace and scenery for you to adventure in, and you will soon find yourself overwhelmed if you don’t have the right weapons or armour – plus there is a lot of platforming which thankfully, can be quite forgiving as it usually lets you recover from a fall if you quickly jump as you’re slipping away.
Back in the real world, you have a few mini-games such as a continuous “can you free 30 cats” which you can keep re-taking, races around the freeway, the lizard has some top-down runner segments, and there are over 200 hidden lockboxes to find and a counter on how many cats have been ‘freed’. So, you can never say you have nothing to do whilst playing Abo Khashem as there is always something to do – even writing this review I have just lost an hour because I started running around smashing cats with my sledgehammer and got carried away!
You can also talk to various NPCs via you’re mobile phone in order to gain new side-missions or additional objectives although these repeat very quickly and don’t tend to change once you complete them – get given a quest to go to a place and jump, complete, text the same person and you will have the same task but with a different location.
Graphically, the game isn’t going to win any awards. The game is made in unity and it has an ‘early access’ on Steam feel about it, a bit like how Suicide Guy did for me – it isn’t a bad thing, it just doesn’t feel as polished as other games that are out there. The art style is unusual and probably it’s the strongest feature with the strange characters, various pieces of clothing (including an apple you can place on your nose so you become disguised) and the brightly coloured environments. Again, it feels like Goat Simulator – that various aspects were poor or bad on purpose to add to the joke.
Similarly, the sound design is also a bit hit or miss. Some of the voice actors sound like they didn’t really want to be in the game whereas others get really into it – the antagonist and your lizard buddy are really well done. The music is pleasant enough with different tunes based on which dimension you are in and ambient sounds all around you. Can’t really falter the sound – everything works as it should and helps build atmosphere and character around the game.
If you played the game at launch or if you are looking at the images above and thinking the text looks very small – that’s because it is. Well, it was… They released an update a few weeks back which increased the size of the UI font – before the update it was almost impossible to read the text from a decent distance.
Official Trailer (Physics on the cars is a lot different now):
Abo Khashem isn’t a bad game, it’s built to be a comedic action-RPG game so a lot of the broken or stupid mechanics are there to simply poke fun at various aspects and other games. What I can’t forgive though is the amount you are overwhelmed with because of the various mechanics and abilities which shouldn’t have been present in such a simple game. It feels like over the three years it took to develop, every time a game came out with something the developers liked they simply opted to include it in their game also. This process can work for bigger studios on a larger budget, but for a smaller indie project I think it’s safe to say that “less is more”. If you are looking for a game you can play without having to take it seriously and you enjoy open-world games with silly dialogue, a fairly interesting story and the ability to smack around VR controlled cats then I would say give it a go – I’ve played about 40-50 hours of it and I had a lot of fun.
**A code for the game was kindly provided for review purposes by the developer**
- Lots of little side quests if you want to do them - they do repeat quite quick though
- Funny dialogue and a surprisingly interesting story
- Tonnes of weapons and cosmetics to play with
- The devs seem to be still actively fixing and tweaking things
- The music is pretty good
- Some mission markers were bugged (may have been fixed by now)
- No NG+ which makes the hardest difficulty (for the platinum) impossible
- Some of the voice acting is a little dodgy
- The game crams in so many different mechanics and processes - should have remained a simple action-platformer