Saira


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Rating: 4.8/5 (74 votes)
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Saira

DoraWhat would you do if you were the last person left? Not just on Earth... but anywhere? Saira, the heroine of the latest game by Nifflas (Nicklas Nygren), finds herself in just that situation, when she rushes home during an emergency to discover all of mankind has vanished in the short time it took her to get there. Where has everyone gone? Why was Saira spared? If you want to find out, you'll have to play. Featuring fourteen distinct planets to explore, an original soundtrack, and six unique endings, Saira is a puzzle platformer with non-linear gameplay and a whole universe for you to explore.

SairaSaira's job as a photographer of frequently dangerous places and creatures means she's kept herself in pretty good shape, so she does an admirable impression of Lara Croft as she runs and leaps, scaling most walls with remarkable agility. Saira controls with the [arrow] keys for movement, and the [S] key to jump, leaving [A] to take pictures and [D] to interact with objects or open her ever-present PDA. While the movement keys are fixed, you can change the keys the other actions are mapped to by running the settings executable before you start the game.

Saira's most important tool is her PDA, which you'll come to rely on a great deal. A particularly handy function allows you to photograph your surroundings, which not only reveals which creatures are dangerous, but lets you take a visual record of, say, an important clue or code. That's right, no more scribbling passwords down on the back of your hand because you can't be bothered to look for paper. It's a nice touch that helps eliminate what would otherwise be a lot of annoying back-tracking. You can also make use of her PDA to teleport back to her ship, or to your last activated checkpoint, which is also where you'll respawn if you meet an untimely demise.

For the most part, your time is spent exploring, which you're probably familiar with if you're a fan of Nifflas's games. The puzzles usually attempt to engage your brain (you know, the squishy grey thing between your ears?), but there are a few reflex-based platforming trials that may test your patience. Hands up, everyone who likes timed platforming sequences! While a little bit of challenge is good, here it winds up feeling out of place compared to the laid-back, exploration-based play style of the rest of the game.

Nifflas has managed to create not just one lovely world, but an entire universe full of them. Of course, if you fell in love with the "just stepped off the NES runway" look of his previous titles, Saira's softly painted visuals are going to take some getting used to. Rather than pixel art, Saira, for the most part, tends to look like the sort of rich, watercolour paintings Bob Ross was so fond of, despite actually being partially composed of photography. The backgrounds are beautiful, full of soft colours and subtle animation, and every world has its own distinct look. But as far as you'll go in your journeys, and as many fantastic sights as you'll see, there's an air of loneliness that can never quite be shaken. After all, an important part of discovery and wonder is being able to share them both with someone, and that gives Saira's quest a particular sense of poignancy.

Saira features a rather meaty demo that should be more than sufficient for you to decide whether or not you want to part with your precious dollars. The full version can be had for $17.00, and if you're a charitable sort, an additional $2.00 will net you an extra license, good for an impromptu gift, or as a reason to make two of your friends duel to the death for it. As if you needed a reason.

SairaAnalysis: "Okay, alright, I get it. The game is pretty, you're sentimental, blah-de-blah-de-blah. But, Dora," you say, "what about the gameplay?" Well (I reply), for the most part, Saira plays pretty smoothly, with bits of the story being revealed to you as you go. The levels are big, but not so big that you'll find yourself getting lost, and leaping from place to place is pretty exhilarating. (Saira has some tough ankles to take those long falls, let me tell you.) Unfortunately, the controls occasionally feel a little stiff, especially when you're trying to steer Saira through the air or leap off a wall. It almost feels like the whole thing would have been much more responsive built around a controller with a joystick. As it is, get used to overshooting your targets until you get a fair amount of practice in.

I also wish the story had been integrated a bit more closely with the game itself. As it is, you can go a long time without seeing any story advancement at all. Which is fine if you're just taking in the scenery, but it does keep the player from really building a bond with Saira herself. Beyond the natural empathy you feel for anyone so desperately alone, there's no real connection there, and it keeps the experience from being quite as emotionally involving as it might otherwise be.

Inevitably, Saira is going to be compared to beloved predecessors, most notably Knytt and Knytt Stories, which are probably going to remain the great titans of the platformer-exploration super genre for some time, crushing all would-be competitors. Is Saira better? Well, what kind of question is that, anyway? It's certainly not a let down. Rather than feeling like a console title, Saira's free-form gameplay and fluid leaps tend to give the whole experience a much more organic feel. Taken as a title in its own right, Saira is an enjoyable game that at the very least deserves a chance to win you over.

Were it not for a few frustrating jumping sequences, I might almost be tempted to call Saira "a platformer for people who hate platformers". As it is, I'll call it, "a game for people who enjoy beautiful things". It's not perfect, but with the exception of pineapple pizza, few things are. What it is is a very ambitious and remarkable feat, with a lot to keep you busy and maybe even take your breath away. It's a big universe. Now get out there and find your place in it.

WindowsWindows:
Download the demo
Get the full version

Mac OS XMac OS X:
Not available.
Try Boot Camp or Parallels or CrossOver Games.

35 Comments

brokenrecord Author Profile Page December 13, 2009 2:47 PM

Grrr. All these download games are just too tempting, and I don't have the money for them!

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This was just sent from Nifflas:

"A bunch of issues were reported after the game's release (e.g. slowdown during flying, the Esc key placed too far away from the game function keys). Those problems should be fixed in the 1.1 version of the game."

Version 1.1 is now available to download from Nifflas' site using the above links in the review.

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I can't say I'm a fan of areas where you have to jump onto several narrow platforms in a game where your character tends to slide a few steps after every landing.

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This seems fantastic, except it is terribly laggy for me.

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Hrm... jumping puzzles are one thing, but a loosely maze-based _timed_ jumping puzzle one must pass in order to progress is a little beyond my level of interest to shell out money for.

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That's a great review, Dora - what a nice way to start the morning. :)

I agree with your assessment of the game, particularly about the feeling of loneliness throughout.

Controlling Saira mid-air does feel a little stiff, especially compared to the very agile Juni, but it's done that way for a reason. Nifflas mentioned during beta that he wanted a 'more natural' feel to the controls. And let's face it, in reality we rarely turn around 180 or 360 degrees after jumping, unless one's into extreme sports. ;)

Same goes for sliding a few steps after landing, as Neddo mentioned. I believe it was meant to simulate momentum, but without the animation of the legs moving, it does look like sliding. Here is a tip to cancel that sliding effect: don't stop. Keep jumping or running without stopping on platforms, and Saira's feet will touch the ground only briefly and without sliding - again, sounds like real-life physics. ;)

I have only a few things to add to this very thorough review. The first is that Saira has multiple endings (six total). The quality of the endings is proportionate to the difficulty obtaining them. Thus if you just want to beat the game from beginning to end, you can do it fairly easily. But if you are a completionist and want to see all secrets and endings, be prepared to spend a lot of time with this game.

The other thing I want to mention is that Saira is customizable to a much wider extent than Knytt Stories ever was. You can create custom levels with all the options that were available in Knytt Stories (level editor, tileset-based world, custom music and environment), but in addition it's also possible to create a custom main character, enemies and other creatures. If you have MMF2, you can also customize the puzzles, PDA, radio and starmap. Unlike Knytt Stories though, Saira does not come with a pre-supplied object library, and level editing is completely unsupported. That said, the fan community is figuring out the details as you're reading this, so if you're interested, you're welcome to join in the fun. :-)

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Erm... reader error. You did mention the six unique endings, I must have overlooked it the first time around - my apologies! :-)

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Cale Gibbard Author Profile Page December 14, 2009 3:01 AM

Hmm, can't seem to get the demo running under Wine-1.1.34. It installs okay, but conks out with a page fault in X11DRV_XRender_ExtTextOut when I try to run it, after using winetricks to install the Visual C++ 6 runtime that it requires.

Other winetricks that I tried after and which had no effect include d3dx9, corefonts, fontfix, allfonts, directx9 (in that order).

Oh well, I suppose I'll try it later and hope that Wine improves. :)

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You had me at 'Nifflas'. Downloading it now and I absolutley cannot wait

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Tried the demo because of the author and was surprised that I was disappointed.

The main negatives for me:
- First few planets are tiny
- Every "screen" is slightly larger than the screen and scrolls slightly, scrolling the entire level or not scrolling at all would be better
- The PDA/device interface is irritating
- Plugging in door codes in minigames seems like cheap gameplay

Maybe it gets off to a slow start and I need to give it more time.

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David Laprad December 14, 2009 6:48 PM

Dora,

You are a consistently wonderful writer. I loved the pineapple pizza line, even though I don't like pineapple pizza.

David

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LuckMage26 Author Profile Page December 14, 2009 6:54 PM

Nifflas' Games are simply A-ma-zing.
And I Loved that game... Hope the full version is released soon. And I hope we don't have to pay for it,too =( I don't live in the USA, and I don't have an internacional credit card.anyway,GREAT GAME.

Simply loved the layered background,Saira's moves, the physics, creatures, planetas... and the differences between the puzzles. Amazing,amazing,amaaaazing *-*

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LuckMage26, the full version was made available at the same time as the demo. It's available for $17, or $19 for an extra registration code, payable by credit card or PayPal.

Speaking of which, I bought the full version, and I was personally not disappointed. I found the puzzles to be a nice way to break up the gameplay without losing too much immersion, and none of them were so difficult as to frustrate me. The couple of levels requiring speed and accuracy were a little annoying at first, as I prefer to take my time and enjoy the scenery, but there was nothing difficult enough to require more than two or three retries until the last planet, which, really, is for completionists who thrive on that kind of challenge.

My only real complaints were in lag and length. On my 9 month old laptop, I occasionally experienced some pretty noticeable slowdown, particularly in the more effect-heavy planets. This apparently varies from machine to machine, and can be reduced by adjusting power settings and fullscreen/windowed modes. Plus, the slowdown helped a lot during some of the racing areas!

Regarding length, I managed to finish the game in about 4 hours. Admittedly, I tend to gobble up explorer/platformers pretty quickly, but I felt like it could have been a little longer. That being said, I have no problem paying a paltry double sawbuck for a beautiful and entertaining game, particularly to the author of many other games which I have enjoyed over the past few years. As well, it is likely that future episodes will become available, if not from Nifflas, then from the large fanbase. So, it's like paying a debt, placing a purchase and making an investment, all for twenty bucks!

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uuughhh I have problem jumping on the poisonous plant T_T .

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Izydor Ingwar I. Author Profile Page December 15, 2009 2:48 AM

Could anyone help with the computer quiz on Hoffmann? I found all the answers except the one about about a broken computer (couldn't find it anywhere). I tried all the possible answers to that one but to no avail. What am I doing wrong? The answers I came up with were:

1. Two white flowers.
2. The time is 12:15.
3. A bird on the game ad.
4. Serial number X-1526.
5. (This one I don't know).
6. One stone head sculpture (I think, I found only one).
7. 9 eyes of a Claymore Pitfall.

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Izydor -

There are some hidden places you can fly to if you quickly wall-jump up to the surface from the chamber with the pool. Your quiz answers will be a little off if you haven't visited them.

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LuckMage26 Author Profile Page December 15, 2009 2:24 PM

Thanks for the information, Muttroid!

And,you took 4 hours to finish it?Oh,it kinda dissapoints me to play a short game. Mainly the ones good enought to last longer,heheh.

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No problem LuckMage. Keep in mind, while I finished it pretty quickly, I have a tendency to rush through Nifflas' games (and other explorer-style platformers). I play them the same way I eat a good meal - wolf it down and don't take the time to savour it! So your average player will probably take longer than I did.

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finished it some time ago! Really a good experiences! Don't really like the hard platformers, but I love the sceneries.

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This is rated :D for a game with a giant mouth on the ground with eyes attached to stalks comming out of it?

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I'm stuck on planet Haakon, the one where you have to get all the crystals glowing, and I looked at the panel that shows which crystals you have glowing, and I'm missing the two little ones at the top. Does anyone know where they are? I've searched the whole map as far as I can tell.

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tikoloski:

Two of the crystals are on Bormine.

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Nifflas has done it again. I don't know quite how to describe the mood of Knytt and Within a Deep Forest, but it's present here as well, and I think it's amazing. He ranks up there with On (of Eyezmaze) and Rob Allen for creating artistic, creative, stylish casual-games.

I'll admit that I was a little disappointed at first the sprite design. The backgrounds are terrific, and the main figure didn't quite seem to fit. Also, the gameplay seemed a little dull at first. But both of these problems faded after the first planet, I think. The character blends in to the beautiful aesthetic of the later planets, and I really enjoyed the later mazes. I encouage anyone who's put off by the first planet to at least try one of the others.

The controls seem fine to me, particularly since I've spent a fair amount of time with Nifflas's other games. The timed maze seemed a little daunting, but it only took a couple of tries to get through it. But this is probably due to the climbing rhythm being very familiar from Knytt.

I'm definitely going to buy the full game now; Small price to pay for this plus all the enjoyment I've had from his other games.

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Izydor Ingwar I. Author Profile Page December 17, 2009 3:00 PM

Finished some time ago, thanks for your help, JIGuest. The only thing I found too bothersome were the "robot programming" puzzles. I managed three of five, but thank the gods of combinatorics, there weren't that many combinations I had to try out on the symbol panel. In overall, I found the game very entertaining, even though it ran a little slow on my laptop (there were only a few screens that ran normally, and two or three where Saira sprinted like Usain Bolt). But I think it only added to the mood when she jumped gracefully from platform to platform. And I loved the jumping, oh I did. Plus it's also nice that Chell lent Saira her heel springs so she could survive falling down a few storeys ;).

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is anyone else having trouble ordering the full version? i paid but i didnt get any serial number or anything

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After you pay you should receive an email from Kreator Support that contains your serial code(s). Mine arrived immediately.

If you did not receive yours, then you should try looking through your spam folder for it.

If you still don't see it, try emailing support at ni2.se and describe the issue you're having.

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Try this

1. Three white flowers.
2. The time is 12:15.
3. A bird on the game ad.
4. Serial number X-1526.
5. (This one I don't know).
6. Two stone head sculpture
7. 9 eyes of a Claymore Pitfall.

I can't remember what I put for number 5, think it was medibot. The rest are correct anyway [note: spoiler tags added - Walzar]

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Heeelp! I'm stuck in the system with lava planets (bormine & haakon).

I activated all the crystals, got the targeting device (love the graphics- dismantled walkman hehe) but then I can't get past that laser with arrow codes. I tried a few combinations including the progression through the maze. It didn't work. On haakon there's also one screen where there's a big lava gap - almost like a lava siphon (no platform to step in). I can energize myself a few screens back but I cannot get back in time to fly through. Any tips? Its my second system I visited. My ship has only 98 en so I can't go back to other systems.

Anyone help? [edit: spoiler tags added - Walzar]

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I can't get past the laser with arrow codes... HELP!

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i already solved bormine & haakon - the lava gap - it's just a really HARD jump.... - doing that also solved arrows laser problem... so thanks anyway...

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Ugh. I was having fun until the super difficult lava jump. I didn't have enough battery to try out the other planet in the demo, and had figured out everything except the arrow puzzle.

Running and jumping around was a lot of fun. I especially like the longish snow jump sequence.

While nifty, I'm not sure it was worth the time spent downloading the huge demo. I'm certainly not plunking down $17 for the whole thing, which is really too bad, because I have absolutely loved Nifflas' other work.

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vole-in-hand Author Profile Page January 2, 2010 7:03 PM

Am I the only one who's been unable to buy this game at all?

[Edit: I have a few extra copies I bought to support Nifflas. I'll send you one. :) -Jay]

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After reading all the comments and opinion i installed this game saira and at starting it looked like a cool "puzzle" game. But it seems like almost impossible jumping is the important puzzle in the game .if one or two jumping was there we could jump it and carry on to next puzzle but it is everywhere. I don't know what this puzzle word means to Nycklas, maybe it is like put a point on the wall and run or not but if you jump from that point you will make it, it sucks dude some one with good reaction should do it but the rest it will be a waste of time because you will get bored (unable make all the jumps ).But i gotta say the rest was very enjoyable and addictive

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Flare - here's a tip for the arrow computer

Either on that planet, or the other one in that system as you're running around, keep an eye on the ground - in one of the screens, as you move across, you will see a set of arrows in the ground. Take a picture and use those as the reference.

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