Game review: Kathy Rain – a slice of nostalgia for the ’90s

The Twin Peaks-like PC game Kathy Rain arguably comes the closest to nailing the vibe of that decade

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 18 May, 2016, 1:02pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 18 May, 2016, 1:00pm

Kathy Rain

Clifftop Games

3.5/5 stars

Nostalgia’s a funny thing, and armed with the right tools, those infected by its bug for decades on end can turn out some amazing results. Case in point: this new breed of indie adventure games, heavily inspired by the Sierra and LucasArts point-and-click games of yesteryear, when Monkey Island, King’s Quest and others dominated our boxy old PC monitors.

A few recent games have successfully replicated their feel, but PC game Kathy Rain arguably comes the closest to absolutely nailing the vibe.

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Kathy Rain is set appropriately in the early ’90s and the lead character was absolutely relatable in her uniqueness (to this reviewer at least): a hard-drinking, hard-smoking journalist with an affinity for biting sarcasm. Called back to her small town after the death of her grandfather, she’s charged with unravelling a mystery that goes deep into the skeletons of her family closet.

The biggest inspiration here is David Lynch’s cult TV show Twin Peaks: that reveals itself most obviously in the standard set of almost all two-dimensional characters – the forced detective, the gruff sheriff, the mysterious priest – but goes even deeper as things take a turn for the supernatural as the story progresses.

And there’s where Kathy Rain particularly separates itself from its forefathers: here’s a tale where things actually happen, where characters grow and the story evolves. It’s a more involving journey than Indiana Jones’ search for some random artefact or Guybrush Threepwood’s endless rescuing of the governess, but it’s still not without its flaws.

The story might push boundaries, but the gameplay doesn’t show a similar sense of modernisation – you still comb the screen looking for random clues, with no real sense of their purpose, and the puzzles are often frustrating. At a decent six to eight hours and for just HK$100, that wasn’t enough for me to turn it off, but I came pretty close a couple times.

Nostalgia for the ’90s is strong these days, and Kathy Rain channels that trend to the best of its possible abilities – almost too well at times, in fact. I could’ve done with a couple of contemporary updates to the gaming itself, but considering how rare a release like this is, I’m happy it exists.