When I think of a game that’s riddled with bugs, I’m often drawn to Goat Simulator, or at least until a few days back. Now, however, Abo Khashem takes that mantle. The difference between these two games; one is intentionally chock-full of issues by design, whereas the other is actually trying to pass as a comedic role playing game. Unless I haven’t made it clear enough, Goat Simulator is the former, and Abo Khashem is the latter. There’s not a great deal of positive things that I can speak about in this review, because when this game manages to get something right, there tends to be a dozen things that it gets wrong, but let’s take it from the top, shall we?
The game throws you into the role of the titular Abo Khashem, a man with a nose size that’s rivaled only by Rayman. After waking up in the middle of nowhere, it becomes immediately apparent that you’re suffering with amnesia. You have no idea where you are, how you got there, or why the authorities are gunning for you. It’s your job, along with your newfound lizard companion, to unravel the mystery and crack a gigantic conspiracy in the process. To its credit, Abo Khashem is an ambitious game that houses elements of play that we don’t typically see in any given RPG. Including the likes of management systems, property buying/decorating, and bonding, on top of the usual genre affairs; customization and upgrade options.
The biggest problem in all of this, is that it just doesn’t come together very well at all. The whole package is under-developed and poorly designed. Even after just five minutes of play, I couldn’t count all of the issues and bugs on two hands. The game gives you immediate control of Abo once the short opening cutscene has been and gone. You wake on the ground outside of a gas station to find a bunch of cats wearing cardboard boxes on their heads. Within seconds, the headache inducing screen-tear comes into view. It’s all over the place. It doesn’t matter if you’re running or taking a slow stroll, the screen constantly jitters and shakes as it struggles to keep itself in one piece.
If you’re not battling with that, you’ll be fighting to keep Abo from getting stuck in the environment. The game even comes with the ability to select “I’m Stuck”, which will teleport Abo to a nearby location, freeing you from whichever bug has hindered the gameplay. This tells me that; the developer knew of these issues and took the easy route rather than fixing them, and that I could expect this to happen often, which it did. Your first objective is to enter the gas station and exchange conversation with the owner, which is precisely where problem number three pops up. You have access to a journal that will keep on top of your objectives in a very vague format. Literally, the journal told me to speak to the gas station owner, so off I went.
The owner will rant on about the size of your nose (you’ll get that a lot) before giving you several conversation options to select from. The kicker here is that unless you follow a very specific conversation branch, the objective will not be complete. What’s worse is that the conversation will reset itself each time you speak to the owner, meaning you have to guess which branch is the correct branch to move the game progression along. This is the same throughout the entirety of play, and it’s far beyond frustrating when you take into account that some conversations can go on for minutes. There’s nothing fun about listening to the same dull voice acting, over and over, in the hopes of finding the correct outcome. Even Bindy, your Microsoft Word paperclip-esque page binding assistant, wont help you with this.
Throughout the course of the game, you’ll be bagging EXP left, right, and center. Be it for completing quests or defeating enemies. Upon each level-up, you’ll be rewarded with stat points, which can be spent on a number of stats; strength, agility, endurance, vitality, will, and luck. Abo will gradually climb in capability depending on where you distribute these points. Whenever you level-up twice, on the other hand, you’ll be gifted with talent points. These can be spent on one of three skill trees; Bruiser, Trickster, and Businessman. By doing so, Abo will gain access to new abilities and buffs, such as; double jump, high jump, increased sprint, increased strength, and a number of other additions that will aid you on your way forward.
Whenever a new mechanic is introduced, Bindy will frequently appear with its ugly overlaying UI and briefly explain what’s what. Abo Khashem does try to carefully feed you into the basics of play, but only the most forgiving and patience of players will be able to overlook the countless faults within. It doesn’t help matters that the writing is cringy and cant get its humor right. The game will censor swear words via the sound of (I think it was) a trumpet, but has no problem with “your mum” jokes, nor does it care about poking fun at tumors. It just clearly doesn’t give a shit, which can be said about almost every aspect of its design and development process. To top it all off, the staple mechanic for any RPG is its combat, and Abo Khashem cant even nail that correctly.
Abo can pick up a number of items to use as a weapon, the first of which is a water tank. Trying to hit any singular foe, either with your fists or with a weapon, is a battle in itself. Abo will regularly aim in the wrong direction, making for some very clunky combat sequences. What I will say in favor of the game is that it’s got some diversity going for it. There’s a solid variation of enemies, characters, and locations to stumble upon. There’s some simulation systems in place, which adds a nice touch, and the dungeon-like sections helps to spice up the pace of play. Several collectibles and side quests will also be there for the taking, rewarding those of you that fancy yourselves a completionist. Though with that being said, these few rights do not outweigh the wrongs, not by a long-shot.
The story just isn’t interesting, that much goes without saying. I constantly lost track of the plot in light of the several problems I was forced to endure at any given time. If the game worked as intended and didn’t come with more bugs than a bushtucker trial, I perhaps would have been less distracted to enjoy it more than I did. Either way, it’s hardly a compelling affair. The game simply has you wandering from one place to the next, ticking off your list of tasks one at a time as you move on. The visuals are also dated, with the game resembling that of a front-end Xbox 360 title. The textures are bland and not well refined, and the character models are equal to that. It’s a shame, because underneath this buggy facade, rests a game that could have been much much better if handled correctly and developed properly.
Abo Khashem is a broken pile of nonsense. The game is riddled with bugs, so much so that the developer has implemented a tool to free you from them at any given time. When you’re not wrestling with bugs, you’ll be enduring horrendous screen tearing and framerate drops. It’s an ambitious game that’s utterly let down by poor design choices and shoddy development.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox One. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version.