Kentucky Route Zero is a magical realist adventure game about a secret highway in the caves beneath Kentucky, and the mysterious folks who travel it. Developed by Cardboard Computer (Jake Elliott and Tamas Kemenczy), the game features an original score by Ben Babbitt, along with a suite of old hymns and bluegrass standards recorded by...
User reviews: Very Positive (1,012 reviews)
Release Date: Feb 22, 2013

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All Five Episodes of Ketucky Route Zero will be automatically available upon their release

 

Recommended By Curators

"A powerfully evocative and beautiful subversion of point-and-click rote, but occasionally opaque and disorienting."
Read the full review here.

Reviews

"Smart, thoughtful, sweet and incredibly well crafted – it’s the perfect game to play in the small hours of a lonely night. Be warned though; it’ll leave you hungry for unknown roads and longing for an invitation to the blues."
Rock, Paper, Shotgun

"Evokes the feeling of old ghost stories told around a campfire. There's the familiarity of friends and family around a warm, man-made fire, but with it comes the unnerving tale of the strange and unusual. Kentucky Route Zero is beautifully bizarre and perfectly poignant, and most of all, deserves your attention."

9.5 - Destructoid

"However you respond to its ethereal imagery, this is a game which makes a rare suggestion: who a player is may be more important than what they do."

84/100 - PC Gamer

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About This Game

Kentucky Route Zero is a magical realist adventure game about a secret highway in the caves beneath Kentucky, and the mysterious folks who travel it.

Developed by Cardboard Computer (Jake Elliott and Tamas Kemenczy), the game features an original score by Ben Babbitt, along with a suite of old hymns and bluegrass standards recorded by The Bedquilt Ramblers.

The game is split into five acts. Acts I, II and III are available now. The remaining two acts will be released as they're completed. Taken as a whole, Kentucky Route Zero is roughly the length of a summer night.

Key Features

  • A focus on characterization, atmosphere and storytelling rather than clever puzzles or challenges of skill.
  • A unique art treatment inspired by theatrical set design.
  • A haunting score accompanies the ambient sounds of the bluegrass state.
  • Wander the highways of Kentucky.
  • Make some friends before morning.

System Requirements

Windows
Mac OS X
SteamOS + Linux
    Minimum:
    • OS:Windows 7
    • Processor:1 GHz
    • Memory:512 MB RAM
    • Graphics:Directx 9.0c compatible video card
    • DirectX®:9.0c
    • Hard Drive:250 MB HD space
    • Sound:Sound card
    Recommended:
    • OS:Windows 7
    • Processor:1 GHz
    • Memory:1 GB RAM
    • Graphics:Directx 9.0c compatible video card
    • DirectX®:9.0c
    • Hard Drive:250 MB HD space
    • Sound:Sound card
    Minimum:
    • OS:OSX 10.5 Leopard
    • Processor:1 GHz CPU
    • Memory:512 MB RAM
    • Graphics:OpenGL 3.0+ compatible video card
    • Hard Drive:250 MB HD space
    • Sound:Sound card
    Minimum:
    • Processor:1 GHz CPU
    • Memory:512 MB RAM
    • Graphics:OpenGL 3.0+ compatible video card
    • Hard Drive:250 MB HD space
    • Sound:Sound card
Helpful customer reviews
26 of 29 people (90%) found this review helpful
1 person found this review funny
12.4 hrs on record
Posted: December 26, 2014
It's tricky to write about Kentucky Route Zero because it's best to know as little as possible about it before playing. The last thing I want is to reveal too much.

That being said, I can tell you that it's not a typical adventure game in many aspects. It's closer to the new Telltale games in the fact that it has no puzzles, no collecting items, nothing to distract from the essence of the game. It's driven by dialogue, observation and exploration, any action scenes are basically non-existent. The most unique thing about it is the narrative mechanic. The player shapes the story, but not in a way that you might expect. Plus the act/scene structure is not something you see in a game every day.

The story is very reflective and melancholic, yet not self-absorbed or pretentious like some sad stories tend to be. It's quite ambiguous and not at all straightforward, exploring multiple themes and leaving a lot of room for interpretation and discovery of its meaning - not a thing for everyone. It might even seem not quite coherent at times, but there's a method in this madness.

Audiovisual design is flawless. Distinctive art style helps create the vagueness and uncanny feeling of the world, perfectly corresponding with the story. There's a lot of atmosphere in almost every scene. Oh, and the scenes. Beautifully crafted, the moments they present can range from calming and touching to rather unsettling ones. And one of them is simply the most perfectly executed musical performance I've ever seen and heard in a game.

In overall it's not a game for everyone. You won't find in it a dramatic and dynamic plot, exciting action or difficult choices. What you'll get instead is a truly unique game full of beautiful, thought-provoking writing and overflowing with atmosphere.
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18 of 20 people (90%) found this review helpful
1 person found this review funny
6.5 hrs on record
Posted: January 1
Man, I tell you what. I played through the entirety of all 3 currently-available episodes on a cold, rainy, New Year's Day 2015, and it was the perfect companion to such a day. Each episode gets progressively more serene, surreal, and...satisfying.

It's not a spoiler to say this, but: the dialog choices you make have virtually no impact on the eventual outcome of the story. But that's okay, because the flavor they add is fantastic. They all add to your own personal narrative for the game.

Bonus #1: The music is amazing (especially the songs with vocals). And they're all available for free, right there in the install directory of the game.

Bonus #2: Be sure to check out the 3 interludes that they released between episodes. They're free downloads from the official website, and add even more color and background to an already great experience.

Tl;dr: just buy this, and play it. Don't do the whole 'I'll just wait until all the episodes are out' thing.
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10 of 11 people (91%) found this review helpful
1 person found this review funny
11.3 hrs on record
Posted: December 12, 2014
I went out to buy a point and click adventure game, but instead I discovered a long absurdist play cycle living inside my computer.

Does a kind of conservation of energy apply, I wonder? Is there someone out there who walked out one night to see Waiting for Godot and found themself instead holding a lamp in a maze of twisting passages, all alike? Can't we help that poor soul? Ah well, I guess it's just the way things go. Times like these a lot of folks can't even get a lamp. No sense making a fuss.
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7 of 8 people (88%) found this review helpful
1 person found this review funny
4.0 hrs on record
Posted: December 19, 2014
This game is hauntingly beautiful and plays really well in a dark and quiet room. It makes you feel like you're driving down an eery but calming country road.
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7 of 8 people (88%) found this review helpful
1 person found this review funny
346.2 hrs on record
Posted: December 15, 2014
I wasn't immediately impressed when I started this game. I was bugged by this reoccurring thought that, "Oh, this is just another in a recent string of indie games where everything is just... So Weird." The story was a little non linear and slow going, and it had to break through a lot of other minor annoyances in order for me to see the merit. There is a lot of unskippable animation that really grinds (especially when one of the main characters is forced to walk around with a real time limp). It's as though one of the designers put their foot down because they didn't want any of the intricacy of their animations or level design to be missed. And it is a beautiful game. I was gradually won over, which is why I kept playing the game, but act three is where I really became a fan. If you have the patience, stick it out to the end.

Horrible video game analogy: This game is like Grim Fandango if it took place in a folksy acid dream.
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5 of 5 people (100%) found this review helpful
1.1 hrs on record
Posted: February 12
Besides me living in kentucky.... that already gives me a high grade for this game but then also the original music that sounds almost blue grass-ish and also folk lore added in that my family tells me sometimes and even history behind kentucky (i cannot say much about it with out semi spoiling plot) like the rich rivers and LOADS OF Horses xD i love it all to bits and i hope for the rest to come out.... really good point and click simple not to hard if you really read it and..... yha that just about sums it up
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7 of 9 people (78%) found this review helpful
1 person found this review funny
6.7 hrs on record
Posted: December 18, 2014
The full review is below, but here it is condensed version:
Pros
- Interesting art style
- Great writing
- Amazing soundtrack
Cons
- Game isn't too challenging
- The songs feel awkward sometimes
- The whisperwave hipsters

Until now, I've never been moved so fully by a game so as to write a review. Kentucky Route Zero is one of the best and most intricately orchestrated games I've played in a long time, and,though the game is lurching at first, it's worth the investment.

The game is surreal, poetic, and funny but not to the point of excess in any of these aspects. It's riddled with memory, imagination, the surreal, and how they intersect with reality. And the way these things are portrayed in the game are sometimes quirky, sometimes beautifull, but don't usually seem out of place or forced.

The replayability of it is vast, just as the world the developers created. It's the most complete I've felt a game to be, and, there's so much in it that you will end up missing a lot. By the time you've omitted your first option in the game, you'll want to go back in to see what happens .
The writing, as well, is compelling enough to just be a text adventure. But the developers put an original and interesting art style into the game that makes it so much more worth while to sit and watch.

One might think that usually, games like this lack in any substance as far as soundtracks go. But the sounds of this game make such a complete atmosphere to a point where they seem so natural that it's an almost imperceptible addition to the game. The only portion that seemed awkward at first was the music they included in the game, but once you get past the fact that there's lyrical music in a sidescroller, you realize it's actually good.

The way the they develop the game is almost deceptively simple. You walk, inspect, check your notes, and follow simple tasks. The reality, though, is that this game is dense, and there's rarely a dull moment. The dialouge is compelling throughout, just as the art style is, and though the game doesn't challenge you with heavy puzzler aspects one might expect in a sidescroller, it does create a fluid environment and dialouge that lives inside of it.

This game is one of the best out of 2000's releases, and, hopefully, other's will believe it to be as well. I'd definitely say the game was worth the money I put down. Maybe more.

"Ezra: Do you think they'll start it over after the ending?
Shannon: Yeah, they do that sometimes.
Conway: You want to see the beginning after the ending?
Ezra: Maybe it's better that way."
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7 of 9 people (78%) found this review helpful
36.2 hrs on record
Posted: March 16
It's interesting, sure. I just can't recommend it because it's boring and I have no idea what's going on.

It just feels a bit weird for the sake of weird. Everything is disconnected. It's slow. I played the first three chapters in something like 7 sessions because I couldn't get through 30 minutes of it without starting to feel my eyelids droop. "Time for bed, I suppose" I would say out loud (I live alone), and then I would realize it's only 9:30PM. I swear this happened at least 3 times.

The writing is really good, actually. That's what's so dissapointing really. It's just really well written sentences and sentence fragments that don't tell you a whole lot, they just sound like a smart person wrote them. Lots of little vignettes that I haven't been able to put together.

The sound is very well done too. I like the songs, I might actually purchase the soundtrack.

The Zero itself was a huge let down. I get it, it's this mysterous highway and we're supposed to use our imagination on what it looks like. I wanted it to look like Homer Simpsons fever dream when he ate the insanity pepper. The visualization somehow broke my ability to use my imagination. I was just like, "Why bother?"

I'll still play the next two chapters, because I put in enough effort to find out what the f this game is about. But I am prepared to be dissapointed.
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5 of 6 people (83%) found this review helpful
8.3 hrs on record
Posted: January 30
The best prose you will read in a video game, bar none.

Kentucky Route Zero is meticulously constructed. Its writing is sparse but meaningful, its scenes transition with the awareness of a good film, its art and use of lighting is striking, its soundscape is dense, and its choices toy with ideas of player agency without assaulting you with half-baked moral dillemas.

Above all, the story is at times mystery and morbid and heartwarming, and it works.

The game is good, basically. It is a structured, crafted, linear experience, and it's pointless if you don't want to read, but it's stunning at being what it is.
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5 of 6 people (83%) found this review helpful
3.1 hrs on record
Posted: February 15
Let's sweep away the indie circlejerk and pretentious flowery language: this is not a game.

Stay with me here, there's more to this.

What we have is a product of an age where video games have become mainstream. Developers that tell a story, or show off cool graphics, or innovate with polished, unique, and engaging gameplay can all live happily together, because in the year of our Lord 1984 + 31 there is an audience for any and all three. And if you hit all the points, you'll have a mastery of the medium, a true classic for its time, worthy of every 10/10 "it didn't offend me" it can get.

What you'll find is that not all can be skillful when it comes to "gameplay", or else discard the concept from the start. What is a game without gameplay? It's not a game.

Kentucky Route Zero is what you might call an "interactive storytelling experience" because there is just one (absolutely gorgeous) path without a single challenge or losing condition from start to finish. They say you only use 10% of your brain (and they are WRONG) but you'll only be using the parts that extrapolate out into infinity because the story is abstract and convoluted as ♥♥♥♥. Like they played Metroid Prime and ripped off its method wholesale, but decided it just wasn't cryptic enough. I liked Metroid Prime, mind you, but this comes back to the point I'm blabbing about for my share of internet points: it is not a game.

A game involves the player in a challenge, a puzzle, something that puts bearing on the flashing lights presented before them. I have a whole bookshelf for the opposite, and if I wanted the sweet visuals and soundtrack too, there's always LSD and a Boards of Canada album. I played each act over a few weekends with the lights off and headphones on, just getting absorbed in the storytelling without having to break federal law. It demands some days of padding, because it's not a game you would want to kill in a day. There is probably less than 10 hours of runtime (as of this writing) to KRZ, and that's a generous estimate - the replay value is virtually nil, but maybe that's the point. It's firmly an "experience" but clicking back and forth to read more dialogue is not "interactive". It is a movie that pauses itself every time something cool happens.

Let's wrap it all up here: I like KRZ and for $5, it was worth the dosh. It really is stunning once you adjust your expectations, but I know that not all of us are ready to do that when the word "game" is at the top of the page and "$24.99" somewhere below. Spend your disposable income on it, but know that what you're getting in return is disposable as well.
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3 of 3 people (100%) found this review helpful
4.4 hrs on record
Posted: May 24
I'm sorry. I can't recommend this game any longer. It's been out for over 2 years now I think. It's supposed to include 5 acts...the THIRD act was published over ONE YEAR AGO...this is ridiculous (after already waiting for one year after Act 2). IF the game is ever going to be finished, judging by the glacial pace the dev is setting, it's going to be somewhere in 2018 probably, so...stay away from it.

Now, what IS the game? It's actually a weird pseudo psycho trip. Calling it an adventure would be grossly overestimating the game's abilities. It's a narrative driven story that drifts so far into lunacy it's getting extremely hard to even follow it, let alone understand what's going on. It's definitely "interesting" and I would have liked to actually finish it, but again...where are the remaining 2 episodes? You can't charge 23 bucks for an episodic game and then after over two years not even finish the story...that's actually a scam if I'm totally honest, so I wonder if you would get your money back from Steam...probably not, because Steam customer support sucks ♥♥♥...
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3 of 3 people (100%) found this review helpful
2.9 hrs on record
Posted: May 16
This is a good game, but don't buy it until all episodes have been completed. I bought it early, and I've been waiting for years for this game to be finished...
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4 of 5 people (80%) found this review helpful
1 person found this review funny
7.8 hrs on record
Posted: January 1
A fully realised work of undisputed, exuberant art. Utterly sublime. That's all.
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5 of 7 people (71%) found this review helpful
4.8 hrs on record
Posted: March 8
It's pretty mystical, I'll give it that, and I am enjoying playing it, but it's also hard to keep up with the story. I feel like there's a lot symbolism I'm missing or hasn't been made clear. There's themes of purgatory or moving on or death, but three episodes in, it's still not 100% clear. What's the Zero? Who are the characters? What's going on? This confusion is broken occasionally by wonderful gems like Too Late To Love You Now, but it feels like those are the exceptions, not the rule. The developers have also been way too slow to deliver new episodes. They are now at least three months late, and I don't see a clear post explaining why. Probably worth it 75% off but not otherwise. Even then, it's a huge time sink for a few good moments.
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2 of 2 people (100%) found this review helpful
0.9 hrs on record
Posted: December 31, 2014
This game is an absolute must play if you enjoy surrealism, theory crafting, and being enveloped into a world you make. This game takes you on a journey where you decide what and who the characters are, and then you get to decide what they experience. In the end you become all of them. You will be lost in the visuals, you will be entranced by the music and you will be seduced by the charm and wit and style.

In the end the only reason to buy this game is if you love to be entertained. Which is a bit conceited and presumptuous.
In reality however the reason to not buy the game follow if you prefer quicker games, if you prefer less choice, if you prefer games that do not fall into the adventure game category.

And even at that point I'd still recommend the game as it is so far and especially when it's fully released.

I pirated this game when there was only one act. Then I pirated the following two. I finally was able to buy the game and did without hesitation.

Kentucky Route Zero (Final Rating) 9/10
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2 of 2 people (100%) found this review helpful
5.0 hrs on record
Posted: February 13
Woah, Kentucky Route Zero. I started playing it just to get a feel of what it was like and actually couldn't stop until there was nothing left at the end of Act III.
The story has a "familiar, but strange", kind-of-creepy-and-mysterious atmosphere to it - like the "this makes sense, of course it should be like this" logic of dreaming that actually makes less sense over time but gets more intriging; like a nostalgic mystery from your childhood you can't recall nor explain with words completely, and that warm but murky feeling still lingers.
I'm a sucker for the character-driven kind of narrative, and this game does it in a brilliant way. The dialogs are amazingly well written, it has a lot of great references, the soundtrack is beautiful and it's visually stunning at every little detail. The gameplay is like a homage to those old point-and-click adventures we hold dear in our hearts, but with a nice, refreshing twist.
Also features bears on the third floor.
Jaw-dropping. It hits me in all the right places.
I couldn't recommend KRZ enough, and I'm waiting restlessly for the next acts.
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2 of 2 people (100%) found this review helpful
9.4 hrs on record
Posted: February 15
kentucky route zero is an absolutely gorgeous game with a compelling story and interesting characters who you can shape in minute ways as the story progresses. i'd go so far as to call it a masterpiece - the storytelling is wonderful and the writing invokes the exact emotions it needs you to, or, occasionally, that you want it to.

i absolutely recommend this game, especially if you like exploring. maybe not if you don't like reading, because there is A LOT of reading. seriously. so much.
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2 of 2 people (100%) found this review helpful
5.5 hrs on record
Posted: April 17
Okay, so after spending a long time putting this off, I finally dove into Kentucky Route Zero... And I couldn't be happier that I did. Ugh this game is just so good! I would even argue that it's perfect. It has everything I love, and if it's not my favorite game of all time it's pretty damn close.

So here's the thing: I absolutely love my pretentious/artsy/hipster games. Vanishing of Ethan Carter? Hell yeah. The Stanley Parable? Obviously. Hotline Miami? Limbo? Grow Home? Papers, Please? Check, check, check, and check. I think you get the picture. I want games that give you this greater sense of depth, this feeling as if there is something big, something important behind what you're experiencing that you just can't quite grasp, and Kentucky Route Zero pulls that off perfectly. Does this game's story make sense? Not really, and yet in a way it still does. As you get further into the game and more deeply immersed into the world, it all starts to feel as if while you don't have all the pieces necessary to solve the puzzle you're still not too far behind, and if you pay close enough attention you'll start to make some really interesting connections and have some really awesome moments of clarity.

On top of that, Kentucky Route Zero has some of the best dialogue I've ever seen in a game. There's no voice acting so you'd better get your reading glasses but believe me, it's worth it. Not only is it insanely well written but what makes the dialogue in the game all the more incredible is how you can interact with it. For instance, you can have sudden perspective changes where suddenly you're participating in a conversation as a different person than you were before. On top of this, you often get dialogue options that essentially give you multiple ways to respond that will actually shape the past. For instance, you have a decision right at the start where a guy asks what your dog's name is. The way you respond actually determines what the dog will be called for the rest of the game, and while that may not seem too significant, I still found it to be super cool. Later on, there are some moments where these decisions do seem to be slightly more significant as well, I'm definitely not gonna spoil those though. All of this excellent writing does wonders to build this incredibly beautiful, strange world of magical realism that I've quickly fallen in love with and found myself wanting more of.

Of course, that brings me to an unfortunate point: This game will be composed of 5 acts, of which only 3 are currently out. I've looked at the history of their releases and it took about a year for Act 3 to come out and it's been almost a year since then with no Act 4 in sight. However, the amount of love and work that went into Act 3 was so evident that I have nothing but the highest hopes for Act 4, there's no doubt in my mind that it will be absolutely mind blowing. In the meantime, I'm probably gonna have to replay the first three acts once or twice because I just can't wait to dive back into this world and see what else I can find.

Happy trucking on the Zero.
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2 of 2 people (100%) found this review helpful
5.3 hrs on record
Posted: January 12
This is not a fast paced game. Nor is it one brain teaser after another. Its more like a pleasant dream. You know the dreams you wish you didnt wake up from?
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2 of 2 people (100%) found this review helpful
6.9 hrs on record
Posted: May 11
The description for Kentucky Route Zero says that it takes "roughly the length of a summer night" to finish the game. Having had overwhelmingly positive experiences playing other games (Bastion, Minecraft) during summer nights next to an open window, I decided to do the same with this one. At around 12pm, I started the game.

After 3 Acts and 4 hours of absolute bliss, I looked up from my screen and saw the light of dawn creeping into my room. Feeling a bit lightheaded, both from sleep deprivation and the emotional overkill I had been feeling, I decided to put on some pants and climb the hill behind my house to watch the sunrise, which felt like a wonderful conclusion to the events in the game and was generally a great start into the following day.

Pros:

- Great Atmosphere, Storytelling, Plot, Soundtrack and Art Style
- Wonderful blending of Point-and-Click and Text Adventure mechanics, leaving a lot of the game to the player's own imagination
- This game not only has character development, this game IS character development, both on and off screen

Cons:

- only 3 acts available so far
- staying up all night left me slightly tired the next day

Definetely get this game!
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