This game marks the intersection between the Adventure Game
and Midwestern ghost stories. This ain't your traditional Jump Scare
-driven, intentionally freaky Ghost Story
, mind—this one's more of a kind to make you sit back, and think about your life
Conway is a humble deliveryman, working for an antique store delivering good-quality old stuff to those who want it. He's driving through the long Kentucky night, with only his old dog for company. He's got a shipment to deliver to someplace called "Dogwood Drive." He doesn't know how to get there, and it's not on any maps.
Shannon is the child of a mining family. She repairs TVs in the back of a bait shop to make ends meet. Her family's been suffering financial troubles since the mine closed down.
Joseph, the man at the gas station, says the way to Dogwood is to take the Zero - the one and only route that goes under Kentucky. Shannon knows the way to the Zero, and she'll lead Conway along.
A mixed bag of Adventure Game
, Interactive Fiction
, and Choose Your Own Adventure
, Kentucky Route Zero
is a production by Cardboard Games. So far, 2 out of a planned 5 chapters have been released.
- Alien Geometries: The Zero is apparently a single endlessly-looping giant cavern. You navigate it by changing directions (clockwise or counterclockwise) at various landmarks.
- The Alcoholic: One possible interpretation for Conway.
- Bluegrass: There's not a lot of music in this game, but when it's not ambient noise, it's bluegrass. Appropriate enough for the Bluegrass State.
- Catch Phrase: An optional one - you can make Conway respond to all questions about his job by saying "It's better than being in a ditch."
- Choose Your Own Adventure: Stopping at some landmarks activates a dialogue-tree-based exploration of some surreal location of the Kentucky overworld or the Zero. These are often ghost-stories in miniature, like finding and searching an abandoned church with a tape-player playing hymns and sermons inside.
- Dead All Along: Shannon's sister, Alice. Maybe.
- Dialogue Tree: Often as not, you don't really have a choice about what controllable characters say, only about how they say it. On the flipside, this means that about half your dialogue options let you determine what kinds of people they are, or even what histories they had. Alternate Character Interpretation abounds.
- Electromagnetic Ghosts: The ghosts of miners in the shaft. Flickering images of them appear through the sparking of the electrical rail, but only if the lights are off.
- Expy: Character driven Adventure Game that seems more non-linear than it really is with player choices moreso defining the character than choosing their actions, set in the South, with beautiful American folk songs, and releasing over the year. Just add zombies and we've found 2013/14's equivalent of The Walking Dead.
- Fore Shadowing: Keep pestering the tabletop gamers in the basement of the Equus, and the GM will mention degenerating into madness and how "this is supposed to be a tragedy."
- Giant Flyer: Chapter 2 features Julian, a bald eagle large enough to carry away houses.
- Interpretative Character: Conway and Shannon in chapter 1, Lula and Ezra in Chapter 2. Some basic details about their lives are given. The rest can be made up by the player through the dialogue trees as you go along.
- I See Dead People: Maybe.
- Magical Realism: Stated as a major influence by the developers. Kentucky stops a bit shy of being an Eldritch Location. There's a lot of strange things around, but the general greyness and the insistent stance that all characters take on acting normally offsets it all.
- Pre Existing Encounters: Traveling over the map uncovers a variety of locations that Conway can stop and visit, ranging from the scene of an accident to various abandoned buildings. A lot of these can have little Ghost Story-esque aspects to them while having nothing to do with the plot.
- Real Place Background: The overworld map is an actual map of Kentucky's major roads.
- Sahnnon's last is a reference to Gabriel García Márquez.
- Some of the exhibits at the museum are references to other adventure games/creators, ones the devs considered touchstones in the genre:
- Unfazed Everyman: Conway, for all his myriad possible interpretations, will not be affected overmuch by the strange things that happen in the game. Ditto for Shannon, although in her case it's harder to justify her actions by ignorance. Such is the backbone of Magical Realism.