Thursday, November 27, 2014

6 Days of...Kentucky Route Zero!

Surreal doesn't begin to describe it

It's strange how sometimes playing a game relates so deeply with your current situation that it feels as though it was made specifically for you at that moment. You get a pit in your stomach and when you stop playing you see the world in a whole new light. Perspective changes and you just feel as though a weight has been lifted off of you when you turn your attention away from the screen after that last pivotal plot point. 

Personally I am going through an extended transition from previous Military experience, then school, and now a professional career with a family, life can be pretty confusing. That confusion has nothing on Kentucky Route Zero by developer Cardboard Computer. There are words that can describe the game: surreal, strange, odd, uncanny, bizarre. You can describe the things that happen in the story by sequence, but completing the ideas as to how or why these things happen is impossible. 

The game itself isn't so much a game as a series of events that captures you and allows you to shape the adventure and it's contents as a concept of your own design. The events are all going to happen regardless of whether or not you make certain choices, the only thing that may change are dialogue options and responses. You even begin to have conversations with yourself through multiple characters gradually. This is interesting because now both sides of the conversation have different possibilities, and somehow the conversations seem less mechanical even if they are with yourself. 

Going back to describing the game, there are words to describe it, but each of those words seem to have connotations that don't fully encompass the ideas portrayed. The feeling is fuller, than those words can describe. It's very odd, and I don't want to give any of it away as a spoiler. 

Things that are strange and unbelievable happen and the characters seem to take it with a grain of salt. Things like traveling on an inter-dimensional highway with arbitrary markers made of everyday items, replacing a leg with a metal skeleton prosthesis (and not reacting), taking a shot with a skeleton with a tape recorder, flying on a giant eagle that moves houses daily. These are all taken by the characters as something completely acceptable if a bit odd. No explanation of why these things are happening, just that they do. 

There is no time or place to explore why these things happen, so taking them with stride is forced on the player as well as the characters. You can only move forward and there are no places to take breaks to look for answers. So you derive the answers from events as they move along, and accept what doesn't make sense, and just move along. Eventually events in the story that didn't make sense are after the fact, and become a part of the plot. So even surreal happenings can become important regardless of how illogical or insane they seem at first. 

The entire interface is a point and click adventure, but there are only so many things you can point and click on and they are all labeled for convenience and to keep the story moving at a reasonable pace. This doesn't detract from the experience, as the game itself is surreal enough to keep you entertained. If anything it keeps things interesting as you always want to move forward to see what strange happenings are next. 

The strange is the spectacle. And the glass through which you look is your own mind. The experience is engrossing. 

You'll like this game if: You enjoy M.C. Escher and Picasso, and want to play a game designed by them. Strictly for those though that enjoy being told a story, and not necessarily molding it.

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