Hadley's Up The Duff Without A Paddle...
In 2015, developers - The Brotherhood brought us STASIS. An isometric point 'n click adventure set within the realms of Sci-Fi horror, echoing titles such as The Matrix and Event Horizon. The protagonist John Maracheck is painfully awoken from his stasis pod and must do his utmost to stumble through a vessel of nightmares (The Groomlake) using all manner of items including a filthy towel found stuffed down a toilet (surely a tongue in cheek nod towards the genre's fondness for moon logic) to find his missing family.
Swapping the characters gender, their main encumbrance from physical illness to pregnancy, we have CAYNE: A Stasis Story. On the upside you wont have any jarring surprises format-wise as it's pretty much a 'rinse 'n repeat' situation. That said, if you're looking for something different this time around, you'll be a little disappointed. I imagine The Brotherhood generously decided to give fans of the original another helping of what they initially loved, and whats more - it's free!
Splatterpunk In Space
Hadley (well acted by Sarah Anne Williams) wakes up nine months pregnant on a surgical table. We hear an AI voice explaining to her that her womb extraction will be a 'selfless gift to science' and it may be easier if she were to 'think of the whole procedure as a bad dream'. Things are set up rather disturbingly from the get go, notably from Hadley's screaming which really does evoke the sense of absolute terror that she must be going through.
Following the slightly unnerving opening sequence, we are then free to explore and click our way through an array of puzzles that range from slightly grotesque and amusing to the largely straightforward. The latter, thankfully being a typical thread throughout the majority of the games puzzle structure. Lets face it, there's nothing more frustrating than getting stuck on a conundrum, relenting to the use of a walk-through to find that the only circumstance in which the solution would've been clear is if you'd spent the evening smoking speed and getting drunk. Of course not every puzzle is delivered perfectly, but The Brotherhood seem to be able to implement hurdles that aren't too difficult to get over and at the same time feel very imaginative (if not slightly bonkers) to say the least.
Similar to its predecessor, the UI in CAYNE is very straightforward and sticks to the 'Quantum Storage Device' method of inventory management. My assumption here is that this piece of in-game technology is the developers way of usurping that notion of disbelief that a character can carry around myriad objects varying wildly in size without so much as a holdall of which to place them in. Never really something that's troubled me, but being that I personally have a background of working in musical theatre where upon characters walk into a room and start singing for no reason, I've probably learnt to suspend belief relatively easily. Or maybe they just though it was a novel idea....
Overall playtime reaches around the five/six hour mark depending on your affinity for reading character diaries (PDA's). It has to be said that they do a great job of fleshing out the story, character backgrounds and relieving a fair bit of the ambiguity which purposely surrounds the plot. However, similarly to STASIS I did find some of them to be particularly lengthy and it became a bit of a chore to read through them all. Having already played the first instalment I found that the PDA's can, although sparingly, contain the odd clue. Due to this I was careful to not entertain the increasing desire to skim read other than on a couple of occasions towards the end of the game. I also feel that this contributed towards the small amount of back-tracking becoming slightly more fatiguing than it should've. Being as the game space isn't that large or particularly complex, this felt slightly odd, especially as each new area has enough defining characteristics to set themselves apart from one another. I can only guess that it's the amount of intervening story info we're given that makes it easy to forget previous parts of the facility, some of which will need to be revisited. This really, is a testimony towards the writing more than anything else.
The game looks great and sounds good to boot. The ever captivating isometric appearance has a well designed art style fitting perfectly into the modern look of a classic and cherished genre. Well written characters stand apart from each other in an intriguingly deranged manner, some of whom wouldn't look out of place in Bioshock's own, gone-to-pot city of 'Rapture'. Atmospherically we are given the odd bang and scream which are quite well placed, adding to the psychological horror; the subcategory in which the game primarily delivers itself.
So, all in all the developers have created a pretty solid point 'n click adventure in CAYNE. On one hand it wont have you tearing your hair out at every other puzzle but on the other, it won't leave a particularly lasting impression for fans of the genre either. That said; it's free! Great for those curious enough to want to try STASIS but perhaps a little dubious about parting with those hard earned shekels.