Kentucky Route Zero

You may have clicked through to it from the link on Em Short’s blog a while back, but I wanted to signal boost Kentucky Route Zero. To quote the site:

(There’s also some free extra content purporting to be an installation art exhibit by one of the characters* on the topic of architectural manipulations. This game could not get closer to my heart if it was written with me in mind.)

It’s not free – $25 gets you five hour-ish-long acts, of which two have been released so far – but it’s got stunning amounts of polish to justify the price. The graphics are simply gorgeous, and the audio is pretty slick. But more relevantly to this forum: it does some interesting things with choice-based dialogue, including lots of great reflective choices. One of my favorite moments was when after most of the first act has you pick between various things for one character to say, you choose which character says a set thing. (Specifically, you choose which of Shannon or Conway suggests that Shannon should go explore while Conway takes a break.)

*I also felt a great deal of empathy with Lula Chamberlain, the rejected artist-as-applicant.

It’s on my to-play list. (Which, in practice, often means that I get around to playing it at some point in the next five years. But this has edged it up somewhat.)

I haven’t got around to Kentucky Route Zero yet, but if you don’t want to lay out $25 without having sampled Jake Elliott’s work you should check out Balloon Diaspora, which is something like the apotheosis of the reflective choice, and Ruins, and other stuff too (I’m fond of A House in California though it might be too artsy-surrealistic for many people). His use of sound is always great.

Wow, how did I not already go to that website and try to play all the games? (I think maybe it was just a placeholder when I last looked, or something?) I had already played “I Can Hold My Breath Forever,” just not realized it was by the same developer. Thanks, matt!

I finally played Act III this morning, and I don’t think this has been mentioned here, so a heads up: it has an absolutely gorgeous couple of scenes that feature a game-within-a-game based (very trippily) on Colossal Cave Adventure. Rather brilliantly for recent discussions, this means that you end up playing a parser game within a choice-based game. The scenes around it explore lots of ideas behind writing IF (and choice-based games): simulation, obsessive exhaustiveness, frustration, dodgy interpreters, mystery and magic. It’s glorious. So yet another reason to play, if you haven’t yet.