Kentucky Route Less Than Zero: Limits & Demonstrations

By Nathan Grayson on February 12th, 2013 at 8:00 am.

Have you been on the fence about Cardboard Computer’s magnificent Kentucky Route Zero? Well, get down from there, you. It’s dangerous, and honestly, you just look silly. I wasn’t going to say anything, but everyone’s talking about it. OK, OK, since you’re apparently either very stubborn or a cat, let’s try enticing you down. How about a demo? It’s not just any regular old nipped and tucked snippet, either. As co-creator Jake Elliott put it, Limits and Demonstrations is “unique and doesn’t overlap with Act I, and it starts sketching out some backstory for a few already-introduced characters.” It’s also free! Freer than coffee. Freer than moody bluegrass tunes. Freer than freedom.

In short, Limits and Demonstrations plops you in the middle of an avant garde art installation and proceeds to do a bang-up job of distilling Kentucky Route Zero down to its very essence. This means you get dialogue that’s slathered in soul like down-home mashed potatoes in an ocean of gravy. Be warned, though: as with KRZ, it’s also quite confusing and open to interpretation.

Even in this tiny 15-minute-or-so slice, there’s a whole, whole, whole lot to digest. And in part, that’s what makes the languidly insane universe Cardboard Computer’s constructed so great: mind-bogglingly multi-layered depth. Wispy ghosts of meaning whispering just beneath the surface. More than anything, that’s what I think Limits and Demonstrations captures best. There’s more happening here in each individual word than there is in most major FPS plots. Which, admittedly, doesn’t sound like a lot, but KRZ/L&D’s execution is quite a feat. It’s oddly mesmerizing in spite of its highly deliberate pace.

So yes, it’s an interesting standalone, and I think it works well whether you’ve played KRZ or not. Sure, if judged strictly as a demo, I could probably fault L&D for straying a bit from the general vibe of KRZ’s setting and keeping plot connections to a vague minimum, but eh. Cardboard Computer’s quite plainly demonstrated that it has no interest in sticking to any kind of straight-and-narrow. So, as with KRZ, just experience its bite-sized offspring as is. Take it on its own terms. Enjoy the ride.

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9 Comments »

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  1. jorygriffis says:

    I still haven’t played KRZ but Christ, I’d better. What a fascinating and beautiful bit of game this is.

  2. F3ck says:

    I hate to admit it, but my taste in games (that I really dig) is not what you’d call eclectic; high-caliber weaponry and a sandbox is often enough to woo me.

    So it’s lurking ’round these parts that has encouraged me to expand my catalog to include titles I’d otherwise likely dismiss, or overlook entirely.

    KRZ is one of them that I’m particularly fond of, if only because it is unlike anything I’ve “played” before…

    …it’s a beautifully somber, atmospheric little piece of awesome.

    (…also XCOM…if it weren’t for the words of enthusiasm I read here I’d surely not be playing (and enjoying) that one)

  3. MeestaNob says:

    It sounds intriguing, but I’ll be waiting until the series is finished, that or they release a bundle Telltale-style that updates with the next episode as they come out.

    • pertusaria says:

      They have such a bundle – it’s on the website for 25 dollars, a ten-dollar saving over spending 7 dollars five times for all the episodes (assuming you buy the full game). You also get nice little email newsletters with the bundled version, apparently.

      Also, they’ve arrived on the Humble store, in case anyone was waiting for them to use something other than Stripe – PayPal got scared once they started making a lot of transactions, as often happens.

    • Carbonated Dan says:

      already exists, see their website

  4. derella says:

    I really enjoyed Episode 1 of KRZ — it’s just a really unique experience. I usually end up regretting spending money on “unique experience” games… I am not nearly sophisticated enough to appreciate them, apparently. But that isn’t the case with KRZ… It sucked me into it’s wonderful little world, and I can’t wait for the next episode.

    I’ll definitely be loading this up after work :)

  5. H-Hour says:

    I think some of the excitement for KRZ is a little over-the-top. I’m glad it exists and has the kind of narrative subtlety and maturity I’d like to see in more games. But I have to admit that when the first episode ended I felt a little ripped off, even though I’d only paid $7.

    Nathan’s right that there is more depth in a tiny slice of KRZ than there is in most other games, but that doesn’t mean there’s actually a lot going on. Sure, it’s got what suggests itself to be a rich political history simmering beneath its surface. It’s got a wonderful pace and an atmosphere perfectly matched to it, but I haven’t thought about it since I finished it. I didn’t find it compelling and were it a book, movie, tv show I probably wouldn’t continue.

    Maybe I’m just not a fan of adventure games, or maybe the setting just didn’t capture me, but I think the idea that this is some kind of artistic masterpiece is more a reaction to the absence of quality in games than a realistic appraisal of what we’ve seen so far.

  6. CaspianRoach says:

    On the fence? Yes I am. I will buy it the second it gets on Steam, though.