Difference between revisions of "Kentucky Route Zero"

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<onlyinclude>{{En-WP attribution notice|Kentucky Route Zero}}</onlyinclude>
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{{DISPLAYTITLE:''Kentucky Route Zero''}}
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{{Acts}}
 
{{Infobox
 
{{Infobox
|title    = Kentucky Route Zero
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|title    = ''Kentucky Route Zero''
|image    = KRZ.png
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|image    = KrzGameIconTvEdition TopTitle.png
 
|developer = [[Cardboard Computer]]
 
|developer = [[Cardboard Computer]]
|publisher = Cardboard Computer (PC), [[Annapurna Interactive]] (Console)
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|publisher = Cardboard Computer (PC) <br> [[Annapurna Interactive]] (Console)
|designer  = [[Jake Elliott]], [[Tamas Kemenczy]]  
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|designer  = [[Jake Elliott]] <br> [[Tamas Kemenczy]]  
 
|composer  = [[Ben Babbitt]]
 
|composer  = [[Ben Babbitt]]
 
|engine    = [[wikipedia:Unity (game engine)|Unity]]
 
|engine    = [[wikipedia:Unity (game engine)|Unity]]
|platform  = Windows, macOS, Linux
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|platform  = PC <small>(Windows, macOS, Linux)</small> <br> Console <small>(Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One)</small>
|release  = [[Act I]]: December 2012<br />[[Limits & Demonstrations|L&D]]: February 2013<br />[[Act II]]: May 2013<br />[[The Entertainment|TE]]: November 2013<br />[[Act III]]: May 2014<br />[[Here And There Along The Echo|HATATE]]: October 2014<br />[[Act IV]]: July 2016<br />[[Un Pueblo De Nada|UPDN]]: January 2018<br />[[Act V]]: 2018
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|rating    = <small><sup>NA </sup></small>[[wikipedia:Entertainment Software Rating Board|ESRB]]: <abbr title="Teen">T</abbr> <br> <small><sup>EU </sup></small>[[wikipedia:Pan European Game Information|PEGI]]: 12 <br> <small><sup>AU </sup></small>[[wikipedia:Australian Classification Board|ACB]]: <abbr title="Parental Guidance">PG</abbr>
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|release  = 2013–2020 ({{anchor|Release history|info}})
 
}}
 
}}
'''''Kentucky Route Zero''''' is a magical realist indie point-and-click adventure game, developed and published by Cardboard Computer, an independent studio consisting of Jake Elliott, Tamas Kemenczy, and Ben Babbitt. The project was first revealed on crowdfunding website [[wikipedia:Kickstarter|Kickstarter]] to reach a goal of US$6,500, and successfully exceeded the goal, acquiring $8,583. The first trailer was released on October 17, 2012. The game is separated into five Acts, following the narrative of a truck driver named [[Conway]] and the mysterious people he meets as he tries to cross the fictional [[Route Zero]] to make a final delivery for the antique company for which he works.
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'''''Kentucky Route Zero''''' is a magical realist adventure game about a secret highway in the caves beneath Kentucky and the mysterious folks who travel it. The game is developed and published by [[Cardboard Computer]], an independent studio consisting of [[Jake Elliott]], [[Tamas Kemenczy]], and [[Ben Babbitt]]. It follows an episodic format, mirroring the dramatic structure of a five-act play.
  
The first Act was released on January 7, 2013. The game is currently available via Steam, itch.io, GOG.com, and the Humble Store, and will release on all major consoles in 2018. Players receive all available acts upon purchase, with future acts and updates free-of-charge. The second, third, and fourth acts have since been released, with the final act forthcoming.
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The game's five acts follow the narrative of a truck driver named [[Conway]] and the mysterious people he meets as he tries to travel the fictional [[Route Zero|Route {{Zero}}]] to make his final delivery for an antique company. The [[Act I|first act]] was released on January 7, 2013. The [[Act II|second]], [[Act III|third]], [[Act IV|fourth]], and [[Act V|fifth acts]] were released over the following seven years, along with shorter, supplemental, free-to-play "interlude" games, [[WEVP-TV|video art]], tie-in [[phone numbers]], and [[Here And There Along The Echo#Weird Telephones|custom electronics]]. The game's final act and console ports were released on January 28, 2020.
  
 +
The "PC Edition" of the game is available via [https://store.steampowered.com/app/231200/Kentucky_Route_Zero/ Steam], [https://cardboardcomputer.itch.io/kentucky-route-zero itch.io], [https://www.gog.com/game/kentucky_route_zero_season_pass GOG.com], and the [https://www.humblebundle.com/store/p/kentuckyroutezero_storefront Humble Store], while the identical "TV Edition" is available on [https://www.nintendo.com/games/detail/kentucky-route-zero-tv-edition-switch/ Nintendo Switch], [https://www.playstation.com/en-us/games/kentucky-route-zero-tv-edition-ps4/ PlayStation 4], and [https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/p/kentucky-route-zero-tv-edition/9p6ftm76l1s7 Xbox One].
  
 
== Gameplay ==
 
== Gameplay ==
  
''Kentucky Route Zero'' is a point-and-click game which contains text-based dialogue instead of vocal audio. There are no traditional puzzles or challenges; instead, the game focuses on storytelling and atmosphere. The player controls Conway (and other characters) by clicking on the screen, either to guide him to another location, or interact with other characters and objects. The player also has the choice to choose characters' dialogue during in-game conversations. These choices do not affect the storyline as in a branching narrative, but rather the poetic dialogue of characters later on.
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[[File:Apologies.png|thumb|right|Players choose between different dialogue options.]]
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''Kentucky Route Zero'' is a point-and-click adventure game. Players are able to control Conway (and other characters) by clicking on the screen, either to guide them to a location or interact with characters and objects. Players navigate between locations using maps and travel by driving, sailing, and flying. The game focuses on storytelling, atmosphere, and developing characters' internal thoughts and feelings, favoring these literary aspects over more traditional puzzle-solving challenges common to the genre.
  
 +
Players are able to choose characters' dialogue during in-game, text-based conversations, mirroring the style of a theatrical script or stage directions. These decisions do not impact the storyline or serve to direct a branching narrative; rather, they influence the poetic dialogue of characters later on, affect aspects of stories that are told to the player, or change which characters may be encountered.
  
== Synopsis ==
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== Release history ==
  
{{:Act I/Background}}
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{| class="wikitable sortable"
 +
|-
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! Title !! Medium !! Release date
 +
|-
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| [[Act I]] || Videogame || January 7, 2013
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|-
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| ''[[Limits & Demonstrations]]'' || Videogame || February 8, 2013
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|-
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| [[Act II]] || Videogame || May 31, 2013
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|-
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| ''[[The Entertainment]]'' || Videogame, Play  || November 22, 2013
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|-
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| [[Act III]] || Videogame || May 6, 2014
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|-
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| {{HATATE}} || Videogame, [[wikipedia:Interactive voice response|IVR system]] || October 30, 2014
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|-
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| Gamepad support || {{n/a}} || February 11, 2015
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|-
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| [[Act IV]] || Videogame || July 19, 2016
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|-
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| [[WEVP-TV]] ([http://wevp.tv/ wevp.tv]) || [[wikipedia:Web television|Web television]] || August 19, 2016
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|-
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| {{UPDN}} || Videogame, [[wikipedia:Video art|Video art]] || January 25, 2018
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|-
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| [[Act V]] || rowspan=2 | Videogame || rowspan=3 | January 28, 2020
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|-
 +
| {{DOTHM}}
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|-
 +
| TV Edition (console release) || {{n/a}}
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|-
 +
|}
  
 +
== Story ==
 +
 +
[[File:Equus Oils.png|thumb|right|''An old hound in a straw hat. Both have seen better days.'']]
 
=== Act I ===
 
=== Act I ===
 +
{{main|Act I#Synopsis}}
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[[Conway]], a truck driver, works as a deliveryman for an antique shop run by a woman named [[Lysette]].  Conway's last job before retirement is to make a delivery to [[5 Dogwood Drive]]. The game opens with a lost Conway, together with his [[Conway's dog|dog]], pulling into the parking lot of a dimly-lit gas station, [[Equus Oils]].
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 +
Conway asks for directions, and [[Joseph Wheattree|Joseph]], the owner, informs him that the only way to reach his destination is to take the mysterious [[Route Zero|Route {{Zero}}]]. He tasks Conway to fix the circuit breaker to restore power to the station so that he may use the computer to locate directions. In the basement, Conway encounters [[Emily, Ben, and Bob]] who are playing a game; they ignore him, apparently unable to see or hear him. He finds their lost [[D20|twenty-sided die]] but, on attempting to return it, discovers that they have disappeared. Conway uses the computer to find directions to the [[Márquez Farmhouse]], and also sees an overdue notice from the energy company [[Consolidated Power Company|Consolidated Power Co.]] Joseph tells him that, at the farmhouse, he can talk to [[Weaver Márquez]] who has a better understanding of the roads. As he leaves, he tells Conway that he loaded Weaver's old TV into the back of the truck to take to her.
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 +
[[File:Elkhorn Valley.png|thumb|left|''SHANNON: We all lost people down here. Well, not all of us. But most of us.'']]
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Conway drives north on Interstate 65 to the Márquez residence, optionally encountering a variety of hidden locations and characters on the way. At the farmhouse he meets Weaver, who asks him strange questions and to set up the TV before she'll explain how to get to the {{Zero}}. As Conway looks into the screen, his gaze drifts to the barn out back and he spaces out. Weaver informs him that the TV is picking up the wrong signal but that her cousin [[Shannon Márquez|Shannon]] can fix it, and proceeds to give him directions to the {{Zero}} on-ramp. When Conway looks away from the screen, Weaver has vanished. He walks back to his truck as Emily, Ben, and Bob play a [[You've Got to Walk|folk song]] in the foreground.
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Arriving at the destination, Conway discovers it is actually an abandoned mineshaft called [[Elkhorn Mine]]. He walks into the entrance to find Shannon Márquez and explains his predicament, to which she reveals that she had encountered Weaver earlier that evening, and that Weaver sent her to the mine to "find something she's been looking for." The two head into the mine and test a P.A. system to measure the tunnels. However, the reverberations cause the roof of the mine to collapse, crushing Conway's leg. [[File:Farmhouse hill.png|thumb|right|''SHANNON: Do you have any debts? <br />CONWAY: I owe some people some apologies.'']] [[File:Onramp.png|thumb|right|''SHANNON: There, just gotta turn it north/south, and —'']]
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 +
Shannon frees Conway and helps him onto an old mine cart. While exploring, Shannon reveals that the mine flooded at one point, killing the miners trapped inside. The two discover a turntable and explore the mine and its history; turning off the lamplight reveals ghostly visions of the miners. Conway exits the mine alone while Shannon goes back to check on something, and when she returns, reveals her parents were killed in the flood.
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 +
The two head to [[Shannon's workshop]], located at the back of a small bait shop to search for Weaver, but she is nowhere to be found. On the way back to the farmhouse, Conway can choose to return to Equus Oils where he and Shannon meet Joseph's friend [[Carrington]] who is looking for a venue for his upcoming play, and asks the two to keep an eye out for a location.
  
{{:Act I/Synopsis}}
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Back at the farmhouse, Shannon reveals Weaver fled after learning of their family's debt, and tonight was the first time she had seen her since then. Shannon attempts to repair the TV by cleaning moss off the vacuum tubes, and Conway looks in again; this time, however, both the picture on the screen and the barn behind the house begin to warp and separate, forming an image of the opening to the {{Zero}} and the truck driving into it.
  
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{{clear|left}}
 
=== Act II ===
 
=== Act II ===
{{expand}}
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{{main|Act II#Synopsis}}
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[[File:Bureau front.png|thumb|left|''SHANNON: This is weird, but ... do you think we're ''inside'' or ''outside'' right now? <br />CONWAY: Inside. ''/'' Outside. ''/'' Both.'']]
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Act II opens with a prelude in which [[Lula Chamberlain]], an installation artist whose work is featured in ''[[Limits & Demonstrations]]'', receives a rejection letter from an [[Gaston Trust for Imagined Architecture|organization]] to which she had submitted her portfolio. She continues on to sort through proposals for reclaiming spaces for alternate to their current function, such as one to reclaim a distillery as a graveyard. If encountered in [[Act I]], [[Carrington]] comes up to her and asks her about the space for his performance.
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Thoroughly lost on the {{ZeroLink}}, Conway and Shannon stop at a large, brick, open air building known as the [[Bureau of Reclaimed Spaces]] and ask for directions to [[5 Dogwood Drive]]. Unable to assign them to any of the proper clerks, the receptionist sends them upstairs to Lula who, upon hearing their request, ponders if her former lover [[Joseph]] sent them to her to get her attention or if her former intern [[Weaver]] overestimated her capabilities. Lula suggests the relevant records have not yet been transferred to the new building from the former site of the Bureau, the [[Saint Thomas Church]], and directs them there. She also recommends Conway visit a man named [[Dr. Truman]] to look at his hurt leg.
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The two head for the church, which is located inside a [[Random Access Self Storage|self storage facility]], and navigate there by following a series of ritualistic directions. Shannon finds the records while Conway chats with the [[Brandon|janitor]]. Shannon returns with the information but, upon leaving the building, Conway collapses from his injury. Shannon decides their first priority should be to find Dr. Truman and obtain treatment. [[File:Zero.png|thumb|right|''MARY ANN: Just get back on the {{Zero}} and drive until you hit the crystal. Then turn around. It'll make sense once you get on the road.'']]
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 +
[[File:Museum roof.png|thumb|left|''EZRA: Julian's my brother. He's a lot bigger and stronger, and he has more feathers than me, but he's still my brother.'']]
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They return to the Bureau and, while Lula is gone, they find that she has processed the files needed for them to return to the surface roads. [[Carrington]] appears and asks for a venue recommendation, and Conway is able to suggest either [[Elkhorn Mine]], the self storage facility, or [[Equus Oils]].
 +
 
 +
Conway and Shannon head above ground and follow Lula's directions to Dr. Truman's house. Upon arriving, however, they find the neighborhood has been torn down and replaced with the [[Museum of Dwellings]]. They talk with many of the residents and meet a young girl named [[Flora]] who tells them Dr. Truman has moved away. On the roof, a young boy named [[Ezra]] tells them he and his brother [[Julian]] fly the museum residents' homes out to the [[forest]] at night which is easier to sleep in, and that Dr. Truman has decided to stay there permanently. Ezra agrees to bring Shannon, Conway, and his dog to the doctor and calls Julian, a giant eagle who snatches them off the roof and flies them to the forest. In the air, the group can observe many situations and locations below, such as the [[Márquez Farmhouse|farmhouse]], gas station, and various other establishments and wandering travelers. [[File:Forest.png|thumb|right|''EZRA: You have a way of falling behind, don't you? Me, I'm always too far ahead. Maybe I should slow down a bit, like you.'']]
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The group lands in the forest and walk through the illusory trees as [[Emily, Ben, and Bob]] play a [[Long Journey Home|folk song]] in the foreground. They arrive at Dr. Truman's house and he inspects Conway's leg, who says it's severe but treatable. He gives Conway a dose of an anesthetic called ''Neurypnol TM'', who begins to succumb to the drug. As he falls into into a nebulous sleep, his vision grows black and the walls of the house pull away to reveal the forest beyond.
  
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{{clear|left}}
 
=== Act III ===
 
=== Act III ===
{{expand}}
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{{main|Act III#Synopsis}}
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[[Conway]] dreams of a conversation with [[Lysette]] from the previous morning. The two reminiscence about [[Ira]], Lysette's deceased husband and Conway's former boss, and her son [[Charlie]] who died in a tragic roofing accident. Lysette tells Conway of a final mail-order delivery before the shop closes, as she is to leave and move in with her [[Cora|sister]] due to her old age and poor health.
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 +
[[File:Conway's leg.png|thumb|left|''LYSETTE: It wasn't anyone's fault, Conway. That's what we mean when we say it's ... <br />CONWAY: An accident. ''/'' A tragedy. ''/'' A shame.'''']]
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Conway wakes from his drug-induced sleep and stares at his leg, which has been replaced with a ghostly, skeletal limb with a yellow glow. [[Dr. Truman]] tells him that while he may feel a sense of "lost time" or "lateness," dreaming would have been highly unlikely. He suggests Conway look over the bill as his employer has recently been bought out by the [[Consolidated Power Company]] and they have changed the payment system.
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 +
Conway, [[Shannon]], and [[Ezra]] return to the [[Museum of Dwellings]] and find it closed for the night. [[Emily, Ben, and Bob]] stand at the entrance, and debate whether to enter after finding the door unlocked. The three set out to search for [[Lula Chamberlain|Lula]] in Conway's truck, but are quickly stopped as the engine breaks down in front of a large tree. [[File:The Lower Depths.png|thumb|right|''JOHNNY: Test. Test. One. One. One. Three. Fifty. Lamentation. La — men — ta — tion.'']]
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 +
[[Junebug and Johnny]] speed by the tree on their motorcycle and notice the truck. They are musicians and, while they are already late to their performance, decide to go back and help the group in hopes of gaining an audience. The two fix the truck's engine, and Conway, Shannon, and Ezra agree to accompany them to [[The Lower Depths]] tavern.
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 +
At the bar, Junebug and Johnny sing [[Too Late to Love You|a song]] as the roof of the bar seemingly disappears to reveal the full moon overhead. After the show, the group talks with [[Harry Esperanza|Harry]] who admits he can't pay, as he was left with nothing but an I.O.U. from the [[Hard Times Distillery]] after he traded his customers' debt for whiskey and the events in ''[[The Entertainment]]''. He suggests they head to the distillery to claim their payment, but that they must take the {{ZeroLink}} to get there. As Junebug and Johnny decide to accompany the trio, Harry gives them directions based on following radio signals, and they set out. The group drives until they see a team of horses standing in the middle of the darkened highway, and immediately appear on the {{Zero}}.
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 +
[[File:Too Late to Love You.png|thumb|left|''Another love came by, and stole my heart away. I wish that I could take it back, but it's too late.'']]
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The group soon comes across a large chamber dominated by a rock spire, known as the [[Hall of the Mountain King]]. There they find broken, vintage computers in large piles surrounding a tall, burning fire of discarded electronics. They come across an old man named [[Donald]] who is fixated on a grand project – his life's work – named [[XANADU]], involving a computer growing black mold and an artificial intelligence simulation of his life's missed opportunities from long ago. He claims Lula and Joseph helped design XANADU and, while Lula left long ago, there may be a way to use it to find her. However, Donald says a group of people who he calls "the Strangers" repeatedly sabotaged the computer, leaving its text garbled and unable to be read. The group decides to locate the strangers so they may fix XANADU and find Lula.
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[[File:Hall of the Mountain King.png|thumb|right|''DONALD: The chalky bones of a beautiful dream. But you can see what it once was, can't you? Can't you?'']]
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Venturing through a crystal tunnel, the group comes upon a church in a muddy graveyard. Conway and Shannon go inside while Junebug waits outside with Ezra. Junebug reveals that she and Johnny are escaped robots originally manufactured to clear out the flooded [[Elkhorn Mine]].
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Conway and Shannon emerge from the church, shaken, but Shannon says they have what they need. They return to Donald and fix XANADU and play its simulation as it tells an intricate, day-by-day story of its own creation, involving Donald, Lula, Joseph, and many research assistants including the [[Bureau of Reclaimed Spaces|Bureau]] receptionist and [[Weaver]]. The simulation reveals that one day, Weaver followed the strangers into the tunnels, and neither returned. Years pass and mold grows, until one night, ''different'' strangers arrive, and an old friend, Lula, returns. The program exits, and Lula is standing in the cave.
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 +
[[File:Adding machine.png|thumb|left|''He removed his hands from the steering wheel for a moment and felt the car drift into a decision. Years later, he'd think of this as the moment he himself started drifting.'']]
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With Lula's help, Donald is able to find information to [[5 Dogwood Drive]], and they decide to wait at the Bureau for the results. As they descend from the Hall of the Mountain King, [[Emily, Ben, and Bob]] can be seen playing a [[What Would You Give|folk song]] in the foreground. At the Bureau, Lula tells them she was able to find a corresponding near a [[Silo of Late Reflections|mail stop]] off the [[Echo River]], and they must take a ferry to reach it.
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As they wait for the ferry, Conway reveals what happened with the strangers: he and Shannon had gone via a hidden elevator to an underground [[Hard Times Distillery|whiskey distillery]] staffed by indistinct glowing skeletons, identical in appearance to Conway's new leg. There, they meet [[Lem Doolittle|Doolittle]] who mistakes Conway for a new hire as a truck driver. He gives them a tour and tells them about The Formula, a revolutionary equation for computing interest introduced to them by a [[Weaver Márquez|brilliant mathematician]], and reveals that many workers are forced to work there due to their debt. Inspecting a truck, Conway recalls his past with Lysette and Ira, and the accident that killed their son Charlie: too hungover to perform a roofing job, Charlie took Conway's place and, in performing the work in the hot sun, slipped and fell to his death. [[File:Mammoth.png|thumb|right|''EZRA: I'm confused. <br />CONWAY: It's just the way these things go, kid.'']]
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 +
After the tour, Doolittle tells them how to repair XANADU, shows them the adding machine which calculates interest, and tells Conway he is hired, offering him a "shift drink" to mark the occasion. Conway, in a daze, is unable to refuse and takes a sip of alcohol. As Shannon insists they must leave, Doolittle reminds them that Conway is now in debt for taking both the alcohol and his time, and will start the next day, as the scene blurs and fades to black.
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 +
Back in the Bureau, the group stands silhouetted in front of Conway's truck, mulling over what's to come next. A tugboat arrives; as it pulls into view, a horn blares, revealing a gigantic, trumpeting wooly mammoth.
  
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{{clear|left}}
 
=== Act IV ===
 
=== Act IV ===
 +
{{main|Act IV#Synopsis}} [[File:Will with mammoth.png|thumb|right|''WILL: Maybe I oughta read it back-to-front ...'']]
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Act IV's storyline diverges and reconverges based on player choice to either stay abroad the ''[[Mucky Mammoth]]'' tugboat, or go ashore, at a variety of locations.
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 +
As the silhouette of the animal fades into view, its mechanical body comes to a halt; a man named [[Will]] stands on the edge of the ship. He and [[Junebug]] talk about the [[Echo River]] and their precarious travels on the {{ZeroLink}} to get there.
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 +
[[Shannon]] approaches from the helm and talks to Will about how he was led to meet [[Cate]], the captain, and how he helps with maintenance, mail, trash, and recording their journey. Shannon talks with Cate, who notes that they must make other stops before reaching the [[Silo of Late Reflections]] mail stop, near which [[Dogwood Drive|5 Dogwood Drive]] is located. She introduces Shannon to her dog [[Valkyrie]], or Val, and tells her of the boat's amenities, including a video room with various curious VCR tapes. As Cate back inside, [[Ezra]] runs up to Shannon and asks for batteries for a tape recorder [[Johnny]] lent him.
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[[File:The Mucky Mammoth.png|thumb|left|''CONWAY: I've got to repay my debt. Hell, I should be grateful for the opportunity — if you want to die with any dignity, you've got to settle up. That's why it's such a damned shame when people go sudden.'']]
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Inside, Junebug and Johnny sit with another musician named [[Clara]] who has come from Lithuania to play a concert on the Echo. They discuss another musician friend, [[Cyrano]], who's playing at a bar known at the [[Rum Colony]] and where Junebug had an appointment that she missed. Johnny sends Ezra out with his tape recorder to collect "found sounds" for use in the concert; as he exits, Conway walks into the room and grabs a beer from the fridge with his now-skeletal right arm after being sober for 15 months. He heads outside and talks with Shannon, where he reminisces about [[Lysette]]'s kindness and says that he must repay his debt to the [[Hard Times Distillery|distillery]]. [[File:Gas station.png|thumb|right|''AL: GLORYITISGOODTOBEAMONGFRIENDS!'']]
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Cate, Junebug, Johnny, and Ezra debark at a floating gas station, which drifts aimlessly along the Echo. Cate talks with Junebug about the heavy storm outside; while it will bring flooding and damages, it also means she and Val can forage for mushrooms. Various characters enter the gas station, such as [[Norm]] who is waiting to meet a date and [[Al]] who recounts a miraculous story of being saved by a lightning bug's glow after being lost on the Echo with no light. Junebug chats with the station attendant who offers food, drink, and crystals for sale.
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If the player chooses to stay on board the ''Mammoth'' instead, Ezra makes observations from the captain's chair and Cate talks to him about the ship's controls and her home-brewed [[wikipedia:kombucha|kombucha]]. To navigate the Echo, she tells him that she relies heavily on landmarks and lights rather than compasses. Ezra heads to the map room to deliver a message about a nearby landmark to Will and passes Shannon on the way, who is trying out Clara's [[wikipedia:theremin|theremin]]. Will updates his charts based on Ezra's information and, in exchange, offers him a selection of old maps charting underwater islands.
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 +
[[File:Echo River 2.png|thumb|left|''WILL: I'm sure I talk too much — everyone on this river does. The problem is that we ''listen'' twice as much as that. We're only telling you half of the stories we hear!'']]
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After sailing for a while longer, the passengers get off at the Rum Colony, a drowsy beachside bar illuminated by torchlight and where Cyrano is playing a lap steel guitar. Shannon wanders the beach with her flashlight and finds various buried trinkets. Will relaxes on a couch while Ezra runs on the beach and Conway sits at a table drinking alcohol by himself.
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 +
At the bar, Shannon, Junebug, and Johnny talk with the bartender [[Patch]]. Junebug notes she was supposed to meet a woman there hours ago but missed her appointment. Patch offers them drinks from dozens of options, but they decline. Nearby, they also talk with a couple named [[Sonny and Dawn]]; Sonny who woefully mourns the world's environmental problems such as melting polar ice caps and toxic runoff while his wife apologizes for him. [[File:The Rum Colony 2.png|thumb|right|''Will never has any money. Good for him.'']]
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 +
Johnny talks with Cyrano and agrees to go around collecting tips for his performance from the bargoers.  After Cyrano's [[My Light Heaven|song]], Johnny and Junebug agree that they're ready to set off, and Shannon goes to get Conway. As she approaches, three glowing skeletal figures sit around his table, visible only in her flashlight beam. She asks who he's talking to and, startled by her presence, he says it's nothing to worry about and the two return to the boat.
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 +
If the player chooses to stay on board the ''Mammoth'' instead, Shannon stays aboard and watches old tapes on the TV in the video room. One video features a young Will taking calls about supernatural stories, just to listen. Shannon inserts a tape labeled "???" and begins to hear a humming sound. On the screen, [[Weaver]] stands in a room with video equipment in the corner, looking directly at the camera. Her words appear as captions on the screen:
 +
 +
[[File:Mammoth video room.png|thumb|left|''That awful hum ... it seems to start before Shannon even hits "play."'']]
 +
:'''''WEAVER:''' ... mail, school, and these magnificent, tragic horses. Go underground, as deep as you can go. The air is cool and the earth is damp, and when you close your eyes you are surrounded by the dead. Remember where that is? You'll find your way from there. I think this place is what you're looking for. Some of it will wash away soon, but I think you'll be happy here, even without the mail, school ...''
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 +
The text repeats on loop and Shannon stops the tape. She walks upstairs to find Will and Cate, who explain that the VCR automatically records over anything left in it, but the only signal available is the public-access community TV station [[WEVP-TV|WEVP]]. Cate suggests Shannon meet [[Dashiell Morse|Dashiell]], who used to do volunteer work for the station, at the [[Echo River Central Exchange]] where they'll be stopping later. [[File:Phone.png|thumb|right|''SHANNON: ''(To WILL.)'' So, any important messages? <br />WILL: Every single one.'']]
 +
 +
The ''Mammoth'' docks at a floating phone booth. Not wanting to wait in line, [[Conway]] jumps into the water and swims back to the boat to look for more alcohol. Will listens to a variety of calls – audio of [[Here And There Along The Echo|players']] personal anecdotes, stories, and feelings. Next in line, Cate calls a woman named [[Summer]], one of her clients for whom she assists as a birth [[wikipedia:Doula|doula]], and suggests a natural remedy to her sleep problem. Next, Clara calls her older sister [[Nadia]] in Lithuania and they talk about their [[Andrius|uncle]] in hospice care.
 +
 +
Another man on the floating platform reveals himself as [[Brandon]], the janitor from the [[Random Access Self Storage|self storage facility]], and mentions Conway not only seemed drunk and preoccupied, but also "spiritually distracted." If encountered in [[Act I]], [[James B. Carrington|Carrington]] calls, in attempt to talk with a friend who is a lighting designer in Chicago if not for the phone lines being affected by the storm. Shannon answers, and he asks for advice for his upcoming [[Death Of The Hired Man|play]] which will be held at dawn in the location provided in [[Act II]]. He notes the cast and stage crew are all delayed by the bad weather but hopes the group will be able to make it to the premiere.
 +
 +
If the player chooses to stay on board the ''Mammoth'' instead, the dogs simply lounge on the ship's lower deck.
 +
 +
[[File:Radvansky Center 2.png|thumb|left|''MIMI: Weaver's video showed up again right before the flood. Actually, I think it might have been the last thing we ever broadcast.'']]
 +
The crew stop at a place known as the Radvansky Center. Security camera footage begins playing; two employees, [[Mimi]] and [[Jenn]], watch and discuss undated video tapes of the group's visit to the center, which a [[Darryl|coworker]] discovered recently along with old, unprocessed questionnaires. In the first tape, Shannon wanders around a room and answers experimental survey questions about memory and doorways. Upon seeing the name "Márquez" on Shannon's file, Mimi is taken aback, and recollects her time with WEVP-TV, the community television cooperative forcibly-funded by the [[Consolidated Power Company]] who to screen her video art before being demolished in a flood. She says she doesn't know Shannon, but did know a ''Weaver'' Márquez who worked at the station before leaving on "weird terms."
 +
 +
The two continue looking through tapes. One showing the group's arrival at the dock causes Jenn to remark that Conway, who has stayed back to guard the dinghy, looks like "one of those creepy distillery guys." The next tape shows a cat, [[Coconut]], who Jenn mentions disappeared from the center one day without a trace. Other tapes show Shannon feeding Coconut, flipping a calendar, and doing more questionnaires, plus one of Will sitting in a waiting room. Mimi recalls Will used to work at the university when she was a student, which reminds her of her distressing final year in which her boyfriend, [[Charlie]], died suddenly by falling off a roof. [[File:A grove.png|thumb|right|''EZRA: Nine gray feathers, seven blue petals, three white doves, eight deep breaths, five slow hours.'']]
 +
 +
Mimi and Jenn discuss what happened with Weaver – soon after her departure, bizarre events started happening around the station that persisted for years, such as interference during regular broadcasts via a jamming signal that blacked out the feed, followed by a Weaver staring at the camera with a sinister-sounding hum and captions in an unconventional font. A final tape of the dock shows Conway talking with three glowing skeletons who disappear as the group rejoins him, and Coconut following Ezra back to the boat.
 +
 +
If the player chooses to stay on board the ''Mammoth'' instead, Cate, Junebug, Clara, and Ezra play a card game about memory.
 +
 +
Sailing down the Echo, Will chronicles the group's adventures, noting an open-air gallery they pass by which contains photographs of small-town life, including one of [[Flora]] folding a paper boat. Will notes that the town depicted in the photos was "very recently flattened to make way for a [[Museum of Dwellings|big museum project]]."
 +
 +
The tugboat stops at a grove and Cate and Ezra step onto a lush, floating island. She teaches him about various kinds of mushrooms as they forage, eating a few in the process. The two have their own introspective moments simultaneously, with players choosing to advance two side-by-side texts at once. Cate remembers how she got started with learning about fungi while Ezra remembers a childhood story of playing in the woods outside, alone. She tells him about her mother's death and how she now considers her family to be those who come aboard her ship, while he talks about about his missing parents and about Julian, his brother. As they talk, a large, old battleship filled with mewing cats floats by, which Cate calls ''[[Iron Pariah|The Iron Pariah]]''.
 +
 +
[[File:Bat sanctuary.png|thumb|left|''SHANNON: I don't think you ever forget anger like that. <br />CONWAY: I guess that's what a memorial should do, huh? Help you hang on to your feelings. Otherwise, they fade away; that's just what time does.'']]
 +
If the player chooses to stay on board the ''Mammoth'' instead, Ezra heads down to the lower deck and records various sound samples.  Will sleeps in his bunk, listening to recorded university lecture titled "History of the Philosophy of Death." At one point, the lecturer takes a question from a student in the audience named [[James B. Carrington|James]]. Will wakes up and tells Ezra of his dream about being a cat aboard the roaming the ''Iron Pariah''.
 +
 +
As Will cooks a stew in the kitchen and talks with Ezra and Shannon, Cate interrupts to ask Shannon if she and Conway would make a delivery in the dinghy to the Echo River Central Exchange – or, as the power company has called it since they took over, "Consolidated Auxiliary Switch Number 30" – as the ''Mammoth'' is unable to fit through the narrow passage to reach it. She says they'll want to talk to [[Poppy]] about the parcel, reminds Shannon to meet Dashiell, and says that they'll rendezvous on the other side at [[Sam & Ida's]] for an early breakfast. [[File:Echo River Central Exchange 2.png|thumb|right|''FLORA: I'm a romantic. <br />SHANNON: Really? What does that mean to you? <br />FLORA: It means I like poems and rivers and mysteries.'']]
 +
 +
On their way to the Exchange, Conway, his dog, and Shannon pass through a bat sanctuary-slash-artificial hibernaculum. At its entrance is a shrine to miners who died in the flood of the [[Elkhorn Mine]], comprised of a a central pile of helmets spilled out into the water and large wooden beams with signs nailed on.
 +
 +
As they drift away, two skeletal figures pass by in a small boat and wave at Conway, who waves back with his skeletal arm. Shannon looks at him oddly; he tells her his leg and arm don't hurt anymore, and instead feels as if nothing's there. He says the distillery workers can help him take care of his medical bills for his leg, get everything together on a plan, and consolidate it. Worried, Shannon tries to talk him out of it, but he says he has a feeling everything will work out and offers Shannon his truck.
 +
 +
In the entrance to the Exchange, Shannon sees Flora who has come to retrieve her paper boat. On the other side of the river, Shannon talks with Dashiell who is repairing old phones at a reception desk. He tells her about the Exchange's history as a train station, reclaimed by the Bureau for the phone company after a flood. He mentions he works on wiring for WEVP in the "Crystal Room," an underground area of resonant, amplifying rock formations, though doesn't know what happened to Weaver, directs her to the Silo mail stop where other volunteers are located.
 +
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[[File:Sam & Ida's.png|thumb|left|''SAM: Just passing through. Hey, aren't we all?'']]
 +
Shannon meets with Poppy, the Exchange's switchboard operator, and delivers Cate's package to her. She tells Shannon about massive job cuts and automation from when the power company took over, and how she is now its sole remaining employee. As Shannon prepares to leave, she turns her flashlight around to see three buzzing, skeletal figures sailing away in a boat. Conway's dog can choose to either follow or stay behind. Shannon returns to the dinghy alone. On the way back to the tugboat, she shuts the motor off and floats in silence.
 +
 +
Shannon, now having lost Conway, reconvenes with the ''Mammoth'' crew at Sam & Ida's, a floating, stilted restaurant on [[Lake Lethe]]. Cate, Will, and Junebug sit at a table deciding on a to-go order for Clara; Shannon talks with Johnny and Ezra off to the side, who are playing a crane game, and tells them what happened to Conway. She returns to the table and vows to complete Conway's delivery as Johnny and Ezra look at a display of [[wikipedia:Shellac|shellac]]-covered plates of food. [[File:Clara performance.png|thumb|right|''JUNEBUG: When I met you — when we met, we were nothing, just these little gray shadows. And we grew, and filled in, and ... but we did all that together.'']]
 +
 +
The cook, [[Ida]], appears, and tells a story of two divers with bottomless appetites who helped kickstart their restaurant's success. Down below, Ida's husband [[Sam]] returns from a diving expedition with a small eel and recounts to himself a different angle of the story about the two divers. As he walks up the stairs, Ida brings out the food, and the group prepares to leave. Shannon walks down to the tugboat as [[Emily, Ben, and Bob]] float by, playing "[[This World Is Not My Home]]."
 +
 +
[[File:Silo.png|thumb|left|''JUNEBUG: Tired? Don't worry, lady. We're almost there.'']]
 +
The tugboat arrives at a small houseboat neighborhood. From the deck of the ship, Clara plays a [[Music for Rivers|solo theremin piece]]; Ezra can choose to watch from shore or assist her by playing the sounds he recorded as part of the performance. Junebug and Johnny reminisce about a previous performance of hers, and the two discuss Ezra, who seems directionless and lost, and agree that he could join them in their travels, and could teach him to play the drum machine with them.
 +
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The group reconvenes, returns to the ''Mammoth'' and sails to their final stop. Clara decides to travel with Shannon, Junebug, Johnny, and Ezra, and they disembark, while Cate and Will depart on the tugboat. As the group stands at the bottom of a large spiral staircase, with no way to bring the vehicle to the surface, they begin to unload the truck to complete the delivery on foot.
 +
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=== Act V ===
 +
 
{{expand}}
 
{{expand}}
  
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== Soundtrack ==
 +
{{main|Music}}
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The game's ambient soundtrack features music by [[Ben Babbitt]] with bluegrass tracks performed by [[The Bedquilt Ramblers]].
  
 
== Development ==
 
== Development ==
 +
The project was first revealed on January 7, 2011 on Kickstarter. By the end of the campaign, the game had acquired USD $8,583 from 205 backers, exceeding its original goal of $6,500.<ref>[https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/149077132/kentucky-route-zero-a-magic-realist-adventure-game Kentucky Route Zero, a magic realist adventure game – Kickstarter]</ref> A heavily-revised trailer with an updated visual style was released on October 17, 2012.<ref>[https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uCz9T5NgYJQ Kentucky Route Zero (IGF Trailer) – YouTube]</ref>
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A revamped user interface, including [[achievements]] and [[ephemera]], was added with the final release of the game in 2020, along with translations into French, Italian, German, Spanish, Japanese, Korean, and Russian.
 
{{expand}}
 
{{expand}}
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== Reception ==
 +
''Kentucky Route Zero'' has been well-received by critics. It won the award for Excellence in Visual Art at the [[wikipedia:Independent Games Festival|Independent Games Festival]] in 2013, with additional nominations for Excellence in Audio, Excellence in Narrative, and the Seumas McNally Grand Prize.<ref>[https://igf.com/2013 2013 Independent Games Festival Winners – IGF]</ref> In the same year, it was named game of the year by ''[[wikipedia:Rock, Paper, Shotgun|Rock Paper Shotgun]]'' and won awards for both Visual Design and Story & Word Design at [[wikipedia:IndieCade|IndieCade]].<ref>[https://www.rockpapershotgun.com/2013/12/24/the-amazing-astonishing-rps-advent-calendar-day-24/ The Amazing & Astonishing RPS Advent Calendar: Day 24 – Rock Paper Shotgun]</ref><ref>[https://web.archive.org/web/20171028150337/http://www.indiecade.com/2013/award_winners/ IndieCade 2013 Award Winners – International Festival of Independent Games]</ref>
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In 2014, ''Kentucky Route Zero'''s Act III was named [[wikipedia:Kill Screen|''Kill Screen'']]'s game of the year.<ref>[https://killscreen.com/previously/articles/high-scores-2014-5-1/ High Scores 2014: 5-1 – Kill Screen]</ref> In 2015, it won Best Narrative at the [[wikipedia:Game Developers Choice Awards|Game Developers Choice Awards]].<ref>[https://gamechoiceawards.com/archive/gdca_15th.html 15th Annual Game Developers Choice Awards]</ref>
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In November 2019, ''[[wikipedia:Polygon (website)|Polygon]]'' named ''Kentucky Route Zero'' as the fourth best game of the decade, and the following month described it as "the most important game of the decade."<ref>[https://www.polygon.com/features/2019/11/4/20947389/best-games-2019-2010-ps4-switch-xbox-pc-10-1 The 100 best games of the decade (2010-2019): 10-1 – Polygon]</ref><ref>[https://www.polygon.com/2019/11/12/20960055/kentucky-route-zero-the-most-important-game-of-the-decade Why Kentucky Route Zero is the most important game of the decade – Polygon]</ref>
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== Gallery ==
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<gallery>
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File:KrzAct1.jpg|Act I poster
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File:KrzAct2.jpg|Act II poster
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File:KrzAct3.jpg|Act III poster
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File:Krz-act4-full.jpg|Act IV poster
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File:Act V poster.png|Act V poster
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</gallery>
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== References ==
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<references />
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[[Category:Games]]
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[[Category:Real world]]

Latest revision as of 14:35, 1 February 2020

Kentucky Route Zero
KrzGameIconTvEdition TopTitle.png
Developer Cardboard Computer
Publisher Cardboard Computer (PC)
Annapurna Interactive (Console)
Designers Jake Elliott
Tamas Kemenczy
Composer Ben Babbitt
Engine Unity
Platform PC (Windows, macOS, Linux)
Console (Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One)
Rating NA ESRB: T
EU PEGI: 12
AU ACB: PG
Release 2013–2020 (infoAnchorIcon.svg)

Kentucky Route Zero is a magical realist adventure game about a secret highway in the caves beneath Kentucky and the mysterious folks who travel it. The game is developed and published by Cardboard Computer, an independent studio consisting of Jake Elliott, Tamas Kemenczy, and Ben Babbitt. It follows an episodic format, mirroring the dramatic structure of a five-act play.

The game's five acts follow the narrative of a truck driver named Conway and the mysterious people he meets as he tries to travel the fictional Route Zero to make his final delivery for an antique company. The first act was released on January 7, 2013. The second, third, fourth, and fifth acts were released over the following seven years, along with shorter, supplemental, free-to-play "interlude" games, video art, tie-in phone numbers, and custom electronics. The game's final act and console ports were released on January 28, 2020.

The "PC Edition" of the game is available via Steam, itch.io, GOG.com, and the Humble Store, while the identical "TV Edition" is available on Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One.

Gameplay[edit]

Players choose between different dialogue options.

Kentucky Route Zero is a point-and-click adventure game. Players are able to control Conway (and other characters) by clicking on the screen, either to guide them to a location or interact with characters and objects. Players navigate between locations using maps and travel by driving, sailing, and flying. The game focuses on storytelling, atmosphere, and developing characters' internal thoughts and feelings, favoring these literary aspects over more traditional puzzle-solving challenges common to the genre.

Players are able to choose characters' dialogue during in-game, text-based conversations, mirroring the style of a theatrical script or stage directions. These decisions do not impact the storyline or serve to direct a branching narrative; rather, they influence the poetic dialogue of characters later on, affect aspects of stories that are told to the player, or change which characters may be encountered.

Release history[edit]

Title Medium Release date
Act I Videogame January 7, 2013
Limits & Demonstrations Videogame February 8, 2013
Act II Videogame May 31, 2013
The Entertainment Videogame, Play November 22, 2013
Act III Videogame May 6, 2014
Here And There Along The Echo Videogame, IVR system October 30, 2014
Gamepad support N/A February 11, 2015
Act IV Videogame July 19, 2016
WEVP-TV (wevp.tv) Web television August 19, 2016
Un Pueblo De Nada Videogame, Video art January 25, 2018
Act V Videogame January 28, 2020
Death Of The Hired Man
TV Edition (console release) N/A

Story[edit]

An old hound in a straw hat. Both have seen better days.

Act I[edit]

Main article: Act I#Synopsis

Conway, a truck driver, works as a deliveryman for an antique shop run by a woman named Lysette. Conway's last job before retirement is to make a delivery to 5 Dogwood Drive. The game opens with a lost Conway, together with his dog, pulling into the parking lot of a dimly-lit gas station, Equus Oils.

Conway asks for directions, and Joseph, the owner, informs him that the only way to reach his destination is to take the mysterious Route Zero. He tasks Conway to fix the circuit breaker to restore power to the station so that he may use the computer to locate directions. In the basement, Conway encounters Emily, Ben, and Bob who are playing a game; they ignore him, apparently unable to see or hear him. He finds their lost twenty-sided die but, on attempting to return it, discovers that they have disappeared. Conway uses the computer to find directions to the Márquez Farmhouse, and also sees an overdue notice from the energy company Consolidated Power Co. Joseph tells him that, at the farmhouse, he can talk to Weaver Márquez who has a better understanding of the roads. As he leaves, he tells Conway that he loaded Weaver's old TV into the back of the truck to take to her.

SHANNON: We all lost people down here. Well, not all of us. But most of us.

Conway drives north on Interstate 65 to the Márquez residence, optionally encountering a variety of hidden locations and characters on the way. At the farmhouse he meets Weaver, who asks him strange questions and to set up the TV before she'll explain how to get to the Zero. As Conway looks into the screen, his gaze drifts to the barn out back and he spaces out. Weaver informs him that the TV is picking up the wrong signal but that her cousin Shannon can fix it, and proceeds to give him directions to the Zero on-ramp. When Conway looks away from the screen, Weaver has vanished. He walks back to his truck as Emily, Ben, and Bob play a folk song in the foreground.

Arriving at the destination, Conway discovers it is actually an abandoned mineshaft called Elkhorn Mine. He walks into the entrance to find Shannon Márquez and explains his predicament, to which she reveals that she had encountered Weaver earlier that evening, and that Weaver sent her to the mine to "find something she's been looking for." The two head into the mine and test a P.A. system to measure the tunnels. However, the reverberations cause the roof of the mine to collapse, crushing Conway's leg.

SHANNON: Do you have any debts?
CONWAY: I owe some people some apologies.
SHANNON: There, just gotta turn it north/south, and —

Shannon frees Conway and helps him onto an old mine cart. While exploring, Shannon reveals that the mine flooded at one point, killing the miners trapped inside. The two discover a turntable and explore the mine and its history; turning off the lamplight reveals ghostly visions of the miners. Conway exits the mine alone while Shannon goes back to check on something, and when she returns, reveals her parents were killed in the flood.

The two head to Shannon's workshop, located at the back of a small bait shop to search for Weaver, but she is nowhere to be found. On the way back to the farmhouse, Conway can choose to return to Equus Oils where he and Shannon meet Joseph's friend Carrington who is looking for a venue for his upcoming play, and asks the two to keep an eye out for a location.

Back at the farmhouse, Shannon reveals Weaver fled after learning of their family's debt, and tonight was the first time she had seen her since then. Shannon attempts to repair the TV by cleaning moss off the vacuum tubes, and Conway looks in again; this time, however, both the picture on the screen and the barn behind the house begin to warp and separate, forming an image of the opening to the Zero and the truck driving into it.

Act II[edit]

Main article: Act II#Synopsis
SHANNON: This is weird, but ... do you think we're inside or outside right now?
CONWAY: Inside.
/ Outside. / Both.

Act II opens with a prelude in which Lula Chamberlain, an installation artist whose work is featured in Limits & Demonstrations, receives a rejection letter from an organization to which she had submitted her portfolio. She continues on to sort through proposals for reclaiming spaces for alternate to their current function, such as one to reclaim a distillery as a graveyard. If encountered in Act I, Carrington comes up to her and asks her about the space for his performance.

Thoroughly lost on the Zero, Conway and Shannon stop at a large, brick, open air building known as the Bureau of Reclaimed Spaces and ask for directions to 5 Dogwood Drive. Unable to assign them to any of the proper clerks, the receptionist sends them upstairs to Lula who, upon hearing their request, ponders if her former lover Joseph sent them to her to get her attention or if her former intern Weaver overestimated her capabilities. Lula suggests the relevant records have not yet been transferred to the new building from the former site of the Bureau, the Saint Thomas Church, and directs them there. She also recommends Conway visit a man named Dr. Truman to look at his hurt leg.

The two head for the church, which is located inside a self storage facility, and navigate there by following a series of ritualistic directions. Shannon finds the records while Conway chats with the janitor. Shannon returns with the information but, upon leaving the building, Conway collapses from his injury. Shannon decides their first priority should be to find Dr. Truman and obtain treatment.

MARY ANN: Just get back on the Zero and drive until you hit the crystal. Then turn around. It'll make sense once you get on the road.
EZRA: Julian's my brother. He's a lot bigger and stronger, and he has more feathers than me, but he's still my brother.

They return to the Bureau and, while Lula is gone, they find that she has processed the files needed for them to return to the surface roads. Carrington appears and asks for a venue recommendation, and Conway is able to suggest either Elkhorn Mine, the self storage facility, or Equus Oils.

Conway and Shannon head above ground and follow Lula's directions to Dr. Truman's house. Upon arriving, however, they find the neighborhood has been torn down and replaced with the Museum of Dwellings. They talk with many of the residents and meet a young girl named Flora who tells them Dr. Truman has moved away. On the roof, a young boy named Ezra tells them he and his brother Julian fly the museum residents' homes out to the forest at night which is easier to sleep in, and that Dr. Truman has decided to stay there permanently. Ezra agrees to bring Shannon, Conway, and his dog to the doctor and calls Julian, a giant eagle who snatches them off the roof and flies them to the forest. In the air, the group can observe many situations and locations below, such as the farmhouse, gas station, and various other establishments and wandering travelers.

EZRA: You have a way of falling behind, don't you? Me, I'm always too far ahead. Maybe I should slow down a bit, like you.

The group lands in the forest and walk through the illusory trees as Emily, Ben, and Bob play a folk song in the foreground. They arrive at Dr. Truman's house and he inspects Conway's leg, who says it's severe but treatable. He gives Conway a dose of an anesthetic called Neurypnol TM, who begins to succumb to the drug. As he falls into into a nebulous sleep, his vision grows black and the walls of the house pull away to reveal the forest beyond.

Act III[edit]

Main article: Act III#Synopsis

Conway dreams of a conversation with Lysette from the previous morning. The two reminiscence about Ira, Lysette's deceased husband and Conway's former boss, and her son Charlie who died in a tragic roofing accident. Lysette tells Conway of a final mail-order delivery before the shop closes, as she is to leave and move in with her sister due to her old age and poor health.

LYSETTE: It wasn't anyone's fault, Conway. That's what we mean when we say it's ...
CONWAY: An accident.
/ A tragedy. / A shame.

Conway wakes from his drug-induced sleep and stares at his leg, which has been replaced with a ghostly, skeletal limb with a yellow glow. Dr. Truman tells him that while he may feel a sense of "lost time" or "lateness," dreaming would have been highly unlikely. He suggests Conway look over the bill as his employer has recently been bought out by the Consolidated Power Company and they have changed the payment system.

Conway, Shannon, and Ezra return to the Museum of Dwellings and find it closed for the night. Emily, Ben, and Bob stand at the entrance, and debate whether to enter after finding the door unlocked. The three set out to search for Lula in Conway's truck, but are quickly stopped as the engine breaks down in front of a large tree.

JOHNNY: Test. Test. One. One. One. Three. Fifty. Lamentation. La — men — ta — tion.

Junebug and Johnny speed by the tree on their motorcycle and notice the truck. They are musicians and, while they are already late to their performance, decide to go back and help the group in hopes of gaining an audience. The two fix the truck's engine, and Conway, Shannon, and Ezra agree to accompany them to The Lower Depths tavern.

At the bar, Junebug and Johnny sing a song as the roof of the bar seemingly disappears to reveal the full moon overhead. After the show, the group talks with Harry who admits he can't pay, as he was left with nothing but an I.O.U. from the Hard Times Distillery after he traded his customers' debt for whiskey and the events in The Entertainment. He suggests they head to the distillery to claim their payment, but that they must take the Zero to get there. As Junebug and Johnny decide to accompany the trio, Harry gives them directions based on following radio signals, and they set out. The group drives until they see a team of horses standing in the middle of the darkened highway, and immediately appear on the Zero.

Another love came by, and stole my heart away. I wish that I could take it back, but it's too late.

The group soon comes across a large chamber dominated by a rock spire, known as the Hall of the Mountain King. There they find broken, vintage computers in large piles surrounding a tall, burning fire of discarded electronics. They come across an old man named Donald who is fixated on a grand project – his life's work – named XANADU, involving a computer growing black mold and an artificial intelligence simulation of his life's missed opportunities from long ago. He claims Lula and Joseph helped design XANADU and, while Lula left long ago, there may be a way to use it to find her. However, Donald says a group of people who he calls "the Strangers" repeatedly sabotaged the computer, leaving its text garbled and unable to be read. The group decides to locate the strangers so they may fix XANADU and find Lula.

DONALD: The chalky bones of a beautiful dream. But you can see what it once was, can't you? Can't you?

Venturing through a crystal tunnel, the group comes upon a church in a muddy graveyard. Conway and Shannon go inside while Junebug waits outside with Ezra. Junebug reveals that she and Johnny are escaped robots originally manufactured to clear out the flooded Elkhorn Mine.

Conway and Shannon emerge from the church, shaken, but Shannon says they have what they need. They return to Donald and fix XANADU and play its simulation as it tells an intricate, day-by-day story of its own creation, involving Donald, Lula, Joseph, and many research assistants including the Bureau receptionist and Weaver. The simulation reveals that one day, Weaver followed the strangers into the tunnels, and neither returned. Years pass and mold grows, until one night, different strangers arrive, and an old friend, Lula, returns. The program exits, and Lula is standing in the cave.

He removed his hands from the steering wheel for a moment and felt the car drift into a decision. Years later, he'd think of this as the moment he himself started drifting.

With Lula's help, Donald is able to find information to 5 Dogwood Drive, and they decide to wait at the Bureau for the results. As they descend from the Hall of the Mountain King, Emily, Ben, and Bob can be seen playing a folk song in the foreground. At the Bureau, Lula tells them she was able to find a corresponding near a mail stop off the Echo River, and they must take a ferry to reach it.

As they wait for the ferry, Conway reveals what happened with the strangers: he and Shannon had gone via a hidden elevator to an underground whiskey distillery staffed by indistinct glowing skeletons, identical in appearance to Conway's new leg. There, they meet Doolittle who mistakes Conway for a new hire as a truck driver. He gives them a tour and tells them about The Formula, a revolutionary equation for computing interest introduced to them by a brilliant mathematician, and reveals that many workers are forced to work there due to their debt. Inspecting a truck, Conway recalls his past with Lysette and Ira, and the accident that killed their son Charlie: too hungover to perform a roofing job, Charlie took Conway's place and, in performing the work in the hot sun, slipped and fell to his death.

EZRA: I'm confused.
CONWAY: It's just the way these things go, kid.

After the tour, Doolittle tells them how to repair XANADU, shows them the adding machine which calculates interest, and tells Conway he is hired, offering him a "shift drink" to mark the occasion. Conway, in a daze, is unable to refuse and takes a sip of alcohol. As Shannon insists they must leave, Doolittle reminds them that Conway is now in debt for taking both the alcohol and his time, and will start the next day, as the scene blurs and fades to black.

Back in the Bureau, the group stands silhouetted in front of Conway's truck, mulling over what's to come next. A tugboat arrives; as it pulls into view, a horn blares, revealing a gigantic, trumpeting wooly mammoth.

Act IV[edit]

Main article: Act IV#Synopsis
WILL: Maybe I oughta read it back-to-front ...

Act IV's storyline diverges and reconverges based on player choice to either stay abroad the Mucky Mammoth tugboat, or go ashore, at a variety of locations.

As the silhouette of the animal fades into view, its mechanical body comes to a halt; a man named Will stands on the edge of the ship. He and Junebug talk about the Echo River and their precarious travels on the Zero to get there.

Shannon approaches from the helm and talks to Will about how he was led to meet Cate, the captain, and how he helps with maintenance, mail, trash, and recording their journey. Shannon talks with Cate, who notes that they must make other stops before reaching the Silo of Late Reflections mail stop, near which 5 Dogwood Drive is located. She introduces Shannon to her dog Valkyrie, or Val, and tells her of the boat's amenities, including a video room with various curious VCR tapes. As Cate back inside, Ezra runs up to Shannon and asks for batteries for a tape recorder Johnny lent him.

CONWAY: I've got to repay my debt. Hell, I should be grateful for the opportunity — if you want to die with any dignity, you've got to settle up. That's why it's such a damned shame when people go sudden.

Inside, Junebug and Johnny sit with another musician named Clara who has come from Lithuania to play a concert on the Echo. They discuss another musician friend, Cyrano, who's playing at a bar known at the Rum Colony and where Junebug had an appointment that she missed. Johnny sends Ezra out with his tape recorder to collect "found sounds" for use in the concert; as he exits, Conway walks into the room and grabs a beer from the fridge with his now-skeletal right arm after being sober for 15 months. He heads outside and talks with Shannon, where he reminisces about Lysette's kindness and says that he must repay his debt to the distillery.

AL: GLORYITISGOODTOBEAMONGFRIENDS!

Cate, Junebug, Johnny, and Ezra debark at a floating gas station, which drifts aimlessly along the Echo. Cate talks with Junebug about the heavy storm outside; while it will bring flooding and damages, it also means she and Val can forage for mushrooms. Various characters enter the gas station, such as Norm who is waiting to meet a date and Al who recounts a miraculous story of being saved by a lightning bug's glow after being lost on the Echo with no light. Junebug chats with the station attendant who offers food, drink, and crystals for sale.

If the player chooses to stay on board the Mammoth instead, Ezra makes observations from the captain's chair and Cate talks to him about the ship's controls and her home-brewed kombucha. To navigate the Echo, she tells him that she relies heavily on landmarks and lights rather than compasses. Ezra heads to the map room to deliver a message about a nearby landmark to Will and passes Shannon on the way, who is trying out Clara's theremin. Will updates his charts based on Ezra's information and, in exchange, offers him a selection of old maps charting underwater islands.

WILL: I'm sure I talk too much — everyone on this river does. The problem is that we listen twice as much as that. We're only telling you half of the stories we hear!

After sailing for a while longer, the passengers get off at the Rum Colony, a drowsy beachside bar illuminated by torchlight and where Cyrano is playing a lap steel guitar. Shannon wanders the beach with her flashlight and finds various buried trinkets. Will relaxes on a couch while Ezra runs on the beach and Conway sits at a table drinking alcohol by himself.

At the bar, Shannon, Junebug, and Johnny talk with the bartender Patch. Junebug notes she was supposed to meet a woman there hours ago but missed her appointment. Patch offers them drinks from dozens of options, but they decline. Nearby, they also talk with a couple named Sonny and Dawn; Sonny who woefully mourns the world's environmental problems such as melting polar ice caps and toxic runoff while his wife apologizes for him.

Will never has any money. Good for him.

Johnny talks with Cyrano and agrees to go around collecting tips for his performance from the bargoers. After Cyrano's song, Johnny and Junebug agree that they're ready to set off, and Shannon goes to get Conway. As she approaches, three glowing skeletal figures sit around his table, visible only in her flashlight beam. She asks who he's talking to and, startled by her presence, he says it's nothing to worry about and the two return to the boat.

If the player chooses to stay on board the Mammoth instead, Shannon stays aboard and watches old tapes on the TV in the video room. One video features a young Will taking calls about supernatural stories, just to listen. Shannon inserts a tape labeled "???" and begins to hear a humming sound. On the screen, Weaver stands in a room with video equipment in the corner, looking directly at the camera. Her words appear as captions on the screen:

That awful hum ... it seems to start before Shannon even hits "play."
WEAVER: ... mail, school, and these magnificent, tragic horses. Go underground, as deep as you can go. The air is cool and the earth is damp, and when you close your eyes you are surrounded by the dead. Remember where that is? You'll find your way from there. I think this place is what you're looking for. Some of it will wash away soon, but I think you'll be happy here, even without the mail, school ...

The text repeats on loop and Shannon stops the tape. She walks upstairs to find Will and Cate, who explain that the VCR automatically records over anything left in it, but the only signal available is the public-access community TV station WEVP. Cate suggests Shannon meet Dashiell, who used to do volunteer work for the station, at the Echo River Central Exchange where they'll be stopping later.

SHANNON: (To WILL.) So, any important messages?
WILL: Every single one.

The Mammoth docks at a floating phone booth. Not wanting to wait in line, Conway jumps into the water and swims back to the boat to look for more alcohol. Will listens to a variety of calls – audio of players' personal anecdotes, stories, and feelings. Next in line, Cate calls a woman named Summer, one of her clients for whom she assists as a birth doula, and suggests a natural remedy to her sleep problem. Next, Clara calls her older sister Nadia in Lithuania and they talk about their uncle in hospice care.

Another man on the floating platform reveals himself as Brandon, the janitor from the self storage facility, and mentions Conway not only seemed drunk and preoccupied, but also "spiritually distracted." If encountered in Act I, Carrington calls, in attempt to talk with a friend who is a lighting designer in Chicago if not for the phone lines being affected by the storm. Shannon answers, and he asks for advice for his upcoming play which will be held at dawn in the location provided in Act II. He notes the cast and stage crew are all delayed by the bad weather but hopes the group will be able to make it to the premiere.

If the player chooses to stay on board the Mammoth instead, the dogs simply lounge on the ship's lower deck.

MIMI: Weaver's video showed up again right before the flood. Actually, I think it might have been the last thing we ever broadcast.

The crew stop at a place known as the Radvansky Center. Security camera footage begins playing; two employees, Mimi and Jenn, watch and discuss undated video tapes of the group's visit to the center, which a coworker discovered recently along with old, unprocessed questionnaires. In the first tape, Shannon wanders around a room and answers experimental survey questions about memory and doorways. Upon seeing the name "Márquez" on Shannon's file, Mimi is taken aback, and recollects her time with WEVP-TV, the community television cooperative forcibly-funded by the Consolidated Power Company who to screen her video art before being demolished in a flood. She says she doesn't know Shannon, but did know a Weaver Márquez who worked at the station before leaving on "weird terms."

The two continue looking through tapes. One showing the group's arrival at the dock causes Jenn to remark that Conway, who has stayed back to guard the dinghy, looks like "one of those creepy distillery guys." The next tape shows a cat, Coconut, who Jenn mentions disappeared from the center one day without a trace. Other tapes show Shannon feeding Coconut, flipping a calendar, and doing more questionnaires, plus one of Will sitting in a waiting room. Mimi recalls Will used to work at the university when she was a student, which reminds her of her distressing final year in which her boyfriend, Charlie, died suddenly by falling off a roof.

EZRA: Nine gray feathers, seven blue petals, three white doves, eight deep breaths, five slow hours.

Mimi and Jenn discuss what happened with Weaver – soon after her departure, bizarre events started happening around the station that persisted for years, such as interference during regular broadcasts via a jamming signal that blacked out the feed, followed by a Weaver staring at the camera with a sinister-sounding hum and captions in an unconventional font. A final tape of the dock shows Conway talking with three glowing skeletons who disappear as the group rejoins him, and Coconut following Ezra back to the boat.

If the player chooses to stay on board the Mammoth instead, Cate, Junebug, Clara, and Ezra play a card game about memory.

Sailing down the Echo, Will chronicles the group's adventures, noting an open-air gallery they pass by which contains photographs of small-town life, including one of Flora folding a paper boat. Will notes that the town depicted in the photos was "very recently flattened to make way for a big museum project."

The tugboat stops at a grove and Cate and Ezra step onto a lush, floating island. She teaches him about various kinds of mushrooms as they forage, eating a few in the process. The two have their own introspective moments simultaneously, with players choosing to advance two side-by-side texts at once. Cate remembers how she got started with learning about fungi while Ezra remembers a childhood story of playing in the woods outside, alone. She tells him about her mother's death and how she now considers her family to be those who come aboard her ship, while he talks about about his missing parents and about Julian, his brother. As they talk, a large, old battleship filled with mewing cats floats by, which Cate calls The Iron Pariah.

SHANNON: I don't think you ever forget anger like that.
CONWAY: I guess that's what a memorial should do, huh? Help you hang on to your feelings. Otherwise, they fade away; that's just what time does.

If the player chooses to stay on board the Mammoth instead, Ezra heads down to the lower deck and records various sound samples. Will sleeps in his bunk, listening to recorded university lecture titled "History of the Philosophy of Death." At one point, the lecturer takes a question from a student in the audience named James. Will wakes up and tells Ezra of his dream about being a cat aboard the roaming the Iron Pariah.

As Will cooks a stew in the kitchen and talks with Ezra and Shannon, Cate interrupts to ask Shannon if she and Conway would make a delivery in the dinghy to the Echo River Central Exchange – or, as the power company has called it since they took over, "Consolidated Auxiliary Switch Number 30" – as the Mammoth is unable to fit through the narrow passage to reach it. She says they'll want to talk to Poppy about the parcel, reminds Shannon to meet Dashiell, and says that they'll rendezvous on the other side at Sam & Ida's for an early breakfast.

FLORA: I'm a romantic.
SHANNON: Really? What does that mean to you?
FLORA: It means I like poems and rivers and mysteries.

On their way to the Exchange, Conway, his dog, and Shannon pass through a bat sanctuary-slash-artificial hibernaculum. At its entrance is a shrine to miners who died in the flood of the Elkhorn Mine, comprised of a a central pile of helmets spilled out into the water and large wooden beams with signs nailed on.

As they drift away, two skeletal figures pass by in a small boat and wave at Conway, who waves back with his skeletal arm. Shannon looks at him oddly; he tells her his leg and arm don't hurt anymore, and instead feels as if nothing's there. He says the distillery workers can help him take care of his medical bills for his leg, get everything together on a plan, and consolidate it. Worried, Shannon tries to talk him out of it, but he says he has a feeling everything will work out and offers Shannon his truck.

In the entrance to the Exchange, Shannon sees Flora who has come to retrieve her paper boat. On the other side of the river, Shannon talks with Dashiell who is repairing old phones at a reception desk. He tells her about the Exchange's history as a train station, reclaimed by the Bureau for the phone company after a flood. He mentions he works on wiring for WEVP in the "Crystal Room," an underground area of resonant, amplifying rock formations, though doesn't know what happened to Weaver, directs her to the Silo mail stop where other volunteers are located.

SAM: Just passing through. Hey, aren't we all?

Shannon meets with Poppy, the Exchange's switchboard operator, and delivers Cate's package to her. She tells Shannon about massive job cuts and automation from when the power company took over, and how she is now its sole remaining employee. As Shannon prepares to leave, she turns her flashlight around to see three buzzing, skeletal figures sailing away in a boat. Conway's dog can choose to either follow or stay behind. Shannon returns to the dinghy alone. On the way back to the tugboat, she shuts the motor off and floats in silence.

Shannon, now having lost Conway, reconvenes with the Mammoth crew at Sam & Ida's, a floating, stilted restaurant on Lake Lethe. Cate, Will, and Junebug sit at a table deciding on a to-go order for Clara; Shannon talks with Johnny and Ezra off to the side, who are playing a crane game, and tells them what happened to Conway. She returns to the table and vows to complete Conway's delivery as Johnny and Ezra look at a display of shellac-covered plates of food.

JUNEBUG: When I met you — when we met, we were nothing, just these little gray shadows. And we grew, and filled in, and ... but we did all that together.

The cook, Ida, appears, and tells a story of two divers with bottomless appetites who helped kickstart their restaurant's success. Down below, Ida's husband Sam returns from a diving expedition with a small eel and recounts to himself a different angle of the story about the two divers. As he walks up the stairs, Ida brings out the food, and the group prepares to leave. Shannon walks down to the tugboat as Emily, Ben, and Bob float by, playing "This World Is Not My Home."

JUNEBUG: Tired? Don't worry, lady. We're almost there.

The tugboat arrives at a small houseboat neighborhood. From the deck of the ship, Clara plays a solo theremin piece; Ezra can choose to watch from shore or assist her by playing the sounds he recorded as part of the performance. Junebug and Johnny reminisce about a previous performance of hers, and the two discuss Ezra, who seems directionless and lost, and agree that he could join them in their travels, and could teach him to play the drum machine with them.

The group reconvenes, returns to the Mammoth and sails to their final stop. Clara decides to travel with Shannon, Junebug, Johnny, and Ezra, and they disembark, while Cate and Will depart on the tugboat. As the group stands at the bottom of a large spiral staircase, with no way to bring the vehicle to the surface, they begin to unload the truck to complete the delivery on foot.

Act V[edit]

Soundtrack[edit]

Main article: Music

The game's ambient soundtrack features music by Ben Babbitt with bluegrass tracks performed by The Bedquilt Ramblers.

Development[edit]

The project was first revealed on January 7, 2011 on Kickstarter. By the end of the campaign, the game had acquired USD $8,583 from 205 backers, exceeding its original goal of $6,500.[1] A heavily-revised trailer with an updated visual style was released on October 17, 2012.[2]

A revamped user interface, including achievements and ephemera, was added with the final release of the game in 2020, along with translations into French, Italian, German, Spanish, Japanese, Korean, and Russian.

Reception[edit]

Kentucky Route Zero has been well-received by critics. It won the award for Excellence in Visual Art at the Independent Games Festival in 2013, with additional nominations for Excellence in Audio, Excellence in Narrative, and the Seumas McNally Grand Prize.[3] In the same year, it was named game of the year by Rock Paper Shotgun and won awards for both Visual Design and Story & Word Design at IndieCade.[4][5]

In 2014, Kentucky Route Zero's Act III was named Kill Screen's game of the year.[6] In 2015, it won Best Narrative at the Game Developers Choice Awards.[7]

In November 2019, Polygon named Kentucky Route Zero as the fourth best game of the decade, and the following month described it as "the most important game of the decade."[8][9]

Gallery[edit]

References[edit]