KATHY RAIN: A DETECTIVE IS BORN

 

THE BASICS:

“Kathy Rain” is a skillfully-modernized update of the classic Sierra/LucasArts-style point & click adventure games. Aside from a couple of text entry screens, the entire game is controlled entirely via the mouse. Your inventory lives in a handy backpack at the bottom of the screen, and naturally includes valuables like your notebook, taser, smokes, and your favourite lighter. The cursor lights up whenever you’re passing it over an object or character you can interact with, so you can say goodbye to the old, frustrating hunt-the-pixel puzzles of the past. The puzzles range from “brain-dead easy” to “somewhat frustrating,” but, in the end, they mostly make sense.

No way to die here, either – which, while it may take away from the tension a bit, is welcome in a genre notorious for killing characters off for really, really stupid reasons. If you’re a fan of the genre, this will bring you back – while alleviating many of the frustrations that traditionally come with the package. If you’re new to the genre, it’s a great place to start.

THE FLOW AND THE STORY:

The year is 1995. Kathy Rain, our titular character, is headed back to her old hometown after finding out that her beloved grandfather has suddenly passed away. Once she arrives, if course, she finds out that there has been some strangeness going on. In the end, she has to face her own demons, even as she digs up those in her grandfather’s past.

Is the recalcitrant town Sheriff in on some dirty little secrets, or is he just lazy? Is the pushy town priest just desperate for parishioners, or is he more than he seems? Is the crabby lady who lives outside of town really five seconds away from filling you full of lead, or is she just jonesing for a sweet, sweet cancer stick? Is the mysterious, wealthy industrialist the Big Bad with his fingers in all the local intrigue, or is he just some guy? Play the game and find out.

CONTROLS:

Mouse and the LMB, along with a couple of very brief text-entry sections, but that’s it. Simple and straightforward. Click on a location to go there, click an item (in the world or in your bag) or NPC to interact with or examine them. Choose “Combine” to light up a smoke, drop a cassette into a tape player (remember those, boys and girls?), and the like. Your character will automatically keep track of important conversation points and phone numbers in her notebook. When travelling between areas on your custom chopper, just click the destination and Kathy will ride there on her own. The connection to Full Throttle (which got an HD remaster not long ago) is very much in play.

GRAPHICS:

100% all-natural pixels, love ’em or leave ’em. Highly-detailed areas that all contribute to the look and feel of the game’s odd little world. You may need to play with the graphics settings a bit to make it easier on the eyes. Right-click the game’s list entry in Steam (or CTRL-double click) to access the config utility. Set the Graphics Filter as high as it will go; if the game refuses to run, drop it down a notch, one at a time, until you get one that your card is happy with (e.g.: screenshots in this article were taken at 1080p, 4X nearest-neighbour filter setting). If you can’t stand to stare at pixels, this may not be the game for you. A free demo is available, though, so give that a shot; it’s a good way to assess whether you’ll like the visual and aural styles or not.

OVERALL:

Subtle, effective soundtrack that works well with the just creepy enough setting. Well-thought out, coherent story. Superb voice acting that complements the clever writing. Fun bonus: Most of the cheevos are for silly things that are unimportant to the plot – e.g. finding a victim for your secondhand smoke, messing with a teddy bear, or even something as simple as idling too long on a screen without doing anything productive. A worthy title; looking forward to more from this studio in the future.

 

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