The eponymous Saira is an explorer and a photographer who specializes in shots of dangerous places across the universe. When her sister is injured in a car crash Saira wants to travel to Mars quickly to visit her. She's far away from home at the time and she doesn't want to travel back for years, so she uses a teleportation device as a quick, but unsafe means of transportation. Arriving on Mars she discovers not only her sister is gone, but everybody else as well. Doubting the teleportation process she finally tracks down one other human, Bobo, who teleported at the exact same moment. Looking for a way to reverse the teleportation they travel to an underwater lab where the first teleportation device was built, but the experiments go wrong and Bobo is absorbed by the teleporter. After a long search Saira finally picks up his signal again, but it is very far across the universe. She builds her own teleportation device and after two years she only needs a few items to find her friend back...
Saira is a 2D, non-linear platform game with a focus on swift movement and puzzles. In graphical design and themes it builds on previous titles such as Within a Deep Forest and the Knytt series. Players get to visit six galaxies with fourteen planets in total. The overall goal is to gather the missing parts to finish the teleportation device: a targeting unit, an impulse charge and a fuse. There are however different types and the quality of the equipment eventually leads to six different endings. The individual levels on the planets are not linear either. As the focus is on exploring, there are many different areas to discover and often puzzles and clues stretch along different planets. Saira can visit any solar system at any time as long as there is enough battery power for the spaceship. It can be recharged using a generator, available in every solar system, but it usually takes some exploring to get it to work. Each planet has a distinct theme, often with different rules involving gravity, toxic radiation, and specific hazards and enemies.
The game is defined by its fluent movement that allows Saira to run, cling to ledges, climb up quickly, walljump and slide up or down walls. Certain pools also allow her to turn into a bright object and fly for a short moment. There are many small puzzles, shown on digital devices, that need to be solved in order to progress. Often they rely on logic, but many times they require clues found scattered around the worlds as well. To help Saira remember a certain sequence in the background for instance, she can take pictures of an area of the game screen and store these on her PDA to view them later. Other PDA functions include an inventory for items, a device solver that helps with mechanical objects found in the game world and teleport options back to the spaceship or to the last checkpoint. When she travels to a different galaxy it can take quite some time. For the duration the player can follow the route on the starmap, read about the destination in a space exploration guide or play a complex game of pinball.
The game consists of one, very large episode, but it is open for modding with custom episodes as well and a graphical editor was made available after the release. Saira is also the first commercial release by Nicklas Nygren.