Kentucky Route Zero, Act 1 – Review

Platform | Release Date
PC | January 7, 2013
Developed by Cardboard Computer
Published by Cardboard Computer

The Pitch:

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.

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Kentucky Route Zero offers a creepy, chilling mood that feels oddly freeing. It’s a bit like The Neverhood crossed with The Nightmare Before Christmas without all the clay. It’s dark, but also light-hearted. It’s also a really short adventure game. You should try the demo.

More? Hmm, ok.

Kentucky Route Zero is a point and click adventure game in an artsy environment influenced by shadow puppetry and pixel art without strictly falling into either category. It’s very eye-catching, and remains that way even when the game’s perspective shifts to a stark overworld map or as a Zork-styled text adventure. You’ll make choices in dialog along the way, but their impact is not apparent in Episode 1. You’ll find an item or two, but you do not have a visible inventory or need to combine any items for puzzles.

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To give players a feel, they just recently released a demo. It’s a short, one room affair that expresses the mechanics, but doesn’t fully capture the environment of the main game. I would combine the demo with the website’s screenshots to get a fuller idea. They also just reworked the pricing mechanic. Originally, it was $7 for the first episode, or $25 for the pack of 5. Now that they moved their storefront to the Humble Store and want to offer through Steam, there is only the full game purchase option.

Kentucky Route Zero is a linear experience as you explore the environments to find the next place to click. There is some free-roaming and side content to be found on the overworld map, but even with that, episode 1 is maybe an hour long. It is a bit hard to recommend putting down the full $25 for such a short experience that has little replay value. We don’t even know how much ‘game’ will be offered over the 5 episodes. However, if you are looking to kill an hour, and have some faith the remaining 4 episodes will live up to expectations, Kentucky Route Zero provides a unique moodiness.

About Aaron Phokal

Aaron is a staff writer for Splitkick.
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