Kairo review

Kairo review

A game of thrones.

'Numinous' is what used to be called a ten-cent word. That means you can be smug that you know what it means, but when you then try and actually use it in a sentence, you end up feeling a weird strain of overbearing shame. 'Numinous' refers to anything that provides a strong sense of a supernatural, often religious, presence, I gather; as terms go, it does not play particularly well with other parts of the English language. It does not land lightly on the page, does it? “Joe opened the microwave and immediately felt numinous.” “How was the corporate picnic, darling?” “Oh, you know, numinous.” Well buckle up, word fans: Kairo feels like rather a numinous sort of game, and I'm afraid there's nothing much we can do about that.

Transcendent soundtrack and inhuman scale aside, even if there isn't an actual god trapped somewhere within this particular machine, there are at least a handful of ghosts knocking around instead. Kairo's a first-person puzzle game set in a deserted world of ancient machines and towering architecture: you won't actually meet anyone who still has a pulse as you wander about, but you will constantly be confronted with confusing relics of the past and tantalising glimpses of a vast and comprehensive knowledge. You'll be forced to ponder how things used to work and you'll steadily tease out how you can get it all up and running once again.

The focus is firmly on exploration. Kairo presents its players with a series of huge stone buildings rising out of the ether; staircases race towards giant doors, crumbling vaults hold stony thrones. Your best approach for most of the game is to simply wander about, picking a path between battlements, finials and rooftops, and then mess around with any chunks of machinery you might come across on your travels.

Read more