There's all this bloviation on the internets now about whether games can or should tell good stories, which I feel is utter BS. As such, I am going to be heavily emphasizing the story-aspect of games in my reviews from here on. So suck it, or 'eat me', as Kathy Rain, AKA 'Ms. 90's', would undoubtedly say.
Kathy Rain is a sparkling, totally-too-cool-for-school alt rocker gem of a point-and-click adventure game. On the surface, it's a mystery story about a misanthropic college girl-cum-detective who is brought back from college to her quaint hometown due to the passing of a family member. The usual investigation- finding clues, following up on leads,
My inner 16-year-old Smashing Pumpkins-fan loner self loves Kathy Rain. The goth chicks at my high school scoffed at Titanic posters with *exactly* her smirk. Kathy is all abut ripping on the excesses and ridiculousnesses of late-20th century American culture, from her Jesus-and-DiCaprio-loving roomate to Captain Kangaroo and lazy law enforcement. If you're more than 18 years old, this game is like time-traveling, complete with the corded phones, phone books, tape recorders, Nirvana clothing styles, and, come on... 'Eileen'? :) The fact that that aspect of the game is so believable is a big credit to the developers, Clifftop Games.
Beneath the eyebrow piercing, raven-dyed, perma-snarky veneer of Kathy's, this game is basically Stranger Things, as a video game, with more 90's nostalgia than 80's (game is actually set in '95). You have all the David Lynchian "American Gothic" Suburbia, the damaged-goods girl from the broken-home, with an overlay of surrealist psyche-diving paranormal activity. Why are all these mysterious killings happening in our beautiful Edward Scissorhands-like town? What made Kathy so damn snarky and alcoholic? Where are her parents?
I really liked the way that the long history / psycho-geography of the Rain family narrative is woven in -- from an upstanding World War II hero 'Pillar of the Community' who spawned a rebellious Kerouac-ian Hells Angel whose neglect gave way to the barbed, troubled alt-chick protagonist. Kathy Rain at its core is perhaps about the subconscious cycles of trauma that echo through time. It is inward gazing, at times -- you literally play INSIDE Kathy at certain points -- but thankfully without resorting to annoying levels of omphaloskepsis. Excessive whining and crying the second tear, was, after all, another signature of the 90's (coughAlanisMorissettecough).
So, storytelling wise? Kathy Rain kicks ass.
All in all, I give Kathy Rain 4.5 tear-flavored raindrops out of 5. Great job, Clifftop Games!
Check out Kathy Rain here.