Kairo is a first-person puzzle adventure game from Richard Perrin, creator of The White Chamber. Set in a minimalist, somewhat abstract world of temples and stones, floating pathways and mysterious mechanisms, you'll be given no clues as to what you need to do to complete the game. Instead, you'll wander through room after room, using your keen powers of observation to figure out where the puzzles are and how to solve them. It's a game design choice rarely seen since the days of Myst, and it brings with it a satisfying gaming experience that has become increasingly rare in the age of tutorials and online cheat codes.
The controls in Kairo are pretty standard for a first person game. Use [WASD] to move in the four main directions, hold [shift] to run, and press [spacebar] to jump. Use the mouse to look around, and you can also use the mouse buttons to walk or jump, just in case you want your other hand free for jotting down notes or drawing copies of the symbols you encounter (which isn't a bad idea). If you need to interact with anything, simply bumping into it will suffice. You'll be notified with visual or audio cues to confirm something happened.
Once you step into the world of Kairo, you'll feel completely lost in a world that seems to follow only the most basic rules. There are a series of unmarked temples, often constructed in mid-air, and some pathways that connect them to other structures. Doors seem like they're everywhere, and they lead to areas filled with puzzles that barely make sense. In order to get a handle on the game, your first task is to just start playing around with things. Step on tiles, push switches, and walk to new areas, all the while paying attention to see what changes when you activate something. Eventually some patterns will form, and before you know it, you'll have figured out something important!
Analysis: Kairo represents the ever-shrinking minority of games that choose to present themselves without lengthy tutorials or hand-holding hint boxes that guide you through the entire experience. For anybody who grew up with extra challenging old school games, this will probably be a welcome change of pace. For everyone else, it might be a bit disorienting, but take it from us: this method is better! Kairo manages to walk the line well, forcing itself to adhere to the minimalist side of design but not being so obtuse that you can't figure out what to do after a little observation.
The environment is as much a character in Kairo as anything, and it's amazing how much personality is communicated without text or speech. You get the sense that each of these disparate sections are connected by some unseen force, and when you start activating ancient circuits and power sources, that sense of wonder only grows. If you've ever wanted to explore an ancient temple the likes of which are only seen in movies, this is your chance.
Kairo is a carefully designed puzzle masterpiece. What it lacks in a loud visual presentation it makes up for with a dense world filled with secrets and hidden nuances. It's an experience that's quite different from most games out there, one that will become intensely personal thanks to the quiet, thoughtful creation. Your brain will thank you for playing Kairo!