Kentucky Route Zero: Act II

Posted by Patrick Talbot.
First posted on 24 April 2014. Last updated on 24 April 2014.
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Kentucky Route Zero: Act II
Lula works at the Bureau of Reclaimed Spaces.
Kentucky Route Zero: Act II
The bureau is a vast space of tangled bureaucracy.
Kentucky Route Zero: Act II
Bears are roaming in the office, really.
Kentucky Route Zero: Act II
Conway and Shannon arrive at the storage facility.
Kentucky Route Zero: Act II
Shannon needs to find a doctor to treat Conway's injury.

Kentucky Route Zero

The game is comprised of 5 acts:

Act I

Act II


Act IV

Act V

Kentucky Route Zero is an episodic game that tells the story of a truck driver named Conway and his straw hat wearing dog trying to deliver some antique furniture to a remote location in Kentucky. In Kentucky Route Zero: Act I, you learn that Conway needs to make the delivery to Dogwood Drive, which he can only get to by traveling on the famed Route Zero. Eventually, Conway befriends a television repairwoman named Shannon who saves the injured Conway in a mine accident. At the end of the first act, Conway appears to have finally found the directions he needs to Route Zero.

Kentucky Route Zero: Act II is the second act of the game. As the act opens, you again meet Conway and his dog as well as Shannon who is now traveling with them. You also meet Lula Chamberlain, a worker in the Bureau of Reclaimed Spaces. Conway and company arrive there seeking help to get to Dogwood Drive. The bureau, a classic picture of tangled bureaucracy in modern societies, has the task of reclaiming abandoned buildings and repurposing them for other uses. Lula takes her job seriously, as evident by the mountain of paperwork that Conway is tasked to secure for his request. Yet, Lula is also seen engaging in mindless office banter with her coworkers at the bureau. Unfortunately, when Conway nearly collapses from his injury, Shannon must take charge to find Doctor Truman instead whom she believes can help to treat Conway.

Like Act I, Act II is a study of satirical symbolism. The developer makes an effective study of modern bureaucracy as Conway and company try to locate Lula and later take an elevator to the different floors in the building to find the documents they need to get the directions they want for the delivery. The process is intentionally frustrating. Eventually, they are able to find the needed information from the bureau and reach Route Zero. There, the developer tasks you to use the map again to help Conway reach his destination. Yet, navigating the map is as disorienting as finding the way at the bureau. Landmarks change, and backtracking to an earlier location leads to somewhere entirely different instead.

Conway eventually stops at a storage facility within an abandoned church, where he finds a lone janitor playing old church sermons on tapes for a congregation that is not even present. You can either talk to the janitor or just listen to the taped sermons. The lone custodian does not offer much of an explanation, but the taped sermons are eerie and somewhat of a curiosity to listen.

Next, Conway stops at a converted museum of buildings, cabins, houseboats, stables, and even chicken coops. Here, you take control of the museum staff, interviewing (or interrogating, rather) the museum residents about the newly arrived intruders. However, at the same time, you are still responsible for physically controlling Conway and company. It is a clever example of the design philosophy that the developer tries to convey in the game—the notion that playing as Conway is more just controlling the character but also witnessing his story and partaking in it.

Without spoilers, the final part of the journey that Conway and company take is completely unexpected. You take control of a most unique transport to travel through the forest to where Conway can get treatment for his injured leg.

The game's point-and-click control scheme remains the same between acts. You move Conway or Shannon until either comes across some character with whom or some object with which either can interact. A pop-up box then appears with icons that describe what Conway or Shannon can do—an eye icon to examine, a speech bubble icon to initiate a conversation, and a wheel icon to drive.

A new feature that can lessen the frustration of driving and avoid getting lost on the map is to let Shannon take over the driving. Sometimes, a snoozing icon appears in the lower left corner of the map. Clicking on it will trigger Shannon to ask Conway if she wants him to drive. Not surprisingly, letting Shannon drive will get you to the next destination much quicker.

The highly stylized graphics have changed little between acts. Conway, Shannon, Lula, and other characters have no facial features. Perhaps the developer believes that even crude facial features are unnecessary. Instead, the developer uses words to describe the characters' emotions. The graphics share an equal footing with the music and sound effects. To this end, it is an original approach. The developer is to be commended for willing to experiment with this minimalistic design.

Since the game is in an episodic format, Act II is short quite and only slightly longer than Act I. You travel to more locales. The locales you visit are richer but also more bizarre.

Act II ends in a similar way as Act I and teases you with what is to come in Act III. What other wonders will Conway encounter along Route Zero? So far, Route Zero has been a strange, dangerous, but wondrous journey for Conway. Conway may not have found what he is searching for, but he has discovered so much of what he does not know before. It is an unforgettable road trip that the developer has challenged you to take. To where this road leads you, however, will remain a mystery until the next act.

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