Publisher: Raw Fury
Developer: Clifftop Games
Platform: Windows, Mac, Android, iOS
If you loved adventure games in the early 90s, it would be next to impossible not to like Kathy Rain. It takes everything that was great about those old games and in some respects makes them better.
Taking place in 1995 (presumably so cell phones and the internet aren’t the immediate solution to every puzzle!), Kathy Rain is at university studying journalism and reluctantly attends her estranged grandfather’s funeral. And because this is an adventure game it sets off the usual plot where Kathy investigates his unusual illness and gets wrapped up in a decades old mystery. However, unlike some of those old adventures, Kathy’s motivation is always clear and consistent. With perhaps one or two exceptions, she doesn’t pick up random objects hoping they’ll be useful later, and everything she does is motivated by who she is as a person. We get to know Kathy very well over the course of the game and her personality is funny and endearing.
Within a few minutes of playing, I was reminded of Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers, and that continued throughout the whole game. Not only are some of the themes similar, but the graphical stylings are quite reminiscent (and gorgeous). It doesn’t have the star power of Michael Dorn and Tim Curry, but the voice acting is solid all the way around. Like Gabriel Knight, Kathy rides her motorcycle everywhere. A lot of time is spent in nature and cemeteries. You also get the grandma you visit constantly while picking her brain! The designers also borrowed possibly the best puzzle from the Gabriel Knight series, where you get to splice a recording and trick an unsuspecting recipient.
What makes Kathy Rain more enjoyable than those old games is how damn user-friendly it is. There is no way to die (while retaining tension), but more than that there is very little guessing-the-author’s-mind to do. Most puzzles are intuitive, and the game constantly nudges you if you’re on the right track (or sometimes the wrong one!). I found two puzzles to be a bit obscure, with just one pixel-hunting problem. The interface is intuitive, simplistic without being insulting.
I would have rated this even higher, but the music is mediocre (possibly a limit of the AGS engine) and the plot itself was a tad derivative and predictable. That said, I enjoyed myself the entire time and am eagerly awaiting the remake coming out later this year.