Kathy Rain: A Frustrating Cynical Mystery
By Gwendolyn L. Spelvin
Once upon a time in a SNES era textured world, was an alcoholic collegiate named Kathy, who’s pixelated ambitions revolved around sleeping off a hangover and having a cigarette. Thanks in part to an unlikely nosy roommate, Kathy is thrown head first back into her estranged past and left to find answers surrounding the mysterious life of her recently deceased grandfather.
Welcome to Kathy Rain, an adult themed point and click mystery adventure from the eyes of a cynical collegiate protagonist with a questionable family background riddled with mysterious deaths, accidental paralysis, mental illness, and abandonment, among other dependencies that tend to be more realistic than your average fare of Family Guy.
But don’t let that stop you from diving head first into this title.
Raw Fury’s newest entry is the ideal title for fans of such contemporaries as the Agatha Christie mystery series on the Wii, with more adult like themes that take itself more serious than those of Leisure Suit Larry, and biting more cynicism than Daria’s Inferno. Yet with such a winning combination of elements, Kathy Rain crashes and burns slowly and painfully until the bitter end.
After a while of playing amateur Clue detective sleuth, that end seems like an absolute eternity.
Being a smart ass cynic in a town like Mayberry should have been the highlight of Kathy Rain. After all, dealing with narcissistic small town law enforcement that couldn’t find their asses from their elbows and townies that will talk about murdered folks willingly if you feed a nicotine addiction does have its own comic relief rewards of achievement. But it gets really old, really fast.
Just like the unlimited times Kathy rides the highway on her chopper to the next destination.
Frustratingly, for all the smartass wit that drives the storyline there isn’t much else to hold on to. Tasks and exploration objectives are boring and mundane; the repetitive nature of going back and forth between limited locations and conversations to retrace steps for chapter progression fail to inspire the initial curiosity and subsequent caring of solving the mystery.
At first glance neither levels or possible achievements are clearly defined. Without an in depth walkthrough serving as a cheat guide, there is no plausible way casual players can successfully complete the necessary tasks to further story progression. From an anthropological perspective, this makes Monkey Island less cryptic and irritatingly quirky.
No one likes wild goose chases and Kathy Rain has a tendency to have their fair share of them. This type of anomaly plagues players attempting to proceed in the right direction and/or solve puzzle correctly. Case in point: a simple task for unlocking a briefcase required for progression is overcomplicated with senseless clues that aren’t easy to follow. Even finding a lightbulb can result in a 20-minute hunt figuring out the dynamics.
Don’t get me wrong; there is nothing wrong with a challenge. Players should be expected to think outside the box at some point or another in their gaming careers. However, when Fear Effect has simpler tasks for solving puzzles, something has gone terribly wrong in the expectation department for a pixelated title.
Kathy Rain totally doesn’t leave you hanging; all collected clues are nicely put in your bag and notes are written and modified as they are discovered. All are easily accessible and available at any time to cycle through. Using them, however, may require a bit more advanced intuitive attention than the average player. This point of contention is only exasperated by Kathy’s repetitive commentary of what she should and should not do while figuring out what to do next.
No, she shouldn’t tell the Sherriff she stole a police report with the help of an inmate, but when players can’t figure out what’s been overlooked, it might add some much needed humor to throw her under the bus, if for no other reason, comedic value.
Using the phone and the phonebook is definitely an homage to Bill & Ted’s Adventure on NES. Accessing any phone is easy, but only if Kathy doesn’t remark she has no reason to, which is a considerable amount of the time. Noticeably lacking is the ability to prank call or special Easter Egg numbers with humorous responses like in Leisure Suit Larry or the Saints Row series.
As a point and click there is a noticeable lack of controller support; as a 2D side scroller Kathy Rain’s fun factor would have been kicked up a notch had the directional ability to control the character been added. Also missing is windowed mode with resolution support, which is always nice to have for the PC platform, which is nice for those frozen force close moments.
At the end of the day, Kathy Rain will have your undivided attention for a couple of hours with a moderate amount of the first couple plot points knocked out. After that, brace yourself for the reality of its slowed pace and loss of potential, with more frustrating questions than answers as you circle the repetitive shallow end of the frustration pool.
On a scale of 100, this game gets a 50/100.