Developer: Locked Door Puzzle
Price: $4.99
Version: 1.5
App Reviewed on: iPad 3

Graphics / Sound Rating: ★★★★☆
User Interface Rating: ★★★½☆
Gameplay Rating: ★★★★☆
Re-use / Replay Value Rating: ★★★½☆

Overall Rating: ★★★½☆

Kairo hearkens back to an era of gaming that until just recently seemed doomed to extinction. Thankfully, though, adventure games are seeing a bit of a resurgence which means titles like this have a much better chance of being noticed. It’s a comforting notion, as I’ve been having a grand old time with Kairo, despite its few control issues.

Waking up in a surreal landscape with alien-looking structures off in the distance, players assume control over the nameless/faceless/voiceless protagonist as they attempt to fid their way out. As they explore Kairo room by room and begin to reawaken ancient machinery they can begin to piece together the much larger puzzle of what it actually is and what’s happened to it. None of the story is spelled out along the way. Instead, players are given little snippets of information through occasional imagery. Even the controls are minimal in order to maintain the atmosphere, with a couple of small virtual buttons fore movement, screen swiping to look around, and a tiny Options button at the top of the screen.

This atmosphere is one of Kairo’s greatest strengths. It’s surreal yet beautiful. Serene and somewhat eerie. And with no direct threat of death or failure players are free to take their time and drink it all in. Which is all fortunate because some of the puzzles can be rather tough to sort out at first. The hint system that’s in place for each puzzle room along with the option to reset if things take a turn help a great deal, though. And once a room is solved the excitement and intrigue builds again as the thought of what the next room might contain pops up.

Even with all its surreal beauty Kairo still manages to stumble a little with the visuals. “Busy” areas such as large rooms with flowing water or other particle effects have a tendency to slow down, and despite the architecture sporting some beautifully impossible designs the textures are fairly bland. However my real problem is with the stiff movement controls and somewhat spotty collision detection. The movement buttons are a bit small, even on the iPad, and don’t allow for lateral movement that makes positioning difficult at times. I’ve also encountered numerous instances where I couldn’t move up stairs because the character would get hung up on a step somehow.

Kairo is the kind of game that should please most old school adventure game fans. Especially those who enjoy semi-obscure puzzles built around a series of rules they have to figure out on their own. However, thanks to the useful hint system even less puzzle savvy players can enjoy themselves without getting frustrated. And everyone else can simply sit back and enjoy the view.


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