Kathy Rain Review
Kathy Rain Review
Kathy Rain is absolutely one of the best adventure games I've played this year
Posted: 05/30/16 | Category: Review | Developer: Clifftop Games | Publisher: Raw Fury | Platform: Mac, Windows

Genre: Point-and-Click Adventure
Release date: May 5, 2016

Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers (GK1) is one of my all-time favorite adventure games. It's one of the few games that gets everything right; characters, story, puzzles, audio, environments… every element is close to perfection. Joel Staaf Hästö, the man behind the freshly-founded Swedish game studio Clifftop Games, seems to agree with me. Actually, Hästö likes Gabriel Knight so much, he decided to go and produce a game which looks and plays like a tribute to Sins of the Fathers. The impressive side is, he didn't only succeed in paying his tributes to Jane Jensen; he also created a very good game that stands on its own. Kathy Rain is absolutely one of the best adventure games I've played this year, and despite having a disappointingly short length, it has huge potential to become an indie hit, and the beginning of a successful series.

Well, maybe I was doing a bit of an injustice to the designer by mentioning Gabriel Knight right at the beginning of the review, but the similarities are so overwhelming, it's impossible to think that they're coincidental. Graphics, which are produced in AGS, are very similar to the style of GK1. Both games combine supernatural elements with a detective story. The bulk of the gameplay in both games consists of questioning people and researching past events. Some of the puzzles are revisited versions of puzzles from the GK series (splicing audio tapes, decrypting clues embedded in a poem, etc.). Even some of the story sequences, such as visiting your grandmother and discovering the family secrets from the documents in the attic, are exact adaptations from GK1. Alright, since I've made my point, I'll stop mentioning GK again for the rest of the review. I'm sure Hästö was completely conscious of his decisions when he was designing the game. If Kathy Rain weren't a good game on its own, I'd dismiss it as a copycat, but it's actually much more than that. I simply accept these similarities as a tribute to Jane Jensen.

Kathy Rain is a journalism student who's in her mid-20s. She rides a bike which she modified herself, and prefers drinking and sleeping most of the time. She has a reckless character and she also swears a lot. This doesn't sound like your average female adventure game protagonist right? The game’s biggest achievement is giving us an original and multidimensional heroine. Hästö did an amazing job blending Kathy’s background story within the story of the game itself. As the game progresses, we not only learn more about the plot but we also discover more of Kathy. We learn about her secrets, her fears, the reason why she isolated herself from her family, and how passionate she can be about her beloved ones. She can also be a total badass, which is always welcome in a titular character. Her voiceover is also well done, portraying a diverse set of emotions throughout the game.

Let’s get back to the story. One day Kathy receives the news that her grandfather has passed away, and although she doesn't care too much about family, she attends the funeral because her roommate Ellie forces her to. After the funeral, Kathy starts suspecting that something about her grandpa was off and starts digging deeper into his past as a fighter pilot in World War II. Soon she finds links to periodic abductions all over the town, a drowned girl who painted mysterious paintings, and a seemingly normal church with a dark past. If all that doesn't sound like a good setup for a supernatural detective thriller, I don't know what else would. The plot is so catchy that I ended up finishing the game in only two sessions (that's also due to the fact that the game is short, but more on that later). I simply couldn't wait to travel to the next location and uncover more about the mystery. The characters and story are the strongest aspects of the game.

In terms of gameplay, Kathy Rain is a classic point-and-click adventure with a good mix of dialogue, inventory and logic puzzles. Dialogue puzzles are straightforward, you simply need to ask the right people the right questions, and since the game map is not very big, it's almost impossible to get stuck. The inventory puzzles can be a bit more challenging, but Kathy herself provides a lot of hints when you examine the items. Logic puzzles are sparse, but they're well-integrated into the story. I especially liked the one towards the end that requires you to decrypt a passcode based on family graves. I wish the game contained more puzzles like that. I also wish that the game was a bit more challenging, but I guess you can’t get everything you want.

The voice acting is mostly well-done, which is a rare feat for an indie game. However, I can't say the same about the music. The composer preferred to focus more on percussive samples instead of melodies, hence the MIDI-like drum-heavy soundtrack gets annoying really quickly. I think a more melodic approach and softer textures would have worked much better. Also, Kathy is in dire need of a memorable theme, I hope she gets it in the next game.

All right, Kathy Rain lacks good music and challenging puzzles, but to me these aren't fatal flaws. Unfortunately, there is a fatal flaw that prevents the game from a getting an A grade. It's the length. Words cannot describe how disappointed I was when I discovered that the game only had about 4 hours of gameplay, and finishes very abruptly without answering a lot of key questions about the story, especially the ones regarding the supernatural aspects of the plot. It really feels like a half-game, or an Episode 1 of a series, rather than a full game. I can understand that the designer wants to keep an open end for the upcoming games in the series, but I also think that even if a game is part of a series, it should be able to exist as a stand-alone. Because of the unsatisfying finale, Kathy Rain left a bittersweet taste in my mouth.

I really hope that we'll see a sequel. The character and the story has so much untapped potential. With the inclusion of better music, more complex puzzles, and lengthier gameplay, I think Kathy Rain can be our next favorite supernatural detective.

 
Awesome titular character
Dialogue and storytelling are top notch
Well-integrated puzzles
Good voiceovers
 
Too short; finale is unsatisfying
Subpar soundtrack
Would benefit from more difficult puzzles
 Logo
 
 
Trailer:
 
 
System Requirements
 
MINIMUM PC:
OS: Windows XP
Processor: 300 MHz Processor
Memory: 128MB RAM
Graphics: 320 x 240 32 bit
DirectX: Version 9.0
Hard Drive: 1 GB available space
Additional Notes: Video: DirectX & Directdraw Supported
 
MINIMUM Mac:
OS: Snow Leopard
Processor: Intel processor
Memory: 1 GB RAM
Graphics: NVIDIA GeForce 9400M, GeForce 9600M GT, GeForce 8600M GT, GeForce GT 120, GeForce GT 130, GeForce GTX 285, GeForce 8800 GT, GeForce 8800 GS, Quadro FX 4800, Quadro FX5600 ATI Radeon 4850, Radeon 4870
Hard Drive: 1 GB available space
 
Specials from Digital Download
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