Kathy Rain: Director’s Cut (PC) Review

By Athanasios 02.11.2021 2

Review for Kathy Rain: Director’s Cut on PC

Traditional point-and-click adventure games have always been a bit of a niche genre, even at the peak of their popularity during the Sierra/LucasArts era. Nowadays things are even harder for such titles, as the "mainstream" approach usually follows a variation of the Telltale, Naughty Dog, or Quantic Dream formula - more interactive movie, than actual adventure. It's a shame, really, because great games are still being produced, with one recent example being the fantastic, made-in-Adventure-Game-Studio Whispers of a Machine by Clifftop Games. Not many know of it, but they should, and the same can be said about the Swedish developer's first creation, the equally great, as well as equally "unknown," Kathy Rain. What better chance to try this pixely crime thriller out, then, now that Kathy Rain: Director's Cut has been released, refining the original, and even adding more content.

Welcome to Conwell Springs. It's a typically calm town, with the coming of autumn giving it an even stronger "sleepy" vibe, but as expected, there's more than meets the eye here. Something weird and sinister is going on behind this rural, peaceful veil, and Kathy Rain will stop at nothing to find out what that is. The catalyst for her quest will be her grandfather's death, an event which will soon lead her towards the dark secrets of this place, with the first breadcrumb being the suicide(?) of a teenage girl back in distant 1981. In other words, this is a crime thriller, and Kathy will be the snoop. Clifftop Games seems to have a thing for sleuth-style gameplay, and thankfully it is really, really good at it, with its first creation being as good as Whispers of a Machine despite the "simpler" premise.

For starters, while a point-and-click adventure the likes of Broken Sword and so on, the puzzles are refreshingly more creative. The best things about puzzle-solving, though, is that there is no need to try random item combinations, or engage in the customary "tactic" of using every item in every possible location. There's a couple of slightly annoying puzzles (like… two), but the rest are very enjoyable, as it's all about putting two and two together, and using a little out-of-the-box thinking. Even better, upon failure the game doesn't leave players standing there like morons. Kathy will usually leave a small comment, which acts as a hint on what to do or not do, but without that ever feeling like extra help. It's a smart way of keeping the momentum steady, and not ruining the pacing of it all.

Screenshot for Kathy Rain: Director’s Cut on PC

A great deal of the journey is about collecting clues, like names, addresses, phone numbers, or actual physical evidence like photos, and then using them while speaking with the right person to gather more clues. Like with Whispers of a Machine, Kathy Rain is at its best when it's a detective game, and thankfully most of the time it is exactly at that: at its best. Players will really feel as if they are investigating a big mystery, using nothing but their grey matter. It should be mentioned, however, that the aforementioned "hint" system, combined with the fact that puzzles are usually locked between one or two screens, means that this will feel slightly easier for genre veterans. This critic is one of those vets, and yet he enjoyed every single millisecond of it, but those looking for a Myst-like brain-melter won't find it here.

There are a few occasions where the puzzles aren't exactly bad, just slightly immersion-breaking due to some cheap logic. There is one spot, for instance, where Kathy creates the same distraction again and again (and again) to enter a room. Thankfully, these moments are rare, and all it takes is some double-clicking for this particular thing to happen almost instantly. Fortunately, immersion is strong with this one. It's one of the main reasons why this low-res world is so captivating. Speaking of which, every single screen is beautiful, decently detailed, and has a pretty strong atmosphere, whether that's a dirty biker bar (or dorm room), a dark forest, or misty lakeside view. Those spoiled by [Enter Lifeless Modern Adventure Here] will probably need something more, but retro lovers will definitely appreciate what's on offer.

Screenshot for Kathy Rain: Director’s Cut on PC

One minor thing that actually helps the game a lot, is that everything takes place in the '90s. As such, and due to the lack of smartphones, as well as other modern tools, Kathy Rain has a nice, "tangible" feel. There are a couple of small details as well - subtle animations, like how Kathy smokes a cigarette, and so on - that bring the characters to life, and the way Kathy moves from location to location with her motorcycle is quite neat (and a possible homage to Full Throttle). Sure, all these are simple things, but it's these simple things that many times separate the classics, from those games that are just 'very good.' Of course, these small details are just the dressing on top of the main dish: the story. Now, in fear of spoiling it, just know that the story is great.

This begins as a typical crime thriller, and soon enters the realm of occult, occasionally managing to creep you out, and quite effectively to be honest. It does so in a way that might feel a bit rushed, and some won't appreciate the inclusion of paranormal elements, but those who won't mind a little bit of Stephen King or Twin Peaks in their detective games will have a blast. It should be noted, however, that the supernatural in here acts more like a tool that Kathy uses to solve issues with her past. This is more a reflection on the self, than an adventure with bad guys and so on, making it easier to connect with the heroine. The story isn't what makes this special, though. The excellent writing is. This is a good thing, as speaking with people is a major component of Kathy Rain, with the titular protagonist being, without any exaggeration, one of the best female characters in a video game ever.

Screenshot for Kathy Rain: Director’s Cut on PC

Looking at a screenshot can make you think "oh, it's the tough biker chick trope" or something along these lines, but this couldn't be further from the truth. The same can be said about other members of the cast, like for instance Kathy's roommate, which initially looks like just another ultra-religious, conservative gal. The only problem here, is that the game could surely spend more time fleshing out its characters, as there are a couple of them (roommate included), that sort of "disappear" for a great deal of the adventure. This also affects the story in a way, as one or two more hours could decrease the cryptic nature of some of its parts. The good news is that, while you'll be left with many a question marks over your head, this is one of those titles where not explaining things works to its benefit. It doesn't feel cheap, and isn't mysterious for the sake of being mysterious.

As for the Director's Cut, it's definitely the best version amongst the two, so a purchase is a no brainer for newcomers. The added discount won't be enough for those who already have the original but are just "casual" fans of it. Those who are in love with Kathy Rain, though, will appreciate the additions. Gameplay-wise controls have a simple, one-click scheme for pretty much all actions. Audio-visually, the already great OST has been remixed and expanded, there are no black borders as the view fills the whole screen, and, finally, there are some subtle enhancements, like new animations for characters, and better use of lighting in some scenes - oh, and Kathy can now find more skins for her chopper. What more could a girl need? As for the more substantial additions, new locales have been included, with their own puzzles, and there also 700+ lines of added dialogue, improving the narrative of the original. Long story short, this belongs in any adventure afficionado's library.

Screenshot for Kathy Rain: Director’s Cut on PC

Cubed3 Rating

9/10
Rated 9 out of 10

Exceptional - Gold Award

Rated 9 out of 10

Kathy Rain, the original creation of Clifftop Games, isn't just a "very good indie point-and-click that captures the magic of the classics." This IS a classic. From the great puzzles, and how you are "guided" towards solving them, feeling like an investigator while at it, to the deeply engrossing story, strong atmosphere, and even stronger main character, it's easy to see that this is one of the best of its kind - and now it's even better. Kathy Rain: Director's Cut improves it in all sorts of ways, making it the clear choice between the two versions, even for those who have already played the first instalment.

Developer

Clifftop Games

Publisher

Raw Fury

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  9/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

Comments

I'm loving this so far. I'd always heard the original was meant to be brilliant, but never got round to trying it, but now I'm definitely on-board. Adventure Game Studios creations always have a cool retro vibe that works perfectly well for me.

Have to admit I struggled a bit at first, since there are some extremely disparaging comments about Christianity near the start - to the point of being a touch offensive - but I'm trying to get past that because the rest of the game is so engaging.

Adam Riley [ Director :: Cubed3 ]

UNITE714: Weekly Prayers | Bible Verses

jesusraz said:
Have to admit I struggled a bit at first, since there are some extremely disparaging comments about Christianity near the start - to the point of being a touch offensive - but I'm trying to get past that because the rest of the game is so engaging.

As an ex-believer, in such occasions I actually try to think how I would feel "back then" , because I have been religious, and sort of "understand" the sentiment to a certain extent.

In the case of Kathy Rain, however, I think it's not really offensive, because it's just the trait of a character, rather than the game trying to force a specific point of view. In fact, Kathy is actually shown to be "unfair" towards Eileen, who explains that she is not a walking stereotype.

EDIT: Just realised I made a religious comment, while my profile picture is Diablo lol

( Edited 03.11.2021 18:06 by Ofisil )

Can't a fella drink in peace?
                                -Farnham

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