Kentucky Route Zero: The KotakuReview

After seven years, the haunting episodic adventure game Kentucky Route Zero is finally complete. The game’s first chapter came out on PC in 2013. Tomorrow’s Act V marks the end of the story. A new “TV Edition” for consoles collects all five acts—the main story pieces of the game—and four interludes—side content that ties back into the story. I’m mainly a PC gamer, so the thought that there is no longer more Kentucky Route Zero to expect is strange. But if you primarily play on consoles, it’s possible you’ve never played, or even heard of, Kentucky Route Zero before. You’re in for something special. It’s a game that reminds you that you can only do so much, but there will always be things—maybe too many, maybe not enough—left to do.

It’s hard to sum up what Kentucky Route Zero is. It’s a game with a misleadingly simple premise: you need to help a guy deliver some antiques. It has a similarly misleadingly simple aesthetic: the art is all blocky shapes and solid colors. Gameplay is simple, too. You mostly pick between text-based dialogue options. Sometimes, you drive a truck. Once, you drive a boat. The game, however, is anything but simple. It’s rich, deep and provocative. It’s crammed with places, characters, ideas, references, and themes, all of which feel like they’re trying to say something about everything.

I made a valiant effort to get that guy to make his delivery, at least in the very beginning. But then I forgot all about where we were trying to go and got swept up in all the other things the game is about: big business, and trash, and ghosts, and regret, and longing for lives you used to live or never got the chance to, and all the ways you can spend your time and also all the ways you can’t. Kentucky Route Zero is sad, but also hopeful—not the hope that things are going to be better, but the fact that things keep happening, so at least there’s always someone to meet or something to see, something to remember or something to let go.

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