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For: iPad   Also on: iPhone

Lost in spaces

Product: Kairo | Developer: Locked Door Puzzle | Publisher: Locked Door Puzzle | Format: iPad | Genre: 3D, Adventure, Puzzle | Players: 1 | Version: Europe
Kairo iPad, thumbnail 1
Kairo is such a disappointing experience on iOS that we had to pop onto its official iTunes page just to make sure it was the real thing.

"Mysterious and elegant", screamed one major publication's press quote. "Beautiful... captivating", bellowed another. So just what, exactly, is going on?

Let's back up a minute. Kairo, in case you're blissfully unaware, is a first-person exploration game in which isolation, abstraction, and ambience sit front and centre.

's bewildering world of free-floating shapes and strange, extra-terrestrial architecture gives the game its unnerving focus, while a seething undercurrent of woozy synths spin its oppressive atmosphere out even further.

Alone with your thoughts

What little there is to do in Kairo, beyond gawping at the sights, takes the form of mechanically basic if logically sound puzzles.

There's no interaction button to speak of, meaning most puzzles consist of stomping on buttons or shunting objects around the environment.

Given their basic building blocks, puzzles are surprisingly cerebral diversions - and a series of nebulous, entirely optional mysteries merely add to the game's supreme sense of otherworldliness.

So what's the problem? To get to the bottom of things, we hopped on over to Kairo's original, widely-praised PC and Mac incarnations. Fundamentally, this iOS version is still very much the same game. However, it's been hampered by technical issues and some truly terrible design choices.

Kairo was never a beautiful game. Its floating geometry may look striking, but the game's harsh lines and bland textures are far from award-winning.

On iOS, though, Kairo is downright ugly - shorn of its depth of field and subtle use of light and shadow, it's a boxy thing, intermittently let down by frame-rate issues, and much of the game's ambience is lost as a result.

Out of control

Far more problematic, though, are Kairo's awful iOS touch controls. One finger, sensibly, pans the camera while the other is scrunched in the corner, fondling a minuscule set of forward/back arrows.

It's uncomfortable, yes, but more damning is the unfathomable absence of the 'strafe' and 'jump' buttons seen in the original.

Without them, navigation is a hellishly unwieldy affair. You'll frequently get wedged in awkward corners, and - worse still - it's virtually impossible to focus your gaze on key puzzle components while you work their devious machinations, making for supremely frustrating bouts of near-blind guesswork.

Even in its original form, Kairo was clearly a micro-budget endeavour, and far from a technical tour de force - but its strange, lonely atmosphere and creative puzzle logic made for a fascinating, frequently compelling experience that was far greater than the sum of its parts.

On iOS, however, Kairo is a brutally ugly, awkwardly frustrating mess. There's still a hypnotic pull from the game's abstract vistas and engaging puzzle moments - but its one seriously diminished in this woefully amateurish port.
Reviewer photo
Matt Wales | 30 January 2013
An abstract, atmospheric exploration adventure near-ruined by a breathtakingly ill-conceived iOS port
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