Travel to Kairo to find your own puzzles, story and darkness.
I have been to Kairo, Egypt and I would never have gone there if it had been anything like the abstract representations of ancient Egypt found in the game Kairo. At times there are definitely identifiable objects, symbols and architecture from human history. Most of the times the environments feel alien though, and at best it feels like exploring Forerunner technology in the Halo universe and when it is at it´s worst if feels like a pretentious art project beyond my understanding. The game balances between these two personal points of view. Exploration in this desolate place never reaches the horror or suspense found in Dead Space, or Doom for that matter. There are no enemies, or even corpses or trails of organic life other than the alien machinery powering the puzzles.
My first attempt at playing Kairo failed miserably on all accounts. No suspense, nothing to interact with and old stale controls. Mind you I didn’t have any sound on.
The second attempt on the other hand with volume cranked up gave me a completely different experience. The desolate boring graphics could not convey any of the emotion that the ambient music brings. At best it induces the heart pounding scratching and clanging reminding me of the first Silent Hill game, and that is truly an achievement. Most of the time the music is dark ambient in the vein of a lot of artists on the Cold Meat label. Dark, haunting and inviting you to create the darkness within your own mind.
There is no story to Kairo, and you are left to explore the world completely without guidance. The first time I restarted the game due to thinking that it had bugged out when I saw the graphics. You start in a structure, and all around you it is white like if it were either a dream, or textures missing. It turned out to be the former.
You have controls for forward, and backward movement and simply swipe anywhere to look around. From the start I yearned for a way to strafe to make the gameplay easier. Now there is so much walking back, and forth to get the presence you control in position to solve puzzles. And the puzzles are quite hard to find, and grasp. Portals, rooms and weird places also make it really hard to understand what is going on, and why.
Kairo is a free-roaming 3D escape the room game where the room is extremely abstract, and the puzzles hard to see the line of consequence from. Often I find myself starting to solve a puzzle, and then going through a doorway without knowing if I had solved the puzzle or not. The lack of story or direction forces the player to invent the reason for being in the game. Personally I would have liked more direction to motivate me to run around in the darkness trying to escape, or find something or what the heck I am supposed to do. The saving grace is the excellent ambient music by Wound, but as you can find the full soundtrack at bandcamp you can experience it for free. Kairo will definitely appeal to some, as it brings something new. Like Myst/Riven without the story, but if you manage to let yourself be immersed the experience can be just as rewarding. Sadly the wonky controls, strange puzzles and at times ugly level design do their best to take you out of the experience.
Kairo $4.99 Universal for iPad2+/iPhone4S+/iPod Touch4+