The game of the year for 2014 (and 2013, retrospectively) continues to be Kentucky Route Zero by Cardboard Computer. Brilliant in its fusion of esoteric dramaturgy, point-and-click adventure parlance, and Fin de siècle avant-garde art (especially in the realm of obsolete technologies), Kentucky Route Zero offers a degree of interactive fiction and emotion few other titles achieve. 2014 saw the release of Act III (of V acts), along with the free interactive intermission “Here and There Along the Echo” that serves as a bridge between Acts III and IV, but also explores alternate story telling techniques, such as employing a manual telephone dialing menu, while thematically challenging the conventions of audience and performer native to the discussion of video games as a genre. Beyond all this, Kentucky Route Zero creates a world touched by both the political and the theological: a landscape ravaged by financial debt and physical decay as well as the lingering despair of unaccomplished dreams and the search for a kind of quiet salvation.
Act III is the longest, most elaborate staging yet, tying together many of the narrative threads from the previous two episodes while building on the initial conceit of the game, getting the main protagonist, Conway (an aging antiques truck driver) to 5 Dogwood Drive to make his final delivery of the day. In his ensuing circuitous navigations, we learn much more about Conway during this Act, as well as meeting new and fascinating characters to add to our adventure party on the journey to 5 Dogwood Drive. Accompanied by a wonderful and ethereal musical score by Ben Babbitt (complete with a “choose-your-own-lyrics” chapter in Act III, which perfectly encapsulates the brilliant mechanics of the story-telling), Kentucky Route Zero will no doubt continue to be thought-provoking, challenging at times, and moving. I look forward to what the final two acts have in store, though I fear it may break my heart.