May the Tenth
The source: The very first Indie Gala bundle.
The pre-amble: Saira is a platformer/puzzle game from Swedish developer Nifflas, creator of the Knytt series among other things, and like the Knytt games depends on exploring non-linear, attractive, desolate environments to moody ambiance tracks. Saira takes place across a series of star systems, each with one or two planets, and the goal is to hunt through the remains of human civilization to find the parts you need to complete a massive teleporter. There's also a strong emphasis on using Saira's day job as a photographer to take pictures of clues and codes in your surroundings which invariably are required to progress elsewhere.
The playthrough: Saira's an interesting take on the standard Metroidvania formula. If I had to draw a parallel to a big studio game, it has a similar capsular nature to Order of Ecclesia and the more overtly planet-hopping antics of Metroid Prime 3's Samus Aran. There's no map, but each region is just small enough to not need one: Instead, the player has a specific challenge for each planet which might involve Layton-esque brainteasers, exploring the planet for codes in the environment, time trials which test your ability to get around the environment.
I reviewed another game from the same developer, Knytt Underground, a little while back and I can't help but notice many of the same systems in play here as well: This includes the general ambiance of these games, but also touches like an environmental power-up that allows you to fly for short bursts and the fact that both games are utterly devoid of combat. It's clear Nifflas has his preferences, though when you consider the cookie-cutter nature of his most affluently-funded contemporaries it's entirely exonerable.
Saira's not particularly long - nothing really surprising for an Indie game - but it manages to fill its run-time with a lot of interesting puzzles and diverse settings. The climbing, jumping and running mechanics are functional enough and there's a bevy of cute background details like a few galactic radio stations and some entirely incidental mini-games - if nothing else, they display a keen vision for world building. Saira's presented as simply the first of a series of adventures for its titular heroine, a jumping off point for a series as potentially long-reaching as Knytt, so I'd be interested in seeing any follow-ups. I do have a weakness for interplanetary exploration games after all.
The verdict: I've beaten the game. Kind of a pattern so far.