I had to go get a routine (for me) blood test recently. My insurance situation had changed, so I had to go to a new location, at a hospital that I’d exited once but never entered. So on my way there, on a hot and too-humid morning, I kept getting turned around on side streets, even though I had directions right in front of me. The street zig-zagged at one point, you see, so I didn’t trust my bearings. I live in Chicago, but suburban areas can feel downright rural just from the contrast with the heavier sprawl even a few blocks away. Even a familiar place, with the sun in your eyes, can be another world for a half a block.
When I finally arrived, I ascended the west tower of the hospital’s office building and went up to a tiny window, where they claimed I didn’t have the right paperwork. I wound up trying to broker an arrangement between my doctor’s office and this laboratory using myself on the phone as a go-between, only to learn that the person who had looked for my file had made a typo or something, and the paperwork had existed all along. And then the way back, a minute’s walk at best, because I knew the path.
This can be what Kentucky Route Zero feels like. It can also feel like something wondrous, the flight of a giant eagle over a Baudrillard map, a pedal-wheel spinning through a fourth-dimensional wormhole, or the flats of a stage production falling away to reveal the shadow world beyond its walls. The joy and terror of being lost, but also the banality, I suppose. It’s a story about debt; living with it, and in a world changed by it. It’s very funny, and also very scary. Or vice versa.
Kentucky Road Zero is a five-act episodic game for the PC, which also includes free “demos” which are in fact interstitial chapters. You can find it here at the site of developers Cardboard Computer, and it comes highly recommended.
Another fan of the game is critic Joe McCulloch, a friend, infrequent P:B contributor, and sometime bassist for the band Foreigner. You can find him writing every week over at The Comics Journal and having fun with manga over at his tumblr. Joe and I decided to dig in deep and hash out this extraordinary game series, which at the time of this writing has reached Act III. We talk about everything; KR0 being a game of discovery, that may be worth considering before you progress. That said, it is as always and honor and a pleasure to host – and to write with – Joe; and this was a subject with plenty of meat for both of us.
A poem is the password