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Kathy Rain (PC) artwork

Kathy Rain (PC) review

"Sluethin' in the Rain"

Kathy Rain is a throwback in more ways than one. For a start, itís set in the year 1995, with all of that period's now-weird retro quirks intact. I suppose itís quite a clever way to make players look stupid when they roll their eyes at a perplexing clue and yell ďjust Google it!Ē at the screen. And the title reminds you of its era in other ways, like when it has you hack computers with floppy disks and calls those bulbous CRT monitors you still hide in your loft "cutting edge." But, more than that, itís a proper old-school adventure game in the same vein as classic fare such as Full Throttle and Gabriel Knight. It consists of pixel graphics and inventory puzzles and people who don't get annoyed after being asked the same question or shown the same item dozens of times as you seek out increasingly obscure solutions to problems you just canít solve.

Thereís not a lot of that last thing, to be fair. Kathy has increasingly bizarre discoveries to make, but the mystery she hopes to solve never requires ludicrous leaps of logic. Or, at least, it never ventures beyond that special Adventure Game Logicô that insists all of the worldís complications can be solved with obscure lateral thinking and whatever junk we can cram into the infinite spaces that are our pockets.

Kathy Rain (PC) image

At the onset, Kathy returns to the town where she grew up, in order to attend the funeral of her grandfather and reconnect with her grandmother, who she hasnít spoken to since she left. On her return visit, she soon learns some new things about the life she left behind, and so she feels the need to poke around and learn even more. Itís all innocent enough at first; she discovers that her grandfather was involved in some kind of incident that left him in a catatonic state during his final years, and she resolves to find out why. She is a Journalism student, after all. That profession gives her reason enough to bulldoze around on her custom Harley and bother people with intensive questioning. She initially had planned to to hang around for perhaps a single day, but down the rabbit hole she goes.

Thereís an increasingly dark vibe running throughout Kathy Rain. It establishes itself so casually that itís hard to spot until itís right on top of you. For the most part, though, the game tells the tale of a sarcastic pseudo-loner who wants the world to believe sheís the embodiment of the stereotypes she drapes herself in. She does a good job of that, too; turning down the clumsy advances of a long-forgotten childhood chum gives you no options for letting him down gently, moving directly to either blunt or needlessly cruel. It could be said that the time spent in the town she grew up in starts to change her, or that reconnecting with loved ones softens her. But thatís not strictly true. Itís the mystery that forces her to slowly reevaluate some of her choices in life that made her the way she is. Also, arson. That always cheers me up, too.

Kathy Rain (PC) image

To that end, she shuns Internet search engines and has to glean information from phone books. Remember those? Thereís a clear trail to follow that was left by her grandfather before tragedy claimed him, and while the initial sleuthing is done in the name of family, thereís soon a new cause to champion. Itís all quite clever. And itís creeping, that sudden sense of gravity that the game develops as Kathy evolves from annoying snooper to reluctant saviour. Curiosity becomes a proper investigation, a fact highlighted by Kathyís reliance on a notebook as a central tool in her study. Much like protagonists in the Blackwell series (and the criminally overlooked Discworld Noir before that), the heroine jots down important bullet points and clues that she can then ask people about. These lines might evolve during time as she unearths more context, becoming less ambiguous and more direct. Someone whoís not sure about a vague incident that happened some years ago might find themselves offering important insights, should you manage to put a specific date on the matter. People might draw blanks at a description, but offer up more valuable intel when presented with a name.

Kathy Rain takes an old-school approach in just about every sense of the phrase. Though it upscales to larger monitors quite admirably, the game has a resolution of 320x240, which is positively archaic. But thanks to a rounding up of veteran AGS pixel artists, this doesnít mean playing the game in a tiny window or with overly stretched images. Retro chic is a thing now. I get that. And if the aim was to recreate the looks of yesteryear Lucasarts, then itís largely succeeded. The surprise here is that a first-time developer has also managed to kick out a game that matches the quality of its inspiration on every other level, as well.


EmP's avatar
Staff review by Gary Hartley (May 05, 2016)

Gary Hartley arbitrarily arrives, leaves a review for a game no one has heard of, then retreats to his 17th century castle in rural England to feed whatever lives in the moat and complain about you.

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