Kathy Rain [official site], one of the smartest-looking AGS adventures that doesn’t have the words “Wadjet Eye” on the digital box, is due out in but a couple of weeks – 5th May. And having played a bunch of scenes in a preview build, I’ve decided to twist dials and flick switches until my brain is set to: Very Interested. You might want to too.
Kathy Rain is, and I’ll not spoil anything for you since I have deliberately not found out for myself, a game about a young woman (you’ll never guess her name) in 1995 who returns to her home town for her estranged grandfather’s funeral. Her grandmother is still around, and on meeting up Kathy learns that something peculiar happened to granddad a few years back – after a strange accident he was left in a permanent vegetative state, but with seemingly no damage to his brain – and no one ever got to the bottom of it. As a journalism student, she figures it’s on her to try.
Actually, Joel Staaf Hästö’s game does sort of have Wadjet Eye on the box now, as Dave Gilbert has been responsible for the direction of the voice recording – and you can tell. A very beautiful looking game, with art from some AGS veterans Nauris Krauze and Shane Stevens, also has some absolutely excellent voice acting. So excellent that I kept being surprised by it, forgetting that game acting doesn’t always have to be shouting or squeaky cartoon voices. Despite being in the ever-more-aged AGS engine, and desperately missing a fullscreen mode, it presents itself wonderfully.
The writing in these first few scenes shows off a dab hand, and immediately drew me into what feels like a pleasingly parochial tale, whose mysteries really could go in any direction, from the perfectly ordinary to science fiction, and I realise I’m okay with whichever. Occasionally it lets itself down a bit with some purple prose or hackneyed lines no one would ever say out loud. A vicar at the funeral immediately tells Kathy she needs to turn from her sinful ways, and even calls her “my child”. Kathy, a young woman chatting informally with her grandma asks, “What did Sheriff Truman have to say about the matter?” These are lines that would perhaps usually go by unnoticed, but when performed so well they sound rather silly. But that’s my only niggle with what looks like it could be a real adventure highlight this year.