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Review: Zen and the Art of Transhumanism

At a Glance

This game is recommended!
This game is not just good fun, it also stays fairly true to Christian moral values, making it a great addition to anyone's library!

ESRB Rating: NR - Not Rated
My Rating: Ages 6 and up
Genre: Other / Puzzle
License: Donationware
Release Year: 2016
Review Published On: July 9th, 2016
Played on: Martha

Available from:


Save System:

No save system exists in this game, but considering its short length, none is really needed.

Summary of
Major Issues:

You guide an android who is trying to make synthetic upgrades for people. Since you're running an operating theater, the clients are nude (but they are not sexualized).

There is also a moral lesson being taught about the demands of seeking vice or virtue.


[view screenshot]
Reading a client's request

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Checking upgrade designs

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Installing an upgrade in a client

Game Overview

How do you make a pottery simulator interesting enough to gather the attention of the average casual gamer? Apparently you theme it around a cyberpunk future and insert some social commentary. That's this game in a nutshell.

Although you're playing as Akara-184 (a humanoid robot designed for crafting upgrades), the player is actually a little removed from the events of the game. It's more like Akara-184 is an independent person you're guiding around rather than an avatar for the player, and this works quite well. There are several clients requesting upgrades, and your task revolves around instructing Akara-184 to make them and install the correct upgrade in each client. Fortunately, you don't do the installing yourself; Akara-184 takes all of the necessary steps once you've selected the upgrade you want to use. You do however need to craft the upgrades by shaping them in a virtual pottery wheel.

The pottery wheel is the meat of the game. By pressing the action key, you make the pottery wheel spin, much like how a real potter spins their wheel by tapping a paddle with their foot. Once it's spinning fast enough, you can use one of several tools to shape the design. Pressing SUBMIT then ends the creation process, and Akara-184 comments on what you've made. If it wasn't done well enough, it's discarded and you'll need to make something new. All of the designs are shown in an in-game manual terminal, and there's a button to overlay a design's outline on your work in the crafting area, so don't worry about memorizing them.

All in all, this is a great little game with a good message about everyday life, so I'd recommend trying it out during a coffee break sometime. If you really like where you're seeing here, the developer went on to create a full cyberpunk detective story called The Red Strings Club, which features both Akara-184 and this cybernetic pottery wheel.

Points of Interest

Virtual pottery is relaxing
There are a number of possible shapes you can make using your crafting wheel and pottery tools. Each shape corresponds with a specific upgrade, so you'll eventually make them all. It would be nice if you could create custom designs as cyberpunk artwork, but that's not really why you're here. If you ever make a mistake while sculpting, there's a button on the crafting table's controls that restores the current piece to its original, cylindrical shape, and there's no penalty for using this feature. Just move slowly and deliberately as you work your virtual clay.
There is no really wrong answer
In order to beat this game, you need to find out which upgrades will benefit your clients the most. Even if you guess wrong, the worst thing that will happen is an unsatisfactory mark on your client's record. You can try different ideas indefinitely, or alternatively, not work on the clients at all and just quietly play around with modelling stuff on the crafting wheel.
It's quite short
When you find the correct solution to a client's problem, they'll stop coming around for more upgrades. Thus, you can finish the game within a few minutes by installing the correct implant in each patient on the first try. In order to play longer, you'll either have to get the answer wrong or ignore the clients completely.

Concerns and Issues

Each of your clients arrives in the operating theater in their birthday suits. This isn't really much of a surprise, considering it is basically high-tech surgery. Before you get too worried, rest easy that they are very small on the screen, and aren't sexualized. It might still make more conservative parents uneasy however, so be mindful of what you're getting into.
Vice or virtue
Your job is to help your clients with their requests. The catch here is that every one of your clients is dealing with a vice of some sort, including the three "darker" vices of pride, lust and malice. How you deal with these is up to you. Do you help them gain more fame, or guide them away from needing it?
One of the clients makes his upgrade request by using the F-word. It does get his point across, but the swear word really doesn't seem to be needed considering that he's a doctor and should have a better vocabulary than that.
Great messages about life
If you didn't already guess, indulging a client's vices doesn't really help them and is the wrong answer. It does give them what they want, but as is often the case in life, what you want is seldom what you need. To truly help any client, you need to counter their vice with some sort of virtue. For example, the game developer wants to create something truly amazing, but for the wrong reasons. Relieving him of his ambitions frees him to create out of love and passion, not a need to satisfy his ego.