Back in the year 2013, an episodic adventure game by the name of Kentucky Route Zero released its first of five episodes. A mere seven years later, the final episode of the story is out and available for public consumption. Was the wait worth it? I don’t know just yet because the last time I played Kentucky Route Zero was when it initially released and I can’t be expected to remember something from that long ago, so I just replayed the first episode instead.
Kentucky Route Zero is a beautiful and mysterious experience that hovers somewhere between a point-and-click adventure game and a visual novel, never veering too far into either of those territories. Most, if not all of what you do involves you selecting different dialogue choices, some of which are for gathering information while others seem to be more about you changing the story.
For instance, at some point in the first episode your character is caught in a cave-in at a mine. The dialogue you could choose from was either saying that you were fine, or expressing that your leg was caught under some rubble. I went with the latter option, which ultimately led to my character walking around with a limp for the rest of the episode. Now, it’s entirely possible that either choice would’ve resulted in this, but it felt like my choice had immediate gameplay ramifications. But then again, it could very well just be the illusion of choice.
Kentucky Route Zero is phenomenally visually crafted, with everything from locations, character designs and even menus, working in unison to achieve a cohesive atmosphere and tone that’s genuinely enrapturing. It’s so eerie and oppressive while also being just downright weird in some places. Even if you just watch a play-through of it on YouTube or something, you can appreciate the cohesive visual style that’s on display.
I’ve only played through the first episode thus far, but it’s left me wanting more, and luckily, there’s 4 more episodes along with interstitial episodes as well for me to sink my teeth into. There’s so much more I could say about the first episode alone, but I don’t want to spoil anything for anyone who hasn’t tried it yet. But if dissociative, trippy, mysterious nightmares are your thing, I strongly suggest trying Kentucky Route Zero.