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 (735 reviews)
Release Date: Feb 22, 2013

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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 over 2014. 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

PC
Mac
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
98 of 104 people (94%) found this review helpful
23.3 hrs on record
For those who have not previously come upon it, Kentucky Route Zero is a five part point and click/text adventure hybrid described by its creators as a "magical realist adventure game about a secret highway in the caves beneath Kentucky, and the mysterious folks who travel it."

I often find Kentucky Route Zero a difficult game to describe. The narrative follows the final delivery of a driver whose company is undergoing financial difficulty, as he seeks out 5 Doogwood Drive, an address that isn't on Conway's maps. Stopping for directions, Conway is told that it can be found on the other side of the Zero, a mysterious underground highway that the game derives its name from. As a vague plot synopsis, that probably isn't immediately appealing, and yet Kentucky Route Zero manages to be one of the most engaging and interesting gaming experiences I've ever had.

Gameplay is a juxtaposed combination of traditional style point and click adventure mechanics in 3D scenes for key areas, and evocative text only sequences, punctuated by an exploration oriented "driving" interface represented as a stylised overhead map.

The choices the game presents you with rarely offer alternate outcomes. In contrast to more traditional point and click adventures, where progressing is a matter of chosing the correct dialogue options or performing the correct tasks, KR0 opts for a far more subtle and resonating style in which your choices define the tone of the game and the attitudes of its characters in response to the situations and predicaments they encounter. In some ways, it feels as though the player's actions control a shifting lens through which subsequent revelations are seen - an understated, yet powerful mechanic that somehow makes the player's actions feel more real and meaningful than one would usually find.

The characters in and around the Zero feel deep and rich. Even characters whose appearances seem bit parts carry a sense of life and believability. As the game progresses, Conway attracts a party of companions who join his search for 5 Dogwood Drive, each with their own outlooks and energies, motivations and troubles. Each new character shifts the dynamics of character exposition, bringing new aspects of familiar faces into relief with the flashlight of their own perspectives.

Visually, Kentucky Route Zero offers a deceptively simple style, and at first glance could be mistaken for 2D vector work. Instead, KR0's point and click scenes are entirely 3D, combining some great set design, fantastic lighting and some nice camera work with dynamic effects that work to enhance and support the game's aesthetics rather than define them (in particular, there's a super neat bit with some trees towards the end of Act II that creates an opportunity for two pairs of characters' contrasting experiences and enthusiasm to be presented at once in a way that is both interesting and in some ways moving).

From a sound design perspective, the game is equally striking, with the already atmospheric visual and narrative tone boosted further by the kind of immersive soundscapes that tend to not be directly noticed until highlighted, but as soon as you're aware, you can't help but admire them.

Kentucky Route Zero is a masterful work of interactive storytelling that is executed astoundingly well. For those who already know this, here are a couple of articles and interviews which are worth checking out if you haven't come across them already.

If you're undecided or would like to see more examples of this team's narrative work, Cardboard Computer have so far released two free standalone interludes, Limits and Demonstrations, and The Entertainment, which take place between Acts I and II, and Acts II and III respectively.
Posted: May 20
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44 of 46 people (96%) found this review helpful
3.9 hrs on record
I've finished the 1st Act and I have to say I'm impressed.
About 10 years ago, I went to a university course on "Hyperliterature and new forms of narration". It was very enlightening, we studied some of the new waves of storytelling, watched some David Lynch movies, played some live rpg games (based on Kult, best rpg ever) and so on... best course I ever attended, shame it was so short. I remember writing an essay about videogames, mostly focused on my experiences with graphic adventures and a game I couldn't stop playing by then called Half Life 2.
I just wish I could go back again today, after playing Kentucky Route Zero. It feels like the kind of game I was wishing for in those days.

KR0 is a captivating exercise of storytelling, sucks you in from the beginning and minimizes the interface to focus on the audiovisual experience. Same goes for all the technical aspects of the game. Graphics, music and gameplay are well polished and just let you enjoy the story without getting in the way. They all do their part, and do it very good.

The enviroment is dreamlike, inmersive, deceptively lifeless. So many details appearing out of the corner of the player's eye, so many left to the player's imagination.
This is not a usual adventure, but more an interactive story. The narration comes mostly from what you see and what you hear, saving you from reading huge walls of text. Actually, the text is just another element, and it doesn't give any important information most of the time. It does add up to the overall experience and it's a pleasure to read.
Something that caught my attention is that you never seem to be in control, just like in a dream. Your mind will struggle to follow a logic path to the story, but the game will break your will and ultimately take you for a ride. Just sit back, get comfy and enjoy it.

I can't wait to go back and continue with the game, just wanted to recommend it to everyone looking for a good, innovative experience in the already bursting indie scene. Games like this make me feel proud to be a gamer and, having passed my 30, look to my friends who jumped off the videogame train because it wasn't mature enough for society standards and think "You don't know what you're missing".

PS. Big points for the references to Gabriel García Márquez, recently passed away colombian writer, creator of the magic realist that influences this game heavily. I bet he would be proud and happy to play this game.
Posted: June 24
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54 of 63 people (86%) found this review helpful
8.8 hrs on record
After playing the first episode a couple weeks ago I can easily say I am more drawn to the characters, more engaged in the setting, and more immersed in the atmosphere of this masterpiece than I was with The Walking Dead and almost as much as I was with adventure game classics such as Grim Fandango or Full Throttle.

If you enjoy the adventure gaming medium in any way, shape, or form; do yourself a huge favor and play this!
Posted: May 6
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30 of 43 people (70%) found this review helpful
84.8 hrs on record
This isn't a game its a work of art.
Posted: June 5
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14 of 19 people (74%) found this review helpful
9.3 hrs on record
This game is really a master piece of art. The more and more you get forward into this game..the more and more space and time disappears. Very bizarre atmosphere. A must have for fans of adventures and painting art :)
Posted: May 6
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142 of 161 people (88%) found this review helpful
2.1 hrs on record
Y'know, when all was said and done, Kentucky Route Zero managed to be my game of the year. I couldn't tell you exactly why. The game's trippy, mysterious. Gorgeous. I could stare at this game for hours, but, of course, the mystery drives me on--because this is a real mystery, not some generic 'who murdered whom?' It's far more than that. I want to know who Julian is, what significance the mine has, how the barn ended up in a museum, and why the museum's occupants... why does the museum have occupants? Kentucky Route Zero is a mystery, a real mystery. I want to know more--I must know more!

And yet... the more I know, the less I understand. This is less of a traditional point and click adventure game, and more of... well, some sort of adventure. There's one point in Chapter 2 where my mouth dropped open, though I was looking at nothing more than inky blackness and a 2D map sketched in white lines.

This game looks good, but it sounds even better. The experience is practically made by sound. Oh, sure, the strange figures that appear if you shut off the lights in the mine are frightening, but something about it is way more compelling when you've got those headphones plugged in. Immersing yourself in this game's aural landscape is like taking a bath. Soothing. Gentle. Calm.

And yet... something there is unsettling, always unsettling. This is a room with a Bureau in an old cathedral, an abandoned storage facility that used to be a church, a floor occupied entirely by bears. This is a game that unnerved me with a simple phrase and a sound effect. This game... this game... it's something you, and everyone you know, ought to try.

As games I tried in 2013 go, Kentucky Route Zero was moving, mysterious, engrossing, and over all too quickly. For now. The first two chapters have released, and the game will be updated with three more in the future. I can't wait.

I loved every second of it, and I'm sure you will too.
Posted: January 5
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