Updated: Mar 30, 2022
When I started Kentucky Route Zero I didn’t know what to expect. All I knew is that there was a dog on the cover, and that is usually enough to catch my attention. However, what I did not expect was a journey into the surreal and mysterious.
Kentucky Route Zero has a somewhat confusing history, at least in terms of its release. The game was originally announced in 2011 via Kickstarter. Over the next few years, each of the acts was released and eventually, the whole thing was released in 2020. Recently the game was released on Game Pass, so let's take a look at this truly odd experience.
At its heart, Kentucky Route Zero is a simple point and click adventure game. The story follows Conway, a delivery driver for an antique store as he hunts for a mysterious street that seemingly doesn’t exist. His journey will lead him from normality to some truly strange experiences and will gather several companions around him. The plot is slow going for the most part, with the main points slowly being revealed and nothing being explained. In truth, some parts are only found if the player chooses the right options and explores each environment. It encourages repeat playthroughs to find out all the secrets that this plot holds.
Gameplay is much simpler to define, at least in concept. Players move the characters by clicking certain parts of the screen and interacting with objects in the same way. The game's maps are separated into small sections, some of which the player is free to explore and others that are more linear. The puzzles are often pretty simple in concept, at least at the beginning, but they slowly become more obscure as the plot progresses. There is a reasonable variety in what the player will need to do in each section, which helps to alleviate the tedium that can often come from point and click. There is also a distinct lack of puzzles that rely on clicking items in your inventory until something happens.
Visually the game is pretty bare-bones in its design. There isn’t a lot to see in terms of the character models with most of them being like faceless dolls. However, this choice aids the feel of the game. Nothing feels real as you play and it is hard to connect with anything that is happening. The use of light and dark help to make everything feel like a dream. One great example of this is the section in the early game that has you move a ride a cart through a mine. It is genuinely creepy yet hard to switch the lights back on at the same time. Everything feels like it was done with a purpose and it all helps to create a memorable experience.
Kentucky Route Zero certainly isn’t for everyone, and it isn’t something you play to unwind for a few hours. In reality, it is hard to recommend the game for either of those reasons. However, there is something here that needs to be experienced and, yes, the dog is a part of it. If you are looking for something different, something not like the norm, then I would certainly recommend playing this one.
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