Review: Kentucky Route Zero: Act I
By Jeffrey Demelo on February 2nd, 2013 (2 comments)
Not every game needs to be a gameplay heavy endeavor, nor overly explain itself to the player. Sometimes a game can be an experience barred from the traditions of what fun in video games has been since Pong. Kentucky Route Zero may lack traditional gameplay but it makes up for it in style, atmosphere, and writing; never failing to create entertainment through experience over interactivity. KRZ may look like a point-and-click adventure game (reminiscent of Another World), but I'd prefer to call it a create your own adventure game ( ...much more fitting). And it's a damn good one too.
Act I leaves you in the shoes of Conway, an antique furniture delivery guy on the road to locating his next stop. With you and your dog -a silent passenger tagging along for the ride- you embark on a bizarre trip across interstates and back-roads, stumbling upon odd characters and unexplainable occurrences on your way. For the sake of not spoiling a second of this two hour experience, I'll leave it at that.
Gameplay consist of mainly deciding what is said during conversations and not much else. Sure, that sounds boring - and to many it may be - but Kentucky Route Zero's parts make up for the lack of gameplay with unexpectedly interesting and well written dialogue. Expecting to be engaging through nothing more than dialogue choices and oddities is a bit of a reach for any developer, but Cardboard Computer pulled it off. By allowing the player more freedom in crafting the conversations before him/her, and the strangely interesting moments, characters, and writing - that help fully realize a world suffering from hardships with debt and job security - KRZ manages to slip by on simply dialogue.
Kentucky Route Zero promises to be a refreshing experience; rich in eerie-tones and unexpected direction shifts. It's more a platform allowing the player to craft an interpretive piece of fiction, than a game. And where many would cry foul that a game without gameplay is neither fun, nor a game, I found Kentucky Route Zero to prove otherwise. My only concern is the expected payoff of my decisions in later episodes, which won't be revealed to me till they're released publicly.
Too many games lack an identity worth remembering and this game is not one of those. The moment its opening screen revealed itself in bold silence, I knew it was going to be something different. Something special. Kentucky Route Zero is surely not for everyone, but rather for the kind of gamer who favorites atmosphere over action and dialogue fueling interpretive storytelling. It's a short, yet effective, indie that I'm sure will remain with me throughout the remainder of the year. I only hope the momentum its first act has garnered can keep it from driving off a cliff of disappointment.
Jeff is the raspy-voiced, Boston-accented staff member that loves everything Japan. Since 1989, video games have been a prominent passtime for this lovable guy…and that doesn't look to be changing anytime soon. When he's not playing games, he's writing, questioning his favorite games of all-time, or producing & composing music at various studios on the east-coast.
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