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Kairo Review

(Image from Steam Game Page)

When independent games attempt to address serious issues, the outcomes are frequently disappointing. The founders’ artistic flare seldom bodes well for the output. There are diamonds among games that aim to be art, but far too frequently we get something not particularly playable but painfully arrogant. Richard Perrin, the guy who introduced us to the world of Kairo, thankfully avoided all of the common blunders and offered us a beautiful, engaging, and sophisticated game.

A London enthusiast’s work is a title that focuses on the discovery of stunning sights from a first-person perspective. In addition to sightseeing, we tackle logical puzzles that make us feel like explorers of a vanished civilization, attempting to extract its secrets and interpret the history from the relics we come across. The comparisons to the old Myst series are quite accurate. The distinct divide into chambers that differ in style, purpose, and sort of difficulty reminds us of recent titles like Portal or Antichamber, albeit we won’t find sophisticated physics-based puzzles here. The majority of the tasks presented to us by the game turn out to be relatively straightforward, while their originality frequently serves as an extra difficulty.

(Image from Steam Game Page)

It didn’t take me long to do the task. Two to three hours. Perfect, given the game’s low pricing. It was, however, a period full of first impressions, and at least half of it was spent pondering. Initially, the gameplay resembles a stroll, with just little hurdles to keep things interesting. Finally, we are confronted with challenges that need steady head movement, logical thinking, specific knowledge, and perceptiveness. The game will even require you to use a pencil and paper at points. Each title that inspires me to create maps, notes, computations, or graphs earns me an extra point in the final grade! Kairo, on the other hand, does not enable you to become stuck on any of the assignments. There are always three useful hints in the main menu for the place you are now visiting. The first is usually only a hint, pointing the player in the correct direction, according to the excellent custom of adventure and logic games, while the last one delivers the solution on a platter. As a result, everyone will have the opportunity to fully enjoy the game.

Let me be clear: there is something to be experienced. Kairo threw a web of attraction over me from the start, from which I never fully recovered. I was drawn in by the compelling view of the world and the promise of mystery it held. I gave in to the bizarre allure of weird, gigantic structures, mesmerizing noises, and the game’s sluggish cadence. For a few hours, I was transported to a weird, alien universe full of inert technology awaiting reactivation. With my activities, the abandoned and seemingly dead ruins took on luster and vitality. It was an immensely satisfying experience to the very end! The vastness of the world shown makes restoring life to a massive system half as exciting and fulfilling. Kairo is a tiny game due to the amount of places and puzzles, but the grandeur of its presentation allows us to label it “gigantic.” Simple models and sparse textures produce a vision of a landscape that is so weird and massive that the player’s recollections are likely to last a long time. From the graphic presentation reminiscent of dreams or some of Beksiski’s paintings, to the subtle visual suggestions for the eyes and ears, to the excellent and unobtrusive ambient soundtrack, everything in Kairo encourages reflection and drawing your own conclusions about the message of the game and the fate of the hero.

(Image from Steam Game Page)

While playing, I wondered if the mystery location I found myself in was a vision of the far future, a relic of an old society, a vision of the afterlife, or an installation of an alien civilization. I pondered what the purpose of this huge complex might be as I turned on one by one parts of technology that had been asleep for generations. Many times, I paused in astonishment as dynamic order developed from the quiet and chaos around me. I was certain that this universe was regulated by its own logic, which escaped me but which I obviously, subcutaneously perceived. The developers should be commended for keeping this impression throughout the game. While playing, I had the sensation that the tale was skimming the surface of crucial subjects like death, fate, conflict, fall, forgiveness, reconstruction, and maybe even rebirth. The game of associations in my thoughts kept going in tandem with the game on the screen. It’s fantastic that such genre-heavy subjects were conveyed delicately and without moralizing, naïve didacticism, or table rage. The game seemed to respect me and believe in my abilities to reach my own judgments. I returned the respect and sympathy, and in the end, I was rewarded with a lovely conclusion. The thought that finishing Kairo for the first time does not have to mark the end of the quest, and that the gigantic, wonderful world still harbors many surprises was an added bonus.

Kairo is a game that achieves that elusive balance between art and eschatology, as well as a successful and fun gameplay paradigm. The entire thing was encased in the original binder and meticulously finished. Although there may be slight graphical distortions during exploration, and features such as the way the map is displayed leave something to be desired, we are dealing with a finished work, the beauty of which cannot be overstated. In the never-ending debate over whether games are art, here is an excellent illustration of how gallery curators and seasoned gamers can both be happy with the same game.

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