Kathy Rain – Not What It Seems

When I am asked to recommend something of this kind from modern quests, honestly, my answer is always the same – Wadjet Eye games. A modest but prolific studio has been carrying the entire genre on its own for several years now, in its traditional, Telltale-like splendor, and slowly experimenting with the legacy of LucasArts and Sierra, effectively creating adventure neo-classics. Let’s leave the conversation about how their Blackwell series conquered me for another time – but know that you should be very, very ashamed if you consider yourself a fan of quests and have not played any of the studio’s projects yet.

And then – bam! – Kathy Rain. Well, okay, it’s not really “bam!” at all, because… We promised to tell you about it before the release., but the event does not become any less significant and sudden because of it. A new face has finally appeared on the pixel adventure market – and a new game that has successfully inherited Gilbert and company’s experience.

Exploring a mysterious church

Catherine Rain is a typical rebel of the 90s. She smokes, listens to rock music, rides a custom pink chopper, and skips journalism classes, sleeping on a cluttered dorm bed in her leather jacket. And, of course, she has strained relationships with her family, which is why she accidentally learns the sad news from her hometown of Convell Springs: her grandfather, a war hero and, more importantly, Katie’s only true hero, has passed away after a long illness.

Arriving at the funeral, the girl discovers that the circumstances of her relative’s death are not as simple as they seemed, and the town’s residents have been going crazy or falling into a catatonic stupor for several years under mysterious circumstances. While the authorities helplessly throw up their hands, the graduate journalist, without much thought, grabs her trusty notebook and starts her own investigation – with flashbacks and unmistakable nods to “Twin Peaks” and “The Twilight Zone.”

And this is already a debatable moment. And slightly spoiler-y, so if you suddenly want to find out everything yourself, read… um, I don’t know. Maybe backwards.

Intriguing encounter at Cochran's

Obviously, any detective story is built on intrigue. Without it, there can be no investigation, no clues, no suspects – no fuel for your phantom smoking pipe, in short. The setup in Kathy Rain is undoubtedly promising and correct, but giving the audience a Secret Secret™ is only half the battle. Equally important is to give it an adequate resolution, a result that connects the scattered facts into a solid and convincing picture. You know, the kind that would justify the time spent and give a sense of involvement in something big and complete. In short, a beautiful answer to everything all at once is needed.

In this regard, Clifftop Games’ adventure noticeably falls short, and the reason is one – mysticism. No, don’t feed me bread, give me something about ghosts or ancient cults, but if you’re going to introduce fantastic elements, you need to handle them carefully. Like Blackwell, for example: by operating with similar concepts, it creates from them a alternative version of our universe – and then builds the narrative based on it, with its own rules and mythology. There is much more fiction there, but due to the peculiarities of presentation, it does not seem alien and elegantly complements the depicted world.

Only "Fire Walk with Me" is missing.

Not “Fire Walk with Me”, but it will do.

Kathy Rain throws herself into dense mystical thickets too abruptly, without any prerequisites, to which she herself seems not very prepared. On our painted head, the entire arsenal of the genre falls at once – from sectarians to parallel dimensions and possessed mediums – but it is presented in a disorderly and clumsy manner. There is no logical and systematic escape from reality here, no clear explanations either. The game answers all emerging questions with extremely vague formulations, devoid of important details, which makes it impossible to establish some important factual connections, and the supernatural hangs in the air, simultaneously imposed and detached from the main canvas. The release of “Battle of Psychics” would have turned out to be juicy, but as a foundation for a full-fledged story, it works weakly.

And the closer to the finale, the less satisfactory the whirlwinds of the plot become. At first, you take spontaneity and understatement at face value and as a tribute to the masters of mysticism, but then you realize that the infamous masters don’t do it that way. If for David Lynch, whose influence is traced from the threshold, such a manner of presentation is always justified by the strongest symbolism, then here strange things are completely devoid of a second layer and happen only because the author couldn’t come up with anything better. That is, a significant part of the fantasy in Kathy Rain is just universal clichés, with the help of which script flaws are covered up. You don’t have to think about them too much, stick them anywhere, and lead to any outcome – and no one will think you’re stupid.

This is the most offensive part, because the mysticism does not look out of place at all. On the contrary, the shift of accents, which is intentionally silent in all PR materials, pleasantly surprises and makes the intrigue even more interesting and significant. Add more details to what is happening, pay more attention to the lore, tighten up the cut-off plot branches – and the finale would have turned out to be a spectacular revelation, only benefiting from the participation of supernatural forces and other heresy. The current version, on the other hand, is overly empty, superficial, and clichéd, so you don’t get the proper payoff before the credits. With the same success, the ending could very well have turned out to be a dream of a schizophrenic dog.

Chopper ride over the city

But it’s time to talk about the good things. However many problems we may have encountered, once the game picks up momentum, it becomes impossible to detach from it. The investigation process itself is well-executed, and thanks to it, the negativity described above is not as prominent as it may seem.

In Kathy Rain, as in any diligent detective game, there is a lot of conversation, so the personalities of the interlocutors are just as important as the plot. And it must be said that the latter can lag behind as much as it wants, as long as the game presents such wonderful characters. It’s hard to tell if it’s the voice acting or the long and lively dialogues, but each character is a perfect hit. There aren’t too many of them, but even the most schematic portrayals are done in such a way that you want to meet them, listen to them, meet them again, and listen to them repeatedly. Kathy herself, by the way, turns out to be a very charismatic heroine upon closer inspection, rather than just a collection of colorful stereotypes.

We argue, do not call all the referers?

I bet you can’t name all the references?

From time to time, chitchat is interspersed with a five-minute mental activity – what quest is complete without puzzles, right? In terms of difficulty, they are not even close to old-school: most of the time they are very obvious humor and/or action tasks. However, there are also trickier episodes, and three or four times per game there are substantial puzzles that cannot be solved immediately. But, like Wadjet Eye, creativity here is more important than complexity, so even if the player only needs to click on a couple of active points in the correct sequence, it is still interesting and original.

It is especially pleasing that the logic of the solutions is in perfect order. There is no need to boil socks in a pot or lift keys with a rubber duck – the puzzles stay within the realm of the ordinary, which means there is a minimum disruption to the natural pace of the game and no pointless backtracking in search of the correct answer.

Nothing special, we just fake someone else's voice through the homemade software of the nineties.

Nothing special, just faking someone else’s voice using home software from the 90s.

Well, of course, the atmosphere. Conwell Springs is a wonderful place for a detective story. The spirit of a small melancholic town, nurtured by dozens of writers and directors, combined with pixel art, acquires some unique nostalgic notes, which are supported by an old-fashioned and very colorful soundtrack. Despite the deliberate banality, the local scenery is memorable and attractive – there is something frighteningly cozy about them.

So yes, you can complain for a long time, but you still get enough enjoyment from the game. Despite all its confusion, it knows how to set the right mood, entertain, and intrigue with a good, albeit unfinished, story – isn’t that enough? It definitely suffices for one good evening.

I would like to believe that the slogan “A Detective is Born” was chosen for a reason. Kathy Rain has a huge potential hidden within, but right now it painfully clashes with the problematic script. However, with responsible work on the mistakes, the next game has every chance to stand in line, if not with the great ones, then certainly with the outstanding ones.

Kathy Rain
Adventure, Quest
Raw Fury
Clifftop Games
Release Date:
Editor's rating:
Is it worth playing? (If the score is more than 70%)



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