Have You Played… Kentucky Route Zero?

Have You Played? is an endless stream of game retrospectives. One a day, every day of the year, perhaps for all time.

I don’t want to say too much – the power of offbeat road trip adventure Kentucky Route Zero is in discovering its twisting tale and flabbergasting sights for yourself. Instead, I wish to make a plea.

KRZ is episodic, and at the time of writing ‘only’ four of its five Acts have been released, trickled out over a period of three years. Because of this, I have seen a number of people observe that they refuse to play the game until it is complete.

I do understand. We’ve been burned by episodic games that are not finished, and we’ve all known the frustration of cliffhangers that take years to be resolved. There is satisfaction in playing something from start to finish, rather than returning infrequently, confused or even less invested.

But KRZ is not like that. It has a story – indeed, it is a story – but not the kind of story that necessitates conclusion, or even answers. If anything, it’s too dense and overpowering to even be suited to playing in bulk. It works when it is a few hours every few months – letting those hours soak in, unwind in the brain, let their implications and their glorious environments really sink into memory. I remember so many scenes from KRZ because I have played it that way, whereas they would have fluttered away like leaves on the wind if I’d played even all we have to date in one surge.

Please. don’t avoid playing it because it isn’t ‘finished.’ Please, play it anyway, play it now. It is structured this way for a reason, and the structure suits it. I am not sat here awaiting Act VI because I thirst for resolution, but simply because I desire more Kentucky Route Zero. There will be such sadness once no more of it can be anticipated.

37 Comments

  1. Premium User Badge

    subdog says:

    I highly recommend also playing the interludes. The Entertainment in particular left a huge impression on me.

    • b00p says:

      same here. the entertainment is wonderful.

      ben babbit’s soundtrack is also super. link to benbabbitt.bandcamp.com

      there’s really nothing out there quite like KR0.

    • Canadave says:

      I’m honestly looking forwards to the next Interlude as much as I am the next Act. Both The Entertainment and Here and There Along the Echo did such interesting and different things within KRZ’s world. Preludes and Demonstrations was neat too, but didn’t really break the main game’s mold at all.

    • Kushiel says:

      Are the interludes contained in the game itself, or do they need to be sought out elsewhere?

  2. Hmm-Hmm. says:

    No, and I forgot all about it. It’s because I only go for episodic titles when I can get them all at once.

    Chalk that up as a big minus for an episodic release because I was actually quite interested in it.. back in 2013. Maybe I’ll pick it up once it’s got all of its content.

    • Premium User Badge

      subdog says:

      Ah man, don’t do that.

      • cannedpeaches says:

        Yeah. Dude. Don’t do that. That’s the entire point of this post.

        And he’s really correct. Lots of episodic stuff is like a thriller – I’d never tell you to play or not play something like The Wolf Among Us if your tastes didn’t suit. But KRZ actually benefits from slow, absorptive play. You won’t mind, I promise.

        • N'Al says:

          To be fair, though, it’s not like ‘slow, absorptive play’ is impossible once all episodes have been released. Just requires a bit of… self-restraint, shall we say.

        • TraquilloGato says:

          Fourthed. I bought the first episode of KR0 a few years ago, played its weird wonderousness for a couple of hours then let it fade into the back of my mind. Around the time the second episode came out Cardboard Computer graciously gave people that purchased just one episode the rights to all future episodes. Since I had forgotten some of the first episode’s details, I played it again before moving on to Act II. New things popped out at me, new sights, subtext to previous scenes became apparent. Since then I have replayed each Act leading up to the new release and every time I’ve been able to savor something new.

          It sounds silly to say that the game is enhanced by long delays or repeating sections, but in the case of KR0 that sort of dreamy half-remembered quality (did it happen like this before?) really enhances the whole thing. Even if you picked it up today I would be a little sad for you that you didn’t get to experience the drawn out wait in between Acts with the rest of us.

  3. Ivan says:

    From the coverage of KRZ here and elsewhere, I figured it would be up my alley, but never got around to purchasing it until a buddy gave it to me as a gift.

    I just can’t connect with it, which is a shame for an experience that, I understand, is mostly just supposed to be about connection. Should I just chalk it up to it not speaking to me and move on, or is there some kind of a-ha moment on the horizon that I push forward into? [I’ve probably spent like 2 hours with it so far.]

    • Zekiel says:

      Sadly I don’t think there is an a-ha moment coming. Have you finished Act 1? Though I adore the game I can fully understand it not clicking. I found I had to be in the right mood for it because it – because while it is quite short (each Act’s a couple of hours I think) it’s also quite slow. You kind of have to be happy with soaking up the atmosphere and appreciating the writing to really enjoy it I think.

    • Flopdong says:

      I feel the same way. I picked it up because so many of my friends were recommending it, but ive tried to play it three times and always get bored and quit about an hour in. Something about this game just completely fails to grab me

    • Premium User Badge

      DelrueOfDetroit says:

      Ditto. Played part 1 and it didn’t really click with me for whatever reason. Might have been expecting too much as a result of all the praise I’ve seen it receive.

    • dorobo says:

      I feel this game should be something found in a forgotten dusty attic. Something you could stumble upon randomly and just start playing out of curiosity.

    • carewolf says:

      Don’t worry, it is a shitty piece of pretencious crap with the plot coherency of Lost on meth. It has nice atmosphere but has shitty pacing… And no gameplay to go with the no story.

  4. Premium User Badge

    Dios says:

    Bit late for this plea, isn’t it? With 4/5s of the game out, i might as well wait for the rest.

    • Zekiel says:

      Well yeah, or you could buy it now, play part 1 immediately, part 2 in a few months etc etc. By the time you’ve finished part 4 you’ll probably only have another year or 2 to wait for part 5 :-)

  5. Zekiel says:

    I second this. I play parts 1-3 gradually about a year ago and they still linger with me. And I haven’t played Act 4 yet but I am savouring the anticipation.

    It is a really odd game – not like anything else I’ve played in its presentation. It’s slow and there arguably isn’t much “game” in it. But it is beautiful, surprising and achingly moving in places. It genuinely is one of the most memorable games I’ve played.

  6. Premium User Badge

    Ninja Dodo says:

    This basically describes me exactly. I have it on Steam but have held off playing. Don’t know that I’ll get around to it before the series is finished but you’ve convinced me to take my time when I do.

    • Premium User Badge

      particlese says:

      I second this comment in full regarding my own situation.

  7. cannedpeaches says:

    Yes. Please yes. Go play it. It’s the most beautiful and poetic game ever and is full of little delicious moments you just want to hang out in and like lots of good art it’ll change your life a little bit.

  8. deanimate says:

    Small typo at the end. Act VI should be Act V.

    I’ve still only played Act I because it was so awesome I wanted to wait for the other acts but it’s been years since playing Act I and I should probably be experiencing the game every 6 months or so and letting it’s magical ways sink in.

  9. caff says:

    It’s a wonderful game. I have distant, almost hallucinogenic, memories of playing act II. Really looking forward to seeing act V arrive so I can play all parts from the start.

  10. Luperts says:

    Yes I have, and I love this game.

    It’s a strange game, more like an experience really. Saying it changes your life or anything is too much, and it will definitely not suit everyone. But there’s honestly nothing like it in gaming. I can only compare the experience with other pleasant but strange and hazy memories. Like the first time reading Hemingway and realizing there were more to books than shitty fantasy, or that strange summer night in your teens when you stayed out all night talking to your crush.

    All in all I think KRZ shows so much of the unfulfilled potential of games. Get a beer & a comfy seat and go play this game. Play it now.

    • Luperts says:

      I can also recommend the KRZ subreddit for more general weirdness. It might help scratch that itch when waiting for act 5.

      This thread stuck out to me, link to reddit.com

    • caff says:

      Oh, I how I love you. I totally agree. Most people need a sense of fulfilment. And this game will provide it, if not now – then in the last act.

      There are games you can play before they are fully released. I played this when it was 2/5ths of the way through, and it was brilliant beyond measure. This is not a game, but an artistic piece – and I don’t use that term in a wanky form, it will be brilliant and then develop with age.

  11. April March says:

    I’m going to be the annoying guy who’ll counter-plea this. Yes, KY0 is an excellent game. Yes, everyone who is even remotely interested in games as narratives should play it. Yes, playing it in installments, letting time to sink each one in, is the best way to play it (especially if, as suggested above, you play the free “interludes”, which work great both at more development of world, story and characters as well as palate cleansers). Yes, I bought it when there only were two acts out and I sure as hell don’t regret it. But if you have any trepidation towards paying for an unfinished game – your trepidation is sound, and based on evidence, and worth listening to. Wait for the game to be complete and buy it then. You won’t lose anything. Videogames don’t rot when left alone. And if they did, KY0 would be honey – it wouldn’t rot for a thousand years.

    Just don’t try to power through in a weekend. Play it slowly. That’s what I’ll plea.

    • TraquilloGato says:

      What do you mean “…your trepidation is sound, and based on evidence…”? I get that a lot of episodic games may fizzle out with diminishing returns or never materialize, but in the case of KR0 don’t you feel like we are well past that as a concern? Each Act thus far has expanded in scope and inventiveness and we are just one away from conclusion so I don’t feel a ton of worry that it will never come out.

      And, honestly, even if Act V doesn’t live up to the rest or can’t provide a fitting conclusion, I’m not really sure that that would be a huge detriment to the journey of Acts I-IV.

  12. Person of Interest says:

    There’s a fantastic series of articles that discuss the historical, literary, and architectural influences of KRZ, called Kentucky Fried Zero. Definitely read it if you liked the game.

  13. DrollRemark says:

    I still haven’t played Act IV.

  14. dorobo says:

    That floor with bears.. dude..