Monthly Archives: February 2017

CAYNE review

This was the fifth I wrote for Brash Games.  They have since removed my name and byline from the review.

CAYNE begins in some whitewashed room of some future hospital.  There is a girl on an operating table.  She’s being waited on by a doctor and nurse.  She explains she’s without family, awaiting an operation which has been paid for by some unknown 3rd party – an operation involving a baby.  She is told to count backwards from 10, and the screen goes black…

When she wakes up, she is still on an operating table, but in a starkly different room and in a starkly different body.  She is now many months into pregnancy, with a belly the size of a woman’s who is nearly ready to give birth.  An eerie, childlike voice pipes up over the intercom, explaining that she will need to stay awake during the womb extraction procedure. It continues, “Your selfless gift to science will be remembered for generations to come.”  This ominous message, of course, sets our main character into a shrill series of screams while a lumbering, big-daddy-sized alien creature encircles her bed, preparing to operate…

When you’re finally given control and you’re able to assist in Hadley’s escape from her terrifying situation, you’re rapidly introduced to the general mechanics of CAYNE.  It’s a purely classic point and click adventure, chock full of inventory puzzles, click-hunting, and locks and keys – all played to the grizzly tune of some very well written horror science fiction set in the universe of STASIS, the developer’s previous isometric adventure game.

Quickly, it becomes apparent that this is no crumby, free-to-play waste of time. There is a very high level of quality in every regard here.  The gameplay just about matches the quality of most high-production point-and-click adventures, the voice acting is beyond impressive – especially from the main character, the writing is mature and begs comparisons to Harlan Ellison, and the environments are detailed and beautiful, though that’s a word I’d refrain from using again when describing the world of CAYNE.  A better word might be repulsive, sickening, terrifying, or horrible.

You progress through the blood drenched corridors of CAYNE in typical adventure game style.  You find a variety of key items like ID cards, scalpels, flagellation whips, and grub milk and use them on the dozens of gates that bar your way throughout the dismal facility.  For the majority of your time playing CAYNE, you’ll be pulling off the same tricks you learned in Adventure Game Elementary School.  You’ll search all over with your mouse for clickable areas when you’re unable to figure out where to go next, and if that doesn’t work, you’ll do it again with each item from your inventory in hand. I mean there’s always a chance that the grub milk you picked up will put out the fire that’s blocking your path, right? You’ll try combining every odd item you find, and when you finally realize what you’re actually supposed to do, you’ll simultaneously hate yourself and the puzzle that was giving you such grief. You’ll blame yourself for being too blind to see the solution and you’ll blame the puzzle for being convoluted in that perfect point and click fashion.

Interrupting the steady flow of keys, gates, machines, and electronics, you’re occasionally rewarded with a gruesome cutscene or a brief interaction with some of the quirky (crazy is more like it) NPCs.  Most of the back story is filled in through electronic diaries that just happen to be scattered about the rusty old operating rooms and experimentation chambers.  They tell you of the people who live (or lived) within the facility – a menagerie of mutants and weirdos, all in cahoots on some dark, violent, and evil procedures revolving around a living experiment named Samantha and the president of CAYNE industries.

As you search for your means of escape from the hellish complex, you’re accompanied by a mysterious disembodied voice.  He keeps Hadley sane, being the only source of normalcy in this twisted, gore-filled world. Slowly, bits of key information bob to the surface as you continue solving puzzles and moving forward.  The more you learn, the more you discover the curious topics CAYNE focuses on.  Science, religion, the combination of the two, violence in the name of human advancement, the struggles of motherhood, and insanity.  In a brief, 2-hour long game, a lot of serious questions are raised, though few are answered.

From what I can gather, a rather large chunk of CAYNE’s core lies within the exploration of the grotesque.  Maggots and grubs, extracted wombs, pus and mucus and blood, bizarre sexual fetishes, festering wounds, and mangled corpses are just a few of the delightful things you’ll get to encounter throughout the laboratory. These intense visuals (along with several detailed descriptions of such gruesome items) on top of the overarching narrative about science and religion and human testing give me the impression that there is at least some amount of subtle critique of the world within CAYNE. At the very least, this world is one in which science has gone entirely off the rails, resulting in horrors beyond belief.

CAYNE is a bright spot in the world of modern adventure games.  It capitalizes on the good while avoiding the worst and most frustrating tropes of the point and click genre.  The story is fleshed out and fulfilling, with some great writing throughout.  The production quality is out of sight for a free game and even though it’s only going to last you two or three hours, the voice-acting alone is well worth the time.  If you’ve got the stomach to handle the gore, and you’re looking for a really, disturbingly good sci-fi horror experience, CAYNE is a great freebie to snatch up! And if you enjoy CAYNE or games like it, it’s good to know that it will soon be followed up with a game called BEAUTIFUL DESOLATION, now on Kickstarter!

N8

R8

6/8

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