wed 16/10/2019

Kentucky Route Zero - Act 2 | reviews, news & interviews

Kentucky Route Zero - Act 2

Kentucky Route Zero - Act 2

Don't worry about the destination, just enjoy the journey

'Kentucky Route Zero' - Point-and-click adventure game as magical realist road movie

Act I of Kentucky Route Zero set out a stall of intriguing characters, noirishly low-res visuals and an atmosphere that slid imperceptibly between "eerie" and "magical". Arranged around the core gameplay of a classic point 'n' click adventure (think Monkey Island or Broken Sword) was something that was barely a game at all but rather a sort of magical realist road movie in gaming drag.

There are no objects to collect and combine into tools, no mazes to navigate, and the only real puzzles are those you are left with once the game ends. This may sound like a recipe for rank pretension but Cardboard Computer show every sign of being a safe pair of hands. You are left feeling as though the developers know exactly where this highway is going.

Kentucky Route Zero - Meet Lula ChamberlainSpoilers follow. If the first act was a search for the mysterious Route Zero, Act II is about its exploration. First, though, we open on an entirely new character working in some kind of office job. As in the first game the choices you make for her don't so much advance the narrative as flesh out her character. Rarely do you get the feeling that choosing different options would lead you down a different path but they do alter how you feel about the path you are travelling.

After this brief interlude we are back with the protagonist Conway, his new companion Shannon and his faithful dog. Where Act I seemed dark and mysterious from the outset with some scenes (such as the bizarre road accident with spilled coffins at the roadside) triggering almost survival-horror instincts, Act II initially seems more lighthearted and even funny. There is a delve around a bureaucratic paper trail, a trip to a quirky storage facility and a bizarre museum to explore, and of course a trip around the Zero itself which evokes a curious mix of whimsy and awe.

Some of the set-pieces work better than others - the office scenes drag a little but the choice to narrate a particular area from the viewpoint of two witnesses after the fact works extremely well, and this is a game where simply travelling along a map proves to be enjoyable and full of wonder.

Kentucky Route Zero - random access memoriesWhen we eventually reach what turns out to be the object of this Act's quest we are treated to a trip through a forest (in the body of another new character) in which two realities seem to jump in and out of view as the camera flits through the trees like a giant zoetrope. It is briliantly done and entirely unannounced, leading us in to the final scene which sets up Act III.

Kentucky Route Zero looks and, to a point, feels like a game but it resists games criticism because it doesn't play like one. You are being guided through a narrative, not quite on rails but with only a limited amount of agency, and what choices you are allowed to make may only affect your perception of the game rather than the events themselves. Nevertheless, this is a great experience. It feels playful, even if it is not necessarily you that is playing. I can guarantee that you will still be thinking about riding the Zero long after the game fades to black. Roll on Act III.

The only real puzzles are those you are left with once the game ends

rating

Editor Rating: 
4
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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