Kentucky Route Zero, probably one of the most beautiful games of 2013 so far, has been in sale after sale this month (the latest of which is ending in just one hour). It's now moved from many peoples' wishlists onto their own waitlists -- backlogs of great games that just need the right combination of mood and free time to actually get played -- as many games do when Steam Sales hit. If you're one of the deal hunters who's snapped this game up, take my advice: Don't wait. Play it as soon as you possibly can.
... And if you have yet to add this surreal adventure to your collection, man are you ever missing out.
Here's what you need to know about this game right away: Although Kentucky Route Zero fits the adventure game category better than anything else, it often feels more like an interactive play. It deals a lot with existentialism, absurdism, and magical realism. The game is broken up into episodes, or Acts, that are being released separately, with Act 1 and Act 2 available now (my review of Act 1 here). Buying the game gets you a season pass of sorts, giving you access to the currently available acts as well as those released in the future. So far, each act has taken about an hour to play (depending on how much exploring and experimenting you do along the way), which means that when all is said and done KRZ will likely be a 5ish hour long game. It's not a particularly big time commitment, but it is a surprisingly deep experience.
How do you feel about "Waiting for Godot"?
How would you feel about "Waiting for Godot" if it had (Uh... Spoilers?) a giant eagle in it?
It's easy to lose track of just about everything when you're playing Kentucky Route Zero. For a game that seems so aesthetically "simple", the papercut-style art and animation (especially the striking shifting perspectives) never fail to impress me, while the sound design is subtle but ruthlessly effective. True to a lot of the material that it seems to be drawing its inspiration from, the writing is at times somewhat... Disorienting, but only in the way that a particularly good book might be just opaque enough for you to enjoy discussing it with someone else later. The voices and points of view that the player is exposed to shift in unexpected ways, and the topic of conversation will often veers sharply from relevant to absurd. The world itself throws just enough curveballs to keep you on your toes (then tip you over). It's miles removed from so many of the predictable, linear gaming experiences we're used to.
I set out today to talk about Act 2 (which I recently finished playing) but as was the case with Act 1 I found myself more swept up in the experience the game than the game's events or mechanics. It seems like that's probably how you're supposed to feel. So much and so little has happened since Act 1, and even with my English degree on the wall behind me I don't feel comfortable picking it apart (at least not until the end). From the outside it must seem like I'm gushing about all the tiny details rather than the game as a whole, but the real beauty of KRZ is in all those details coming together. Every millisecond of the game is laid out with such care, with every piece fitting together perfectly... It's hard to describe it as anything but an almost perfectly assembled experience.
It's absolutely art.
Yeah, it's true that Kentucky Route Zero still isn't for everyone, but goddamn is it ever for me.
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Iris Ophelia (@bleatingheart, Janine Hawkins IRL) has been featured in the New York Timesand has spoken about SL-based design at the Fashion Institute of Technology in Manhattan andwith pop culture/fashion maven Johanna Blakley.