I am sitting in a bar. Perhaps I’m tending it, but for now, I merely observe the man in front of me. He has been drinking profusely, no doubt on account of the bothersome negative thought bird hovering near his forehead. Or at least, what believe to be his forehead. Above his shoulders, his body expands into an egg-shaped mass of spines, and as his hat slips off his crown, a flowery mouth-like hole reveals itself as the means by which the patron has finished off so much wine. I feel a deep pity for this creature, and begin to tap out a tune on his discarded glasses. He perks up a bit.
The world of Agata Nawrot’s Karambola is one of anthropomorphic vegetables undergoing immense duress. Consumed by negative thoughts (personified as eerie rectangular birds), they are found wallowing within bars, on rooftops, or floating through a fogging marsh on a block of ice. Through bizarre hand-drawn characters and a charming soundtrack, Nawrot explores depression in abstraction. A delicate balance of the surreal and deeply human, Karambola is a journey to find something resembling an inner peace.
Though its subjects – surely, the concept itself – are easy prey for those inclined to cry foul at the odd and emotionally cognizant, behind its vegetable people Karambola is remarkably grounded. It masks its cast with heads of pinecones and artichokes, but their pain and longing to connect with others is hardly alien.
What I find so remarkable about Karambola is its humble understanding. The problems it presents you with are so very ordinary and routine – loss of friends and lovers, irrational fears, failure – but never once does Nawrot treat these issues as unworthy of support. If there is a direct message to be taken away from Karambola’s hazy pictograms and occasional poetry, it is that your anxiety doesn’t define you, but it also isn’t going to simply go away. As someone who has found themselves at the edge of the abyss more times than I would like to admit, there is a reassurance in Karambola’s simple acknowledgement and acceptance.
Yes, you are broken. But that’s OK, I am too. Care for a smoothie?
"Quick Thoughts" is a place for micro criticism, abstract musings, and shameless showcasing for games which either don't fit into a full review or I am not yet ready to talk about to that extent, essentially acting as a concise running commentary on whatever I'm currently playing and my thoughts thereof.