Last night I picked up and finished Act I of Kentucky Route Zero by Cardboard Computer, and just about every inch of its design satisfies my current appetite in video games.
Aesthetically, it’s a stunning game that reminds me of the stylistic work seen in both Team Fortress 2 and Limbo. It utilizes sharp lighting, silhouettes and limited color palettes to tell most of the story, while exaggerated geometry adds even more character to its society. It also manages to reference other forms of art, such as poetry and theatre, without interrupting itself as a game.
Most of the play is rooted in sharing stories and developing relationships, and it gives the player dialogue choices that help them shape facets of a character’s identity. The audio and music feel composed to the game’s own pace, which helps generate some momentum in such a steady experience, but they also loads of atmosphere to each scene.
Lastly, the setting is one shrouded in mystery and begging discovery. There’s already a rich lore established within the first couple hours I spent searching for Kentucky Route Zero, and I can’t wait to see how the rest of the series play with it.
Kentucky Route Zero is only one episode in right now, but I definitely recommend it to anyone interested in moody adventure games heavy on intimate storytelling, theatre plays and/or American folklore. This first act is a short but sweet introduction to your quest for the hidden highway beneath Kentucky, and the haunting nature of its production values are worth it.
Also, for any Steam users out there, the game is set to release on Steam in the not-to-distant future as result of it being among this year’s finalists in the Independent Games Festival (IGF). Its Steam Greenlight page notes that they’ll provide buyers with a Steam Key for linking the game to your account when it’s available on the store, even if you bought it from them directly (link below).
Kentucky Route Zero, Act I runs on both PC and Mac, and your purchase comes with both versions. I dove in for the $25 pass for future episodes (there will be four more), which also came with the soundtrack. After hearing the first measures of music in-game, it made me quite happy about making the extra investment up-front.
Get en route at: kentuckyroutezero.com.
Finally, in addition to blogging more, I’ve been meaning to extend my interest in video games back into podcasting when I can.
In a wrap to my recent Playlist 2012 series, the old crew and I from The Cleveland Institute of Art’s first game design program reunited to discuss the big topics and our favorite gaming experiences of 2012. It was a blast talking with everyone as a full group for the first time since we all graduated over two years ago. I hope you’ll enjoy our lengthy first episode, which will be available here tomorrow morning. There’s no long term schedule for the podcast, but following the initial 2012 round-table are plans to do a one-and-one about the layers to Kentucky Route Zero‘s debut act.
To me, the best part about being a gamer is the enthusiastic banter that comes from sharing experiences with another. My goal for the new podcast is pretty simple: it’s about sitting down with a friend and talking about a game they’re playing, analyzing and learning more about it. For as social the internet has become, nothing beats a chat with close friends.