Kathy Rain is that strangest of things. It’s very much a throwback to the older days of the point-and-click adventure, before Telltale threw in obvious morality and stripped away the esoteric puzzles.
But at the same time it’s a decidedly modern game. Not just in the mechanical ideas it throws around, and not just in the strength of its narrative drive, but in the issues and concepts that it tackles and deals with.
Mobile might not be the best place to play the game, but it’s still an excellent adventure with plenty of twists and turns. It’s knowing, it’s smart and it plays around with the genre it’s so obviously in love with in some surprising and intriguing ways.
The game casts you as the titular heroine. She’s in her second year of college, and she’s just found out that her grandfather has died. From there the story spins out into a twisty tale of conspiracies, numbers and plenty of other exciting things. And there’s a cool motorbike involved as well.
Everything is presented in lovely pixels. The backgrounds are clear, the characters are super detailed, and there’s a real heart and charm to everything that’s presented to you. You control everything with your finger.
Tap and you’ll move. Tap an object you can interact with and you’ll open up a wheel that lets you choose from a number of different options. There’s also a bag icon in the bottom left of the screen that you can open and play around with things. Again with more taps.
The focus here is very much on the story. There’s a lot of conversation to be had, and plenty of different options for you to choose when you’re talking to the various characters that you’ll come across. But everything is designed to push you deeper into the narrative’s ever growing labyrinth.
Kathy herself is a likeable, spiky protagonist. Her inner monologue and the quips she gives when you try and do something wrong will instantly endear you to her. And that’s important because you’re going to have to spend a lot of time with her.
But it’s time that you’re not going to begrudge. There’s a brightness to the game that instantly opens up the world to you, even when everything you’re finding out is gloomy and a bit depressing. I mean, this is a game that starts off with a hangover and a funeral.
There are plenty of other adventure games on mobile devices, but Kathy Rain stands out above a good chunk of them. It’s fresh when it needs to be, but familiar enough that if you’ve ever hung about in the genre before you’re going to know exactly what to do when things get going. (And if you’d rather play on PC, that’s an option too).
This isn’t a game that holds your hand. There are hints, but you need to find them for yourself. There’s no tutorial, no explanation of what you’re supposed to be doing. And that’s pretty darn refreshing. We get it, other games, we need to tap to move.
All in all this is the sort of game that’s great to spend a few hours with. It stretches you in the right directions, tickling your grey matter in ways that other experiences don’t. Along with making you think about what you’re doing, this is a story that will really make you think. And that’s exactly the sort of thing we need more of.