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.