Kentucky Route Zero

Kentucky Route Zero

released on Jan 07, 2013

Kentucky Route Zero

released on Jan 07, 2013

Kentucky Route Zero is a magical realist adventure game about a secret highway in the caves beneath Kentucky, and the mysterious folks who travel it. Gameplay is inspired by point-and-click adventure games (like the classic Monkey Island or King's Quest series, or more recently Telltale's Walking Dead series), but focused on characterization, atmosphere and storytelling rather than clever puzzles or challenges of skill. The game is developed by Cardboard Computer (Jake Elliott and Tamas Kemenczy). The game's soundtrack features an original electronic score by Ben Babbitt along with a suite of old hymns & bluegrass standards recorded by The Bedquilt Ramblers.


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i rank this pretty highly in up there in the "well-written indies that will break your heart" genre. it's weird, it's wonderful, you can't save everyone, and hell, it helped inspire disco elysium. some parts of the ending got a little confusing but if you look back on the whole game paying attention to the imagery in the background, particularly the horses, it shines as a pointed and tragic commentary on modern issues.

Kentucky Route Zero is a gorgeous, thoughtful, dream-like game that keeps on giving with its writing and atmosphere. It's very hard to recommend unless like me you're into filthy art games with very little in the way of gameplay, but if you are, I'm sure you'll find much to love here.

Another adventure game with almost no gameplay. Not for me.

KRZ is very difficult to critique and recommend. Some people might be disappointed with the inconsequential and somewhat confusing dialogue or the very extensive conversations that don't relate in anyway to the main story. For me tho ?.....its immaculate, deeply unsettling and melancholic atmosphere, incredibly unique structure and storytelling, fantastic writing and banging soundtrack provided an experience I won't forget anytime soon.

incredible writing, seriously some of the best character interactions and urban fantasy esque writing i've had the pleasure of reading, regardless of medium. weirdly though, i almost wish this WERE a book. this is a personal thing, but in games like this, i'm hit with a sort of 'fear of missing out'. this game is a collection of incredible vignettes, dialogues, and stories, but hunting them down ranged from tedious to frustrating. my impulse with games like this is to try to see everything, and that's just not possible with this type of game. the clearest example of my struggle with this game was the intermission section with the phone -- i got the sense that there was a lot i COULD explore, but at the same time I got the sense that I was meant to sample some options and then move on.

i did learn to go with the flow by the end, and i look forward to replaying this sometime in the future with the knowledge I have now, but i'll never be sure if i'm seeing the full game. I don't really know if the choices i made impacted the story itself, or just determined which pieces of it I saw. As a work of fiction it is gorgeous, inspiring, and heartbreaking. As a game, though...idk?

One of my favorite things about KRZ is how it plays with player choice and interactivity. I think a lot of games (including some great ones!) put a lot of effort into proving to the player that their choices "matter", usually in terms of significant branches to the plot of the game. There's an instinct to try and measure a game's narrative interactivity by how different the plotlines of two different playthroughs look - and there's obviously a lot of value to that kind of approach.
On the other hand, in KRZ there are constant choices that, to the best of my knowledge, have little to no impact on how the narrative unfolds at a macro level. This mostly comes up in "dialogue" choices, often coming from multiple sides of a conversation, that don't impact the world in a "X will remember that" sense, but changes how the scenes and characters are framed in your mind. Just by presenting several different options for how a character responds prompts potential insights and ideas about the world, the scene, and the characters; by choosing an option you, as the player, are taking some agency and ownership over a story that has a lot of room for interpretation. When you choose whether Conway is wistful or closed off, whether Ezra joins in on a conversation between adults or gets distracted, or why Shannon feels compelled to continue her journey, you get to flesh out the details of the world for yourself, based on what feels true to you.
Anyways, this game is special.