Review

Kentucky Route Zero - Act III Review

  • Game release: May 6, 2014
  • Reviewed:
  • PC

Looking for something.

We all have quests. It's why the story of the hero's journey, in all its many forms, has resonated with humanity for as long as people have been sitting around campfires and telling stories. Nobody gets it easy in this life. We all face obstacles and setbacks. We all, at one time or another, go looking for something, whether it's a place to call home, a fulfilling career, or a love to call our own. The antiques delivery driver Conway is looking for an address on Dogwood Drive, and the only way he can get there is by finding the elusive highway known as the Zero. Conway is the unconventional hero figure at the center of the very unconventional quest that is Kentucky Route Zero, and in its third act, this journey into parts unknown becomes an utterly captivating work of uncompromised artistic vision.

Act III of Kentucky Route Zero begins with a flashback, a conversation between Conway and Lysette, the woman he delivers antiques for. Their conversation recalls an old tragedy that clearly haunts Conway, and establishes memory and loss as themes that run throughout the act; characters frequently talk about the ways in which they've been shaped by moments in the past, and those moments sometimes intrude on the present. Conway's quest isn't realistic, but the hearts and minds of the characters, people who are as damaged and hopeful and dedicated as any of us, give you something to stay latched on to even when Kentucky Route Zero's narrative leaves logic behind and detours into the realm of dreams.

And even at its most dreamlike, Kentucky Route Zero remains deeply concerned with very real, concrete matters. Characters are crushed by debt. They are forced into difficult situations by massive corporations that don't care at all about the struggles of individuals, only about their own profits. Kentucky Route Zero is a lyrical game that is very much about life in America today. Modern America can be a disorienting place in which the way forward isn't always clear for ordinary people, and in Kentucky Route Zero, as you search for the titular highway Conway needs to find in order to make what will be the last delivery in the history of Lysette's Antiques (the end of another small business in America), you're told to scan radio stations until you find something familiar yet strange, and then drive until the station cuts out. Life in contemporary America feels familiar yet strange to a lot of people, and the America of Kentucky Route Zero will feel familiar yet strange to anyone who has spent time on its highways, passing through its small towns.

Kentucky Route Zero has always challenged traditional notions of player control and choice. You don't play as any one character--you might be choosing dialogue options for Conway one moment, and then choosing the tone an unheard voice on the telephone is using the next. Your role is not that of a traditional player in a traditional adventure game; it's something closer to that of a collaborator. This approach is manifested most powerfully in one unforgettable scene at a small-town bar. In Act III, Conway and company meet up with a pair of young musicians, Junebug and Johnny, who drag them to a gig at a bar called The Lower Depths. When Junebug and Johnny take the stage, something incredible happens. The roof flies away to reveal the moon and stars, and your choices influence the words of the hauntingly beautiful song that Junebug sings. It's a transcendent moment in which the beauty that always quivers under the surface of Kentucky Route Zero bursts forth, transporting the characters, and you, to someplace truly magical.

When you see the horses, you know you're on the right track.

Conway's journey is always taking you to new and unexpected places--recall Act II's forest where time and space functioned in unusual ways and a bluegrass band provided soulful accompaniment to your explorations. Places like this give the entire journey a feeling of true discovery, and in Act III, Kentucky Route Zero ventures so boldly beyond our expectations that it achieves a special kind of greatness. There are worlds within worlds in Kentucky Route Zero--literal worlds under the surface, virtual worlds in dusty old computers, and worlds of memory locked away in the troubled hearts of its characters. Toward the end of Act III, you explore the virtual realm that exists in the consciousness of a moldy old machine called Xanadu--you're exploring a world in a computer while exploring a world in a computer, and just as the world of Xanadu has connections to the reality of Conway and his companions, Kentucky Route Zero has very real things to say about our world and our lives.

The game's meanings aren't simple, its logic not straightforward. It is, in its own way, as dreamlike as a typical Haruki Murakami novel, and every bit as captivating. Like Murakami's work, it can take on a life of its own in your own mind because it operates according to rules that belong more to the subconscious than to the conscious, effortlessly blending the concrete and the magical. Kentucky Route Zero is not, in any sense, a typical adventure game. It's an incredible one.

The Good
Haunting, dreamlike narrative that's as concerned with the human heart as it is concrete issues plaguing modern America
Filled with moments of mystery, discovery, and transcendent beauty
The Bad
9
Superb
About GameSpot's Reviews

About the Author

/ Staff

There's something about Kentucky Route Zero, something haunting and sad, that reminds Carolyn of all those hours she spent watching America roll by out the window on family road trips as a child.

Discussion

94 comments
runs_away-o_o
runs_away-o_o

Literally, and I mean literally the first time I ever connected to the internet it started me off on Yahoo. My step-brother showed me gamespot. It is literally the first website I ever went to (not counting that the default homepage was yahoo). 


I was...8...9 maybe, but in any event I have never stopped coming back to gamespot because they USED to be spot on. In previous years if Gamespot gave a game an 8.5 it was worthy of my high standards and felt like an 8.5 out of 10 game. I don't own a single game that I didn't review on Gamespot first. They are also all very epic games. 


HOWEVER, lately Gamespot feels like a total sell out website...I appreciated seeing that they would review a game and the users all agreed on a number close to the editor. Now some kind of poetic league of terrible new hires just hands a 7 or 8 to everything, then even on the 8's and 9's they come back with a re-review that gives the game a 5...so this has a 9 now and then watch a re-review appear giving it a 3. 


They have resorted to giving everything a 7 or 8 because the old school editor's moved on or moved up or something, and this is the the most convenient way to interact with their business associates...this site is useless now.


Metal Gear Solid 4 earned the 10 it deserved and...this...this 16 bit stick figure point and click flash-looking game got a 9.0? So just one more point and it would have been equal to Metal Gear 4? 


Yeah I know haunting and singing, artistic...it's very poetic to a journalist...I am a gifted writer as well but ffs...this looks like a flash game you play free because you don't have a console and you're working with windows 98...


I have grown sick of the editor's and reviewer's trying to be so poetic in their reviews, and the "everyone is kind of a winner" scores. It's been happening with most all the new reviews here and I don't trust the site all that much anymore. What to do when gamespot gives this "awesome game" a 9 and all the users' give it a 4? This is like...the straw that broke the camel's back for me...get your act back together gamspot...


Sincerely, a 10 year fan

emadwolf10
emadwolf10

i know games has not reached Movie impact but they will eventually surpass it and KRZ is a proof(Gone home, Stanley parable, Paper please) believe me Gamers! thank God we have a game like this

jamesmayfanboy
jamesmayfanboy

Just watched the video. I think if you really consider this a 9 then either you picked some extremely boring and uninteresting moments for the video or the game just sucks and you can't review games very well. I have to go with the later as this game looks like one of the most boring things I've ever seen.

And what's with the tortured view that the writer has of America? Not everyone is as depressive and lonely as you are, reviewer. 

duylinhs
duylinhs

I have nothing against Carolyn, indie game nor Kentucky Route Zero but I think the review is flawed.

I tried it, it is good. Atmospheric, beautiful visual, solid story telling.It is well deserved the praise by Petit. My problem is "9". 

A score is a number, but it also reflect the reviewer's view: 9 = a special gem, a bright star in the sky, aligned with all of the greatest game ever created. I concur. Visual and story telling is magical, but game has many aspects and some were overlooked. A 9 has to break some ground, especially game play(it is a game). KRZ's narrating is amazing, but not ground breaking. It may make you sit down and think about it but if you ask me if that is enough for me to play it again? No. It is not enough for me to dive into the game again. Review is personal opinion, but if Petit's personal yearn for good narrative (as with the case with Gone Home) overlooked the fun aspect of gaming, harsh comments will always make sense. Games can be not fun, but 9 pointers should be great fun, visually impressive and has great story telling or really really special, a cut above the rest. Gone Home has been the first to differ from the rest, I can agree, but not KRZ, KRZ deserves a 8.5, but 9? Not yet.
TL;DR :  Amazing movie

Def-Trex
Def-Trex

Kentucky Route Zero is amazing.The atmosphere is unlike any other game I have played.

WraistlinGill
WraistlinGill

Carolyn Petit, thank you for reviewing a seeming gem of a game.  It's not often such a remarkable looking title comes through that nearly anyone with a PC can meet the system requirements to play.  I hope to pick this up soon.


Squirrelatwar
Squirrelatwar

After your reviews I decided to buy it, and WOW. This game is absolutely stunning. Thanks for getting me into it!

wyshouldi02
wyshouldi02

Great review, Carolyn! You may have convinced me to pick this up!

SkyAboveThePort
SkyAboveThePort

I was just wondering, is this not a continuation of the previous acts, i.e. is the whole Kentucky game not one single setup / story? Why is this act reviewed seperately, and maybe more importantly, why is the score different from the other acts? Of course, obviously if it were a true expansion like let's say "G-A-Y---T-O-N-Y" (sorry for spelling, but otherwise my comment would stay pending like, forever) for GTA IV, with all new characters, etc. an individual score makes a lot of sense. But with this, I'm under the impression we should wait until all acts are complete and then review the final product with one single grand score. No?

jimmy_russell
jimmy_russell

These are the worst interactive stories I've seen since Gone Home.

timoteo2k1
timoteo2k1

to sum up, it gets a "9" because it agrees with the reviewer's completely fictitious and anti American view of the USA, because it's "pretty" and it has a female character that keeps her clothes on.....


getting really tired of Petite building her reviews around her radical politics, Gamespot, this is bad for your business.


This is only nominally a "game", more a wordy and pretentious video "choose your own adventure" book with a completely unbelievable story meant to push the devs grudge.


This "game" is a 5, maybe.


couly
couly

Oh sweet jesus another crazy review from the Eurovision winner.

swedensior
swedensior

Is this game/story only being released once a year I can't wait that long for act V.......

Gixzr
Gixzr

looks like a-lot of reading....?

apolloooo
apolloooo

never heard of this game, what's this plays like? point & click adventure? the user score is like 5.7 and this got 9, that sounds fishy.

Scarshi
Scarshi

Lost myself watching that video for a bit there.

I'm going to have to check this game series out.

focuspuller
focuspuller

Kentucky Route Zero is many things.


Before anything else it is a work of art, however good or bad is for you to judge for yourself.


Secondly it is a story and an experience. The fact that you are nudging a character forward with interaction (however small or large)  makes it a game. But placing any expectations on it strictly as a game runs you the risk of missing the intent of the two man creative team (three including the man who does the soundtrack).


And btw that's two people working on this with a very small budget, hence part of the reason for the long development time.


When I go to a museum and look at a painting, I don't give it a number score or note how long it took me to "experience" it. I suggest that you enter Kentucky Route Zero with the same thinking. That thinking should also apply to your choice of playing the chapters now or at a later time. Each act stands as it's own small experience in a greater world rather than chapters of an incomplete book.


If all this appeals to you then enter Kentucky Route Zero at once. If it doesn't then you shouldn't.

OneStrong2
OneStrong2

What did this get 9 for? Not being misogynist?

wildekid
wildekid

Will this game ever be coming to the consoles?  The vibe I get from the story and graphical presentation so far makes me think a PS4 port perhaps might be in the cards?  As far as indie titles go, this would be a huge feather in their cap to offer through PSN.

faizanhd
faizanhd

Getting better with each episode. But taking too much time for each one.

Runnin_Mike
Runnin_Mike

@runs_away-o_o Well we all have the rights to our opinions, but yours is a stupid one. Not only is this game not 16 bit (Not even a 16bit art style you idiot), but this game is not really a point and click adventure, it's more of an artistic narrative ride. You clearly haven't played the game therefore your opinion is invalid anyways.

chikken21
chikken21

@runs_away-o_o It sounds like... you have judged this game purely off of your distaste for low-fi graphics? Did you consider that maybe some people just like different games than you and that a different scale is required? I for one have no interest whatsoever in Metal Gear Solid, but have been following Kentucky Route Zero because of its unique setting and story-centric gameplay. I'm sure Metal Gear deserved its 10, but I will probably never get it. Kentucky Route Zero is more my type of game and this review has convinced me to finally purchase it.


Also, not sure how they are a 'sell out' website because they gave an indie game a high score. If anything, them giving MGS4 (a big-budget mainstream game) a high score would indicate that. Not saying I think that, but just a comment.


I have not seriously researched how many Gamespot reviews have been less than a 7 in the last few years. This is more a defense of the game and the reviewers, both of whom I think are thoughtful and great.

emadwolf10
emadwolf10

@jamesmayfanboy hehe calm down this is just the view of main character on this world of ZRZ. you should watch Fargo movie or its series thats where you see tortured  American based on true events.

emadwolf10
emadwolf10

@duylinhs dude i can tell you your mind cant take it simple as that and 8.5 or 9 is what you have created in your mind this game is what it is. gamespot giving it 9 is a very beautiful score for this Amazing beyond your typical game understanding, look at other games that gamespot has givin 9 see everything is fine in Gamespot view. and i know games has not reached Movie impact but they will eventually surpass it and KRZ is a proof(Gone home, Stanley parable, Paper please) believe me Gamer!.

Sound_Demon
Sound_Demon

@Gixzr  If you are looking for a Book I highly recommend this "game", but if you are looking for an actual game (like... one you actually play and have fun) press the back button and keep searching

fgjnfgh
fgjnfgh

@Gixzrin summary, this game is kentucky fried chicken

warriors30
warriors30

@apolloooo  Yes, it's a point and click adventure. This game never tries too hard to impress you (even when it does!) or anything like that, you either roll with it or you don't. You get it, or you don't. The game doesn't really care...and I love that.

I don't know what kind of games you play, but when you need a break from all the hectic, violence and noise (Titanfall comes to mind)...get a coffee/tea/whatever, sit down, and join the ride. There's no guarantee you'll drive the whole way, but it doesn't matter, as long as you get in the car you're cool.

jamesmayfanboy
jamesmayfanboy

@emadwolf10 @jamesmayfanboy Why in the world are you telling me about Fargo or to calm down? I'm perfectly calm and could care less about Fargo. I know you want to make me look stupid but please, respect opinions that differ from your own!

timoteo2k1
timoteo2k1

@phbz @timoteo2k1  I think i'd say the same to you, because you're obviously clueless. There's a forest in those trees.


Either you can't read or lack reading comprehension, because it's all right there in her review. 

ramlongcat
ramlongcat

you can't lack respect and then ask for some. you know nothing about the reviewer and very little about what a 9/10 videogame should look like according to your childish comments.

emadwolf10
emadwolf10

@timoteo2k1 @phbz  dude this is not a mediocre game its a work of art calling it a game is just not right(because of games only fighting killing leveling up rules) its a experience and it depends if its bad or good on your taste that simple you don't have to fool yourself or think they are fool just say you don't understand because everything need understanding 

emadwolf10
emadwolf10

@SkyAboveThePort @Sound_Demon @OneStrong2  clueless or hater user rank go check it on steam or metacritic its above the rest of games from this year top game of the year and its a fact played and ranked not just ranked by reading comments and remembering your favorite game didn't rank that high and ranking it down!

SkyAboveThePort
SkyAboveThePort

@Sound_Demon @phbz  Actually, I wouldn't mind an interactive novel at all. But at an estimated playtime of 1.5-2 hours it's more an interactive short story or narrative and.. not worth the price. Lots of games, especially from indies, apparently produced for an audience with a very limited attention span..

Sound_Demon
Sound_Demon

@phbz  by all means, if you wanted an interactive novel, pick this game up, but I want a game.

SkyAboveThePort
SkyAboveThePort

@phbz  That's true, at first glance I wasn't looking at the number of users, only the rating. With 11 (or 19 on metacritic) ratings only, it's a useless figure..let's wait for this to become a 3 or 4 digit number..

jimmy_russell
jimmy_russell

@phbz Lol your comments are super weak. Do you have downs or what's your excuse?

phbz
phbz

@SkyAboveThePort @Sound_Demon @OneStrong2  The game has such a low score here because people got "offended" with Carol giving such a high score to the game. The fist user reviews were 1. If you check it on metacritic ep III has 91 score. And 81 on user score. 

5.2 represents the mental age of the kind of people who trash talks this game. 


Just take a look at the votes her. 10 user votes, half of them gave it a 1.

emadwolf10
emadwolf10

@SkyAboveThePort @emadwolf10 @Sound_Demon @OneStrong2 yeah thats a sure thing but Steam Users are PC gamers most of them and they know these kinda games better than console players so you'll find a better review to lighten your mind 

and metacritics i mean the critic rank not based on comments or fanboys maybe if you think about it its not that complicated to not understand the situation of whos opinion matters.

Kentucky Route Zero - Act III More Info

First Release on May 06, 2014
  • PC
Kentucky Route Zero is a magical realistic adventure game about a secret highway in the caves beneath Kentucky, and the mysterious folks who travel it.
6.1
Average User RatingOut of 21 User Ratings
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Developed by:
Cardboard Computer
Published by:
Cardboard Computer
Genres:
Adventure