Nufafitc has been on the blogging scene for seven years now and so it’s highly likely you’ve already come across his Emotional Multimedia Ride site. I think I may have found someone who’s as big a fan of the adventure genre as I am: we’ve had a number of conversations about our favourite titles and what we’re looking forward to next.
After one such discussion, we thought it would be great to collaborate on a post and the following conversation is the result. We’d both played isometric horror-adventure STASIS already and loved and disliked it for different reasons; so how would we feel about The Brotherhood’s return to the grim world of the Groomlake in prequel CAYNE? We got together online to discuss our thoughts after playing the game and you can read on to find out more – watch out for spoilers if you haven’t yet played it yourself.
nufafitc: Heya, I’m currently up for some review chat if you have time.
Kim: Let’s do this! Can I throw out a question to start us off?
nufafitc: Awesome, please do. I’ll check my screenshots and remember what I’ve actually played.
Kim: Can you remember how long ago it was that you played STASIS?
nufafitc: I wrote the review of STASIS in 2015 for the Halloween special. So yes, two years ago.
Kim: Ah, the same as me – I just checked and I think it was in October or November 2015. I didn’t realise it was so long ago!
nufafitc: Yes and I don’t remember much of it, except that it had some really good sound design.
Kim: Oh yeah, the sound was excellent! That bit when John did the operation on himself… *shudders*… How do you think that length of time affected your enjoyment of CAYNE?
nufafitc: I don’t think it has affected my enjoyment in any way. As a matter of fact, I guess I liked and disliked CAYNE for the same reasons as I found the original game interesting and problematic. Talking about gratuitous violence and bloodshed, I just remember picking up all sorts of body parts back then.
Kim: You said ‘gratuitous’… does that mean you thought that some of the scenes in STASIS were unnecessary?
nufafitc: Well, let’s just say that I found a lot of the gore and blood too much. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a HUGE fan of horror movies and gory games. But yes, I found it too forced at times.
The thing about STASIS was that I felt it tried to be so controversial that it just used these scenes for controversy’s sake. Which was a shame, because the atmosphere was spot-on. It just tried to borrow so many things from sci-fi and horror movies (and games), that it lost its uniqueness.
Kim: I thought the operation scene was great and Ryan Cooper (John’s voice actor) did such a good job. But I do agree that there were a lot of ‘borrowed’ aspects to the game and they didn’t necessarily all work together. I remember getting to the end and thinking, ‘But what about this? And what about that?’
nufafitc: Yes, the voice acting was pretty good. I think technically it was a really great game. The main problem with the storytelling I had was that you had to browse through endless text in diaries and such.
Kim: That I didn’t mind too much… but the PDAs didn’t give as many answers as I would have liked. Mutated clones; a mysterious fungus; a giant insect queen; log files referring to ‘The Twins’… There was just so much and I got confused as to how it all fitted together. I know the developers said CAYNE would explain further, but I’m still not sure I understand entirely!
nufafitc: You’re right, it only gave hints at something bigger. I especially liked the final part with the BioShock-like museum where you learned about the man who did all these things for the greater good. But yes, let’s talk about CAYNE and whether it actually added to the experience or not.
Kim: I think for me, I would have enjoyed CAYNE more if I’d played it closer to the original game. There were so many elements to STASIS and trying to recall them all while playing CAYNE was difficult.
nufafitc: Well, that’s the problem with prequels, isn’t it? Ridley Scott is still trying to better his Alien movie and fails in understanding his own mythology.
It might have been interesting to see how this would have affected playing it. But to be honest, I couldn’t be bothered to go through STASIS again.
Kim: I enjoyed it… but I can’t say I’ve felt the urge to go back to it in the past two years. CAYNE made me remember how much I’d enjoyed STASIS, but also how confused it had made me! Ha ha ha
nufafitc: For me it was the same feeling two years ago: ‘What’s with all the blood, gore, swearing, and sick people?’ Speaking of ‘swearing’, I think this time they really exaggerated.
Kim: Yeah, I’d agree with that – there were a couple of points where the F-bomb shocked me because it was thrown in so casually!
nufafitc: Absolutely, and other words we might have to edit when this goes online!
Kim: And speaking of people: who was Hadley? When I started playing CAYNE, I thought she was connected to John somehow but that wasn’t the case!
nufafitc: Never heard of Hadley either. You’re asking the wrong person!
Kim: Oh good, I thought I’d missed something by not knowing who Hadley was.
nufafitc: Wasn’t it a bit misogynistic as well? I mean, some of the stuff people wrote and what some of the sickos said?
Kim: The language and tone were definitely… harsher… and it seemed a little out of place at some points. I mean, I didn’t find CAYNE as scary or as gory as STASIS; but then there were these parts where it felt like a PDA entry or conversation entry were thrown in for the shock factor. One thing is for certain though: I wouldn’t have wanted to work with the crew of that ship!
nufafitc: Ha ha yes, and getting pregnant was worst-case-scenario.
Kim: But to get pregnant by someone who was paid to do it? Ouch…!
nufafitc: On that note, what did you think about the main protagonist being a pregnant woman?
Was it something different or just for controversy?
Kim: At first it was a bit of a shock, because it’s not something you usually see in a protagonist! But then I liked the fact it was different and also that Hadley wasn’t entirely accepting of her pregnancy. Usually when pregnant women are depicted in media, it’s as the ‘joyful mother to be’.
nufafitc: I agree, that was quite an interesting concept, although… she moved quite fast and climbed a lot for a pregnant woman. I was fearing the worst – I mean, you know how slow adventure protagonists can move sometimes and I was like ‘Ah, please, where’s the skip-the-slow-pregnant-walk key?’ But I was pleasantly surprised about her speed, although again it would have been nice to double-click on exits.
Kim: Do you think if she had moved slower, it would have added to the horror factor?
nufafitc: It would definitely have added to my ‘losing patience’ factor. I think one could have used her state for some more interesting, tense scenes, although she was put through some sick stuff. Not Ellen Ripley stuff, but still…
Kim: That’s interesting – you think the developers could have used Hadley’s pregnancy to better effect? (This is turning into a bit of a weird conversation!)
nufafitc: Yes – as we already noticed, except for her belly and her insistence on not really wanting the child at first, she didn’t behave any differently.
Kim: Yes, that’s true. Her pregnancy only had an impact again at the end, during the twist…
nufafitc: We’re talking about a game full of sick people, larvae, blood and gore decorating the walls… it was only a matter of time until we hit that point in our conversation! It had its story moments but what about puzzles?
Kim: Hmm… mixed bag, from my point of view. What did you think?
nufafitc: I have mixed feelings about the puzzles in CAYNE. I thought there was too much backtracking and looking for items that can often be overlooked, something lots of point-and-clickers suffer from. Were they original? I don’t think so. Were they difficult? Not really. Did they fit the story? Mostly.
Kim: What did you think of the protein powder puzzle?
nufafitc: Ah, the oldest trick in the adventure book… like getting the key from the other side by using a newspaper.
nufafitc: Yes, kinda. I think the solutions weren’t so hard, it was just finding the items in the environment.
Kim: That’s what I thought too. The puzzles made sense to me but some of the items didn’t.
nufafitc: Sometimes I already knew what to use but had to go through each screen and collect it. At least you weren’t carrying around more body parts. Although it wouldn’t have been too difficult, the place was littered with them.
Kim: But you were carrying around grub breast milk… ewww…
nufafitc: Aaaah, gee, thanks for reminding me. I completely forgot about that. And the way you got it… yuck.
Kim: Not to mention cutting open that big womb thing… talking about it now, you realise how gross it all was!
nufafitc: Seen that, been there, done that.
Kim: Just a day in the life of nufafitc (joking!).
nufafitc: Well Halloween is soon, so I have to do some research!
Kim: So how would you say CAYNE compared to the other games you’ve been playing for Halloween?
nufafitc: It was a filler but no killer. It wasn’t really scary to be honest, although the atmosphere was good; STASIS had more impressive scenes or at least some that had jump-scares. I think it’s like STASIS in that you kind of enjoy it in a twisted way but will ultimately forget it. I mean it’s for free and for that you can do much worse, as it has some good graphics, especially the cut-scenes, music, and nice voice-acting. The puzzles might not be the best, but they’re not bad either. The story and characters, well… okay.
Oh, I just found an interesting screenshot that made me smile because it hinted at better humour than in the dialogues. There’s this holographic tin of Jukka Cola and it says ‘WHO NEEDS SLEEP? JUKKA COLA. IT’S REFRESHING ADDICTIVE. May cause chronic insomnia, headaches, vomiting, diarrhoea, nausea, hallucinations, hypertension, gastrointestinal bleeding, peripheral neuropathy, cardiac dysrhythmia, congestive heart failure, toxic epidermal necrolysis, catastrophic haemorrhage and death.’ I think it’s a good example that there was some twisted humour that could have worked better to make fun of technology without using curse words.
Kim: Yeah, the Jukka Cola scene did give me a bit of a giggle! It was a light-hearted point in a game with a ‘heavy’ atmosphere, but the humour still retained a lot of darkness.
nufafitc: The next screenshot shows Hadley picking up a stripper pole and… yes, actually putting it in her inventory. Subtle adventure game mechanics…
Kim: Don’t you just hate that? ‘No, I can’t pick up that item because it’s too big.’ ‘Why yes, I’ll take that stripper pole.’
nufafitc: Well, she already had that baby to carry around so don’t ask me where she had room to put it. To answer your question: Yes, I think if a game tries to be realistic and atmospheric, then that’s rather silly. I also thought that Hadley’s comments were repetitive at times, like ‘That is nasty.’
Kim: I was expecting her to come out with ‘Like, totally!’ at some point. Ok, that was a bit harsh of me!
nufafitc: ‘Guys, come one, give me more of those bucketloads of swine blood and maybe throw in some maggots while you’re at it. I still have some clean spots left.’ That was harsh too, sorry!
Kim: But funny! So what we’re saying is that CAYNE was a good game considering it was free, but ultimately a little forgettable?
nufafitc: Yes, I think we can sum it up like that.
Kim: I have to say though, playing it reminded me how much I enjoy isometric adventures. You don’t see many of them nowadays. I don’t quite know what it is but the perspective adds something to the horror.
nufafitc: I think with the perspective you could actually zoom in and out, and that could be used more. Sanitarium, that was a really good game.
Kim: Oh Sanitarium was great – it was just so freaky!
nufafitc: And Sanitarium was quite original, even if puzzles were even more infuriating and controls were pretty bad. Still, I like replaying that game once in a while. Time for a Halloween special, maybe next year!
Kim: Yes, that’s something positive about CAYNE and STASIS – they’re good-looking games. Gorily good-looking, but still…
nufafitc: I’m looking forward to The Brotherhood’s next game. I mean they have the technology, they only need to refine their writing.
Kim: I backed STASIS so I’ve backed the Beautiful Desolation Kickstarter too. I like the fact the developers are going for something different this time, more sci-fi and less horror.
nufafitc: I think if they’d tone down on the violence, gore, and language, this could be a good game.
Kim: We’ll need to play that one when it comes out, and have a chat about it too!
nufafitc: Good last words I think, with the future chat review!
So as discussed above: CAYNE is ultimately forgettable, but it’s a free title which offers a few hours of gorily good-looking graphics and creepy atmosphere so you can’t really go wrong. It’s something worth picking up this month – and something else worth doing at this spooky time of year is heading over to Emotional Multimedia Ride for nufafitc’s Halloween special.
This collaboration was a lot of fun to do so I’ve been thinking about the possibility of making it a series… if anyone would be interested in taking part in a conversation and critique post and have a suggestion for a game we could play, I’d love to hear from you!