Omelette du Homage

I’m a long-time Yoshiro Kimura fan. Modernly working under Onion Games, before that Punchline, and before that Love-de-Lic, Kimura and his teammates have been producing some of the most charmingly odd games out there. One that’s seen a notable resurgence is moon, which saw a recent multi-platform rerelease and discussion as a result. moon is a game entirely about making the world a better place little by little by helping a cast of weirdos, subverting conventions of RPGs well before the modern indie wave of quirky vibe-games. Despite all of those we haven’t seen a game aim quite so squarely at capturing this kind of feeling until very recently. 24 Killers doesn’t just warrant Love-de-Lic comparisons, it invites them, and it mostly holds up under scrutiny.

Thanks for validating my life choices, video game.

Games like this place a bit more emphasis on presentation than most and 24K knocks that out of the park. The visuals are equal parts gorgeous and adorable (agorable?), resembling 90s clay-esque renders. Many characters look almost like they’ve been animated via stop motion, waddling and wiggling around with every movement. The music exists to set mood and it’s extremely effective, with each track immediately lowering your blood pressure aside from the rare exception where it opts to unsettle you. You’ll be hearing some of the tracks a lot but I never once got tired of them, which is the sign of a well executed soundtrack.

Describing 24K as an actual game is…tricky. You play as an angry spirit named Home who’s been forced to pilot a corpse against their will by an alien named Moon (I refuse to believe this name is a coincidence). The purpose of this is twofold: to force Home to help rescue a bunch of weird critters stuck underground on your abandoned island, and also to help save Home from themself. That part’s more complicated and I’m not gonna explain it here. Suffice to say you’ll make friends or try again the next day. Because you can’t die, see.

Moon has several nuggets of wisdom. This one seems important.

In terms of what you do with the controller in your hands, this can only reasonably be explained as a game where you wander around and solve problems. I know that’s vague, but to be fair the game’s not interested in consistency. Your main goal is to spend your energy on working the elevator in order to help “mons” stranded underground escape to the surface. This will be interrupted several times, meaning you’ll have to perform a variety of tasks and talk with lots of characters in order to progress. You only have so much energy and can only eat so much food to replenish it per day, so you’ll need to make it home to sleep until the next day or risk passing out, which has the consequence of being dragged home by Mole and losing half of your whispers (cash). 

Despite occasionally needing to figure out what you should be doing I think it’d be a stretch to describe 24K’s obstacles as puzzles, even when it makes you complete a gauntlet of challenges created by a character literally named Johnny Puzzle. At no point did I ever feel like I needed a guide, not that one was available when I played this, and that’s a far cry from the intentional obfuscation of games like moon or Chulip. Make no mistake, 24K is weird as shit, but it isn’t interested in wasting your time. That’s an improvement!

This line took the wind out of me.

Where it loses me a bit is in the actual content itself, because it is remarkably repetitive. Every cat character has a speed challenge, every strong character makes you compete against them in squats, etc. Your daily routine will likely involve collecting as many respawning collectables as possible before digging into the plot advancement because you will need every single stat boost and whisper you can get your hands on. There are several points in the game where you effectively hit a paywall and need to fork over a heap of whispers to progress, which can seem insurmountable until the blood moon shows up for a day. Those days work largely the same, except you chug a whole case of energy drinks to boost your money multiplier before you do the whole routine.

And yet, despite all of that, I found myself compelled to explore each morning. The island is, for lack of a better word for an abandoned military base, kinda cozy? As you make improvements and solve problems the place gets better, you get stronger, and the population grows bigger. There are loads of NPCs to chat with and even if they run out of dialog a bit too quickly after you finish their sidequests, they’re all equal parts charming and comedic. You’ll have favorites (Oyaji the GOAT) and least favorites (if I could exile Johnny Puzzle I would) but you won’t hate any, and that’s important when you spend so much time with everybody. I went out of my way to earn the friend hangout with every eligible NPC on my file just to get a bit more dialog, so obviously I enjoyed myself.

Oh no. Please God, no.

I’m pretty confident I 100%ed my file but that’s where the game’s oddest structural element is relevant – the files themselves. There are a set number of files in this game, you see, because each of them is a pocket universe that’s just sliiiightly different. If you speak to a character called The Husbandman (which requires doing pretty much every possible thing) you unlock a nifty bonus for future playthroughs on other files. I started another and sure enough, my (admittedly mostly-useless) buff kicked in immediately and changed the story just a tad. Combine that with getting to choose which files you unlock for future playthroughs on each game completion, and you have a game that offers a surprisingly wide range of options should you opt to start fresh. It’s one of the most curious takes on a New Game Plus I’ve ever seen and it deserves praise.

Where I struggle is in finding reason to actually complete those additional playthroughs. 24K takes a fair chunk of time to beat, even if you know exactly what you’re doing, and the changes appear to be reeeeally small. If you vibe with this game I bet these additions would be all the excuse you need to pop the game on for a few hours and get a new toy. But if you’re like me and find the game’s loop a bit underwhelming in terms of the actual gameplay, you may find some difficulty feeling motivated to do all of it again just so you can watch Mole choke Home out in the opening cutscene instead of getting punched out.

I know how this looks but he does not slap the old lady, I promise.

That said, I’m glad I took this journey. 24 Killers is a genuinely charming, characterful game with excellent writing and some truly memorable moments in store that very much warrant a play. It’s a warm-fuzzies inducing experience and it does so in such a unique way that I can’t name another game accomplishing exactly what this does, not even in Kimura’s ludography. Maybe someday I’ll find myself on these sandy shores again, powering an elevator with a treadmill to free a sentient teacup from an underground bunker. But even if I don’t, I know my inherent worth will remain intact. The squats machine told me so.