Wake up in a strange facility not remembering how you got there. Attempt to escape. Find horrific experiments along the way. Dismembered bodies, rooms covered in blood, and a screaming, disemboweled jerk who enjoys the poems of Edgar Allan Poe…
Welcome to the sci-fi (and free to play) universe of CAYNE.
“And to think, a fall could’ve been a good thing for me a few months ago,” utters pregnant protagonist Hadley with a self-derisory laugh. A quote from the opening act, and a taste of the dark humor we’ve come to know THE BROTHERHOOD by, mostly through their 2015 crowdfunded game, STASIS (reviewed by OpNoobs here).
CAYNE very much picks up on its predecessor’s design and atmosphere. It’s a sci-fi point-and-click adventure, loaded with anxiety-driven undertones. This time around, you’re pulled into some medical facility, presumably for your heroine to have an abortion. General anesthetic kicks in. Haley falls unconscious. She wakes up several months later, still pregnant and in a different, much dirtier place. Even more troublesome is the fact that a hulking figure attends to her while a machine asks that she remains calm as it seeks to harvest her uterus. Yeah. Hadley’s terror and astonishment are palpable as she struggles to release herself, and the game’s main objective quickly unveils:
CAYNE is as much about getting away, as it is about unraveling the mysteries contained.
I, started off doing what I always do in point-and-click adventures: waste time clicking everything and trying to use every item on every other item -- to be sure I don’t miss anything. Thankfully to support my obsessive compulsive behavior are intuitive controls. Moving around from room to room is easy to execute, and the same can be said about interacting with objects. Hovering the mouse over them reveals snippets of text. Then is your inventory, filling up with items collected along the way. You’ll need to pull these out when interacting with new ones, in attempts to combine them and solve puzzles standing in your way.
CAYNE is a dark place; Hadley is a conflicted and engaging character.
The tension that seamlessly exists between the world, its characters, and the player, is THE BROTHERHOOD's defining strength with the games they make. You'll oddly find your place between this uninviting universe and its foreign but fitting character. It works, often thanks to the snarky humor that allows sensations and emotions commonly found in the genre that is Psychological Horror.
When you try something that won’t work, for example, Hadley comments on it and laughs at you. Yes, you are being mocked. Really, what were you thinking? If you're anything like me, you'll enjoy the feedback but in a sadistic way. You’ll laugh along with her. Hadley’s interjections don’t stop you in an ALT-F4 type of way; in fact, the excellent execution of the voice-acting, especially considering the production is that of a small-budget indie, keeps you persevering to find out more.
If you often play point-and-click adventure games, you’ll also find yourself right at home with CAYNE. Enjoy these in-game moments when you’re stuck to a point YouTube becomes a savory option. It's never excessively hard though, and you won't opt out of your quest to embrace the easier way. The game does a fine job in walking that fine line and finding balance: you’ll typically discover the solution seconds before frustration builds up, each challenge is well measured in terms of difficulty, and problems encountered aren’t enough to obstruct an enjoyable pace in gameplay. Spend a handful of minutes backtracking, figure out what connection you missed, and it all unfolds to your merit.
Graphics are striking.
If you’re old enough, they’ll remind you of your gamer’s life in the late 90’s, playing Baldur’s Gate. It’s not just the isometric angle, or the prerendered backgrounds, that make it similar to the iconic RPG; in fact, plenty of comparisons could be made. The lighting, color palettes, the way rooms connect; the hallways, the blackness outside, the tunnels-in-an-ant-farm atmosphere: yep, the inspiration here is clearly drawn from the role-playing staple of BioWare Games. On the downside, details in character designs aren’t the sharpest: they feel clunky at times, especially when placed in such crisp environments.
Stripped of combat mechanics, the fear, tension, and uneasiness found in CAYNE are triggered solely by the unsettling nature of its atmosphere. Hadley stands in a room with a blood-soaked MRI scanner, while you read a personal journal that’s been left behind. Each successive entry is filled with more madness and malice than the last. The hair on the back of your neck stands up. You’re curious as to what’s around the next corner, but aren't too sure you want to find out. This is the experience that is playing CAYNE, yet another homage to isometric games á la Baldur's Gate, but one that successfully injects the elements of psychological horror into point-and-click gameplay. Play this. It's Free to Play and worth every penny you won't spend.