A dark night, a delivery to be made and a gas station with no power dominating the scene. It all leaves me very little to go on as Kentucky Route Zero’s first act opens. I knew it was a point and click, I knew it was an indie marvel of some caliber but nothing prepared me for just how weird my next few hours were going to become.
Or just how pretty this game looks when in motion.
A frenzied shadow-puppeteer moving in five dimensions seems to run the scenery on this oddity. Every move seems to uncover layers and depths to the darkness that I honestly didn’t see coming. It is striking, beautiful and strangely abstract at times. But, anyway – on to the game. A real point-and-clicker, you move and talk in the usual way, slowly building up an idea of where to go/what to find/who to talk to next.
There are few (if any) puzzles in this act, and most of the progression is through conversation and trying to find the bizarrely named “Kentucky Route Zero”, a road that will lead you to salvation, or at the least – where your package is supposed to be going. With this in mind, you chat with locals, you chat with strange basement-dwelling people who don’t seem to notice you. You chat with your (or someone else’s) dog - actually some of the most interesting conversations in the game, despite the dog saying absolutely nothing.
This is the meat of KRZ – the conversations. Strange, difficult to follow occasionally, yet fascinating none-the-less thanks to a somewhat different take on the old question-and-answer prose. Your conversation choices actually flesh out your character to your own design, while others manipulating threads of the story far beyond the scope of the first act. For example, an early chat with an old man has him asking about the dog sitting at your delivery van. The options are simple, you can name the dog as yours, or “just some dog”. It’s slightly revelatory – you end up filling in your characters past on the fly as you talk to people, and the choices are occasionally quite jarring and disparate.
Typing poetry into a strangely existential computer, a glow-in-the-dark 20-sided die, extended conversations with a dog in a straw hat, and a deeply confusing road-trip involving a burning bush and an artificial-limb factory are all par for the course in Kentucky Route Zero. The biggest shock to my mind was just how compelling it was; I have never been a fan of point-and-click games. The puzzles always annoyed me and made me feel somewhat cross-eyed at times. The flow always felt wrong to me, find this, use that etc. And the plot always seemed to take a back-seat to the clicking on every goddamn pixel.
This, however, flows like warm treacle. And the most taxing “puzzles” are simply working through occasionally cryptic directions to the next place of interest, which I honestly didn’t mind. A few tiny pacing issues are felt here and there, mostly due to an especially slow mining-cart, but they are infinitely forgivable. And as you progress, things get… well, not clearer exactly, but less transparent and insubstantial.
A very compelling first step, and even more amazingly – a point-and-click game that managed to hook even me. I wait for Act 2 with an impatient leg-jiggle.
Verdict: Head Shot
Platforms Available – PC
Platform Reviewed – PC
Please read this post for details on our scoring system. Review copy supplied by developer.