Indie Project ‘Kentucky Route Zero’ Brings Magical Realism to Games

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Indie developer Cardboard Computer has just released ACT I of their IGF-nominated  five-part game series. Entitled ‘Kentucky Route Zero,’ the work is being described as a ‘magical realist adventure game.’ The project was awarded finalist status at the Independent Games Festival, and looks to become a promising piece of modern art.

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KRZ looks to have exceptional art direction.

As far as gameplay is concerned, players will be treated to classic point-and-click adventure-style puzzles. Imagine a fusion of ‘Monkey Island’ with elements similar to those found in “Like Water For Chocolate” or “Love In The Time Of Cholera.” As described by the studio themselves, the game will be focused on “characterization, atmosphere, and storytelling, rather than clever puzzles or challenges of skill. Another comparison might be to Capybara’s ‘Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP,’ though there isn’t much information currently available.

The plot revolves around a secret highway built beneath the state of Kentucky, and follows the strange characters that enhabit it. As previously stated, the title will follow a magical realist theme. For the uninitiated, this means that sorcery, supernatural phenomenon, and other magical elements might appear as a normal part of mundane, everyday life.  Professor Matthew Strecher defines magic realism as “what happens when a highly detailed, realistic setting is invaded by something too strange to believe.”While usually seen in literature, the genre also extends to film and the arts. Magical realism has always been prevalent in imaginative video games, but in a shallow, unexplored way. This looks to be the first time that magical realism is introduced to gaming as a literary trope.

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What kind of game experience will KRZ ultimately provide?

Act I is currently available for $7 at the game’s website. Brave buyers can also opt to pay $25 for the entire collection. This option would save gamers $10, and also includes the soundtrack and a private newsletter. This is probably the best choice for the optimistic indie-gamer, although there’s currently no release date set for the rest of the series. Sometime ‘over the course of the next year’ seems to be the best guess.

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