Right. So, first and foremost, I should probably say that I haven’t actually read any Kafka. I have a collection of his works sitting on my shelf, but I’ve never properly sat down to read anything. In that regard, I’m probably missing a lot of hidden meanings and messages; I hope I’m missing a lot of hidden meanings and messages, because if the game is all there is, I wonder what the ruddy point was.
To be brutally honest, I don’t think this can be classed as a puzzle game, nor a challenge of the player’s wit. This is a demonstration - a tribute, even - to the author’s work; I have it on good authority that Kafka’s writings often didn’t make sense, and in that regard this is a phenomenal work of art. It is merely a shame that the surreal and rather pointless themes which may have worked in literature cannot be as effectively translated to a videogame. One ‘puzzle’ presented me with one of those numbered tile-sliding games. I typically lack the patience to be completing these types of mindless “shuffle everything till I win” time-sinks, but I endured. Upon completion, however, I realised the game instead wanted me to input a random combination of numbers that I could only realistically have known by looking at the hints. I was an avid Layton fan - if a hint is necessary to the completion of the puzzle, what we have is a very poorly made puzzle.
The player aids K. on this journey that he doesn’t really want to be on, nor understand why he is. It’s definitely a charming narrative, and I suppose an allegory for life in general. As the Duck, God of Fire, informed me, it is wrong to make the assumption that things happen because they have meaning or reason - they are happening just because they are happening. Yes, it’s all very philosophical, and I’m sure the Kafka fans among you will recognise more of that than I currently do. Yet the obvious problem with that very quote is that the player has zero agency, contributing to a failure of a game. Events just occur in the story without any player input. Rather ironically, though, the game cannot progress until the player completes these puzzles, which to my mind undermines the whole “you are nothing and your actions mean nothing” vibe that the narrative gives off.
The art style is nothing spectacular, but is queer enough to allow characters like K. to seamlessly inhabit the same world as the Duck or Insect Detective without being too jarring. Backdrops are clear and crisp with a fair amount of detail, and with the story not confining itself to such cliché concepts as ‘structure’, the game explores a surprising variety of settings considering its length. I also genuinely enjoy a lot of the music the game has to offer, even if the loops are relatively short. It manages to generate the correct theme and feeling the game clearly want the players to feel. The issue, however, is that if you’re stuck on one of these scenes for too long trying to logic your way though nonsense, there is a very real chance the soundtrack will begin to grate from the repetition.
I don’t know what to say - The Franz Kafka Videogame is a joke, and I feel like the butt of it. I’m ashamed that I spent so long attempting to make some sense out of it, because I still have absolutely nothing to show beyond a seething hatred and a will to read the original texts to just try and piece together something resembling sanity. There’s even an intermission - the game has an intermission - halfway through, and if that’s not just one big middle finger, I don’t know what is. The only joy I can see someone aware of Kafka deriving from this is one of those “aha, I recognise that” moments. For the laymen, like me, it will be a slog, and it will be unpleasant. I got to the end, and did the review, now I’m uninstalling. No particular reason, I just know it’s happening.
The Franz Kafka Videogame (Reviewed on Windows)
The game is average, with an even mix of positives and negatives.
The game encapsulates the frustration and confusion that I have often heard Kafka’s work draws upon. Unfortunately, these things work about as well in a videogame as a dollop of jam does in a classic novel. I’d avoid unless you really like the author.