This is the ninetieth entry in the Scratching That Itch series, wherein I randomly select and write about one of the 1741 games and game-related things included in the Bundle for Racial Justice and Equality. The Bundle raised $8,149,829.66 split evenly between the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund and Community Bail Fund, but don’t worry if you missed it. There are plenty of ways you can help support the vital cause of racial justice; try here for a start. Lastly, as always, you may click on images to view larger versions.

The digital dice have rolled once again, randomly selecting something from the Bundle for Racial Justice and Equality. It’s Karambola, by Holy Pangolin Studio (more specifically by Agata Nawrot, one half of Holy Pangolin Studio). Its tagline in the bundle reads:

Lonely fruits and veggies with emotional problems need your help in this sh…

The character limit cuts it off there, but there’s no time to wonder what it might have said. There are lonely fruits and veggies that need our help! To action!

Karambola can be played directly in a web browser, or downloaded for Android devices. I opted for the browser out of convenience, and was pleased to see there’s an option to expand it to fullscreen. Which is worth doing, because the beautiful art is a big draw. Karambola reminded me of the Samorost games (I’ve written about Samorost 2 in the past), in that it’s largely about single-screen scenes with wonderfully stylized art, interacted with by poking and prodding them to see what happens. Karambola’s art is hand-drawn and hand-painted, its scenes accompanied by simple sound effects, many of which are clearly made with people’s voices. It’s thoroughly weird, featuring vegetable-headed folk, each trapped in a different season and wallowing in sadness or bad thoughts. Players can help them out by manipulating their environments.

It all starts with Karambola, whose head is a carambola, sitting and sipping on a time-freezing smoothie. Work out how to deprive Karambola of the smoothie, however, and he’ll remember how his friends were scattered by a pack of evil bird-thoughts, which look like square birds made of darkness. So Karambola sets off to rescue his friends, with the player’s help. There are nine scenes to visit in any order one chooses, each with a few clickable elements. Most of the time, it’s possible to work out the correct order to click things based on hints in the environment, or the short animations held by one of the bird-thoughts. There can be a few stages to each scene but they’re still quite simple and short, and often offer relaxing music and animations as a reward for helping out a vegetable-person in need. A couple of scenes had me at a loss for a while, but I eventually figured them out after returning to them later.

Karambola is a short experience, then, but well worth it for the strange and intriguing spectacle. I was able to help a many-mouthed piece of ginger root regain its bearings, a spruce cone embrace the changing seasons, and a kiwano rediscover its love of music. Each scene is so weird and cool. In many of them I didn’t really understand what was happening, but Karambola has its own internal logic, where odd things happen as a matter of course. It’s a lovely little thing. I also love how each character is based on lesser-known fruits and vegetables. No bananas or tomatoes here, instead we have pattypan squash and fennel. These are somehow appropriate to the weird tone of the game. Go on, help out that sad artichoke.

This is just the kind of strange indie offering I hoped to find in the bundle, and it gets an easy recommendation from me. If you missed it in the bundle, Karambola is offered for whatever price you wish to pay (including free). Go check it out!

That’s 90 down, and only 1651 to go!