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Who is Kathy Rain? Kathy Rain is a university student who learns about her estranged grandfather’s death and upon visiting his funeral, learns about his mysterious passing and decides to investigate further around the small town of Conwell Springs. It’s a throwback retro-styled graphic adventure, bringing back memories of the classic LucasArts games, while introducing us to an intriguing new heroine to root for.
For anyone whose spent any amount of time browsing the new releases on Steam or the PS / Xbox Marketplace, you will know already that the indie games market is full of games trying to emulate the retro pixel art style, and Kathy Rain is certainly no different as Joel Staaf Hasto, the founder and sole employee of “Clifftop Games,” provides a fun throwback to the likes of “The Secret of Monkey Island” and “Day of the Tentacle”. That being said, while the styling for the game might certainly be retro, it more than carries itself with its story about college student Kathy returning to her home town after her grandfather dies under mysterious circumstances, leading her to carry out her own investigation, and along the way discovering that the town hides more than a few dark secrets.
Like its predecessors, here the main meat of the game comes from traveling to the various locations of Conwell Springs and taking to the various residents in-between, collecting clues and items to help further your investigation. Like any good Point & Click hero, Kathy comes with seemingly bottomless pockets to cart around the various things you will help her find, amassing things in the hope that their purpose will later be revealed. Thankfully, the game avoids going for anything too outlandish when it comes to its puzzles, so you won’t find yourself having to put the pulley inside the rubber chicken or finding a way to freeze the hamster (depending on what your playing) as here the puzzles all have a logical solution even though the answers might not be overly clear at first and generally give a great sense of satisfaction from beating them.
Fans of Twin Peaks will no doubt get a kick out of the small rural town setting of Conwell Springs, as here we get another town hiding its own dark secrets under the seemingly tranquil surface while the mysterious Crimson Man hints at more supernatural happenings. While Conwell Springs might, like Twin Peaks, come with its own share of oddball residents, it ends up falling short thanks to none of the characters outside of Kathy and Eileen getting enough development beyond two-dimensional characters. This of course at times can make interactions with some of these characters kind of a grind, especially when at times it feels like your just going back and forth between the same locations and speaking to the same small group of characters; Kathy’s Grandma doesn’t even get off the couch for the whole of the five days which the game takes place, which combined with the fact she seems constantly overwhelmed with anything you show or ask her, hardly makes for a thrilling experience.
Kathy is unquestionably one of the most appealing aspects of this game as she welds her own unique brand of sarcasm, riding a motorcycle she refers to as “The Katmobile” while smoking at any given opportunity. When faced with a dead end, Kathy can also call on the help of her roommate Eileen, with the two over the course of the game forming a Sherlock Holmes and Watson-style relationship despite Eileen, like seemingly every other character in the game, being rooted to the same location.
The locations you visit over the course of the game are varied enough to keep things interesting enough though, and include a cult-like church and a biker bar complete with its own “Sons of Anarchy” rejects, which keeps the game from being too predictable in terms of plotting, But, at the same time, they often lack any of the smaller details which made the LucasArts games so memorable. There were many times I felt that the game could have benefited from a touch more humour than Kathy’s cutting barbs. Yes, there are a number of hidden achievements throughout these locations, such as trying to set fire to a stack of bibles or asking Kathy to ride in her grandfather’s wheelchair, which generated a few chuckles, but these are really too few and far between to really be as effective to the overall experience as I would have liked.
While Kathy Rain might certainly have its issues, as to be expected with any debut game, its low price and short runtime make it far from a waste of time, especially if your looking for a fun title to slot between your main gaming. Older gamers will no doubt tap into their gaming nostalgia with its retro style as well. Most especially though, Kathy is such a fantastic creation, I would certainly love to see further adventures with her, especially when she is so much fun to be around. It’s just a shame she’s not been given anything more exciting to do here, leaving us with a mixed experience but one which still left us curious to see where the story goes from here.
Game description: Kathy Rain is a university student who learns about her estranged grandfather's death and upon visiting his funeral, learns about his mysterious passing and decides to investigate further around the small town of Conwell Springs.