Kentucky Route Zero is an indie Windows, Mac and Linux game developed by the duo known as Cardboard Computer (Jake Elliott and Tamas Kemenczy). As the developers describe it, 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. Gameplay is inspired by point-and-click adventure games [...] but focused on characterization, atmosphere and storytelling rather than clever puzzles or challenges of skill.”
You play as a driver for an antique store who must deliver his cargo to an odd address. The game is split into 5 separate downloadable acts. The first act is currently available for download and takes around an hour to complete. The full 5 acts can be purchased for roughly $25 or less, depending on current promotions.
There are two main modes of gameplay – an overworld map view that allows you to control where your character drives to, and various three-dimensional “levels” that your character can explore on foot. This is not a traditional video game; there are no boss battles, power-ups, or trophies. You must complete certain actions to move the story forward, but it’s almost impossible to get stuck unless you’re not paying attention to what other characters are telling you to do.
Exploring the overworld map plus the nooks and crannies of each area will net you plenty of secrets and help flesh out the backstory of the main characters. According to the developers, your decisions in Act 1 (and certain secrets you stumble upon) will affect the storyline in future acts.
We are entering a golden era for indie games. Although the cost of AAA titles has ballooned to tens of millions of dollars, the technology is there for one or a handful of developers to create high-quality titles worthy of praise. New development technology, crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter, distribution platforms like Steam and the Humble Bundle, and the internet as a whole has allowed developers to create, market and sell their games in a way that was never previously possible. Kentucky Route Zero is the perfect example of this, and it comes highly recommended.