Kaetheran, or just Kaet is the protagonist of this odd and condensed horror ride. She’s what’s known as a psionicist; someone with mind powers. However, when the game starts, she awakes in a creepy dark sewer riddled with sleeping zombies and creepy little gas mask imp type things, straight out of a Tim Burton movie. I’ll say it now so it’s clear and simple – Kaet Must Die is possibly the hardest game I’ve ever played. It is not for the impatient gamer looking for a quick thrill. Seriously, I did better with my first play through of Dark Souls.
Kaet Must Die is available now on Steam for PC and will release soon for Switch
Kaet Must Die is comprised of ten separate puzzle levels, each consisting of a level-wide puzzle in order to escape. The player must explore each of these areas fully to get a good understanding of what it is they’re supposed to do to get out. Although, it isn’t that simple for Kaet. As she regains her powers, the further through the game she survives, she will still have to keep a watchful eye out for threats. A difficult job in itself as most areas are so dimly lit, it’s hard to see the finer details required to finish the job.
Of course, developer Strength In Numbers, knows this and offers you the ability to project small light sources so Kaet can examine the darker little nooks and crannies. Fighting against some kind of unseen evil, Kaet will have to resolve the puzzle under a certain time limit or else all light sources will go out. It definitely adds a sprinkling of tension and tightly reined in panic as we force ourselves to squint at every detail as thoroughly as possible without wasting time needlessly. Mix sleeping zombies that absolutely do not like being stepped on, and giggling little gas mask imps with a penchant for zapping things dead and you’ve got a consistently frantic dance of survival for each and every level.
It almost feels as if Strength In Numbers got cold feet near the end of development, worrying that perhaps they’d gone too far with the whole difficulty thing. Self inflicted suffering through obscenely difficult challenge a la Dark Souls seems to be all the rage these days. That insistent pursuit of light at the end of the tunnel. The satisfaction that, yes, you’ve finally done it. I got this feeling of dread as I loaded up the game for the first time which came with several disclaimers, one after the other, with words to the effect of “watch out guys, this game is super hard,” followed by “no, really it’s incredibly difficult.” As someone who has played videogames for a very long time now, I thought “pfft, whatever. Bring it on.” Oh how wrong I was.
Every moment you spend in Kaet Must Die not being dead is a moment of strictly enforced concentration. The kind that not even meditative state levels can see you through. It’s the kind of high level of difficulty that will only result in success after you make every move perfectly and THEN get some sheer dumb luck sprinkled in. Without the two combined, Kaet will indeed die.
Despite the higher state of being this game demands from you, it is not shy in making you crap your pants. Plan ahead and wear your brown trousers when you play this game… Kaet Must Die is not strictly speaking really scary. The horror on offer here is not clever “gets under your skin” kind of horror. To that end, Strength In Numbers’ efforts in the horror department can fall flat after you’ve died so many times. The level becomes overly familiar. Angry steamy pipe activates in your face here, creepy lady whispers to us over there.
What I take umbrage with particularly is the jump scares. They are of the same kind of quality you’d expect when your mate sends you a YouTube video saying “watch this, man,” only for it to be a screaming zombie after three minutes of idyllic countryside footage. Speaking of which, the zombies in the first level of Kaet Must Die are asleep. Fine, that works for us. What Strength In Numbers is relying on is the fact that most of the time, you can’t see diddly squat. So eventually, you’ll step on one of these zombies and they’ll fling up off the ground and scream in your face faster than a crack deprived junkie that just smelled his next hit.
Is all of this frustrating? Hell yes, it is. To be fair to the developer, despite everything I’ve said so far, failing time and time again never really feels cheap. It never feels unfair. It only feels like, gosh darn it, you just weren’t focusing properly. There is an audience out there that seems to enjoy dying over and over again. An audience that gets excited when they see the slogan “prepare to die” on the boxes of certain franchises out there I’ll never begin to understand. There are developers like Strength In Numbers out there who know this and have chosen to capitalise on it as more and more media outlets make use of the now coined phrase “Souls-like.” In other words – damn near impossible so… Enjoy! That audience is out there, and Kaet Must Die has been designed for them. To them, this game could well be the first person horror twist on what they were looking for last time they wanted a challenge.
Graphics And Sound
So sure, Kaet Must Die is a pretty darn gloomy game. That doesn’t stop it from going in the artistic direction that it wants. It turns out pretty well as environments are depressingly dank, brown and mucky looking. These dark pallets are offset by the game’s steampunk direction, bringing brighter colours like the blue glow of mushrooms or the menacing purple of dark magic. It’s hard to discuss the visulas of this game as a majority of it is shrouded in darkness. I can’t help feeling the consistent shading of things has done Kaet Must Die a favour. It could well look not so great if everything were better lit. Character models are a little clunky to watch in animation but it’s clear a bit of love has gone into their design. Texture depth and overall level detail is more than acceptable for a game that wants much less than typical asking price out of you. Lastly, the game performs pretty well, even on older rigs, due to the condensed nature of each level. So your machine isn’t going to be sounding like it’s trying to take off into space.
On the first playthrough of any level Kaet Must Die’s sound will have you on the edge of your seat at every turn. Be sure to play with headphones! Strength In Numbers appreciate the value of good sound design. There is next to no music to speak of which is great as Kaet will need all her wits about her to survive, and listening carefully is a big part of that. There are plenty of invisible triggers throughout each level that will set off unnerving sounds to throw you off balance. This could be anything from a creepy lady whispering in your ear, to pipes bursting out with high pitched steam to trapped zombies making a ruckus.
What, no story segment? There is so little context to the world of Kaet Must Die, players are expected to just jump in and get started. There’s no intro cinematic and no dialogue. It just… starts. What follows is a sequence of maddening levels that encapsulate a tiny story of victimhood and horror each time around. It’s not like you’ll be paying attention to anything like context when you’re desperately trying not to get slapped in the face by a crack addled zombie anyway.
Like I said, the mechanics of this game are simple. Anybody can pick it up and play it. Very, very few will have the patience and the perseverance to put up with it for more than twenty minutes at a time. That doesn’t necessarily make it a bad game. Everything here is perfectly functional. The only question you need to ask yourself before purchase is – are you that player? Are you the kind of gamer who looks for a real challenge and feels let down at every opportunity, fondly remembering the last time a game really gave you that near impossible task to surmount? If you are, Kaet Must Die will likely be what you’ve been looking for. If you’re more the type that expects consistent momentum through a game, keep on scrolling through Steam, friends.
|+ A game that has the balls to be this much of a challenge||– Horror element sometimes falls flat|
|+ Functions well even on older rigs||– Very much a "little doses" kind of game|
|+ Achieves its visual goal||– Suitable only for a very niche audience|