Shadows of Cairn is a horrible action/adventure hybrid that squanders a good premise with awful controls and boring puzzles. Set in a medieval city, you play an "honest thief" (a la Robin Hood) who must stop a conspiracy to assassinate the Duke. A cross-genre game, Shadows of Cairn combines arcade sequences with adventure elements such as talking to NPCs and acquiring items to finish the missions.
The only good thing I can say about the game is the music, which is outstanding and matches the mood of the game perfectly. The music is reminiscent of Pink Floyd or David Bowie, but with a more "archaic" overtones rather than modern techno feel. Unfortunately, the gameplay hits rock bottom. It is almost impossible to stay alive in this game - battles with city guards and other baddies occur far too frequently, and you will often face insurmountable odds. As a thief, you have special abilities such as sneaking and hiding in shadows, but those are completely redundant: battles occur regardless of whether you are trying to sneak past the guards or not. Most puzzles are boring and tedious; one in particular requires such a frustrating amount of trial-and-error that it crosses the line that separates "challenging puzzles" from "bad game design." The plot is cliche, and NPCs are paper-cutouts that hardly are worth talking to except to get the required items.
Oveerall, Shadows of Cairn is a pretty bad action/adventure that could be much better with more time spent on the drawing board. As it stands, the game would not appeal to anyone... except perhaps students of music who are interested in good examples of effective use of rock music in computer games.Reviewed by: Underdogs