Kathy Rain is a 2016 point-and-click adventure game. I’m a sucker for those; My hope is always that they’re both a trip down nostalgia lane, and a good story to experience.
Kathy is a rebellious college student with a leather jacket, a motorbike, and a traumatic past. One day, her roommate tells her a man from her home town, Joseph Rain, has died. It’s Kathy’s grandfather, who she hasn’t seen in fifteen years. Despite her misgivings, she goes to the funeral, and visits her grandmother.
From her grandmother she learns her grandfather has been catatonic since a few months after Kathy’s mother had taken her away fifteen years ago. One night, Joseph had gone into the woods and come out a drooling husk.
Kathy vows to find out what happened.
The game features a small cast of characters, mostly from the small town Kathy grew up in.
Kathy Rain is, as mentioned, a rebel. Her father was a biker, who hated Kathy’s grandfather Joseph, then vanished. This prompted Kathy’s mother to take Kathy and run. However, her mother was unstable, and after years of trying to make it work, Kathy had her mother committed. Kathy is clearly scarred.
The game is sort of about this, but mostly about the mystery of Joseph’s disappearance. This is a pretty big problem. Kathy’s scars tie into the story tangentially, but not really. The game lacks any real emotional consequences of her past. She just walks into her grandmother’s life as if she’d seen her yesterday instead of fifteen years ago, and the game doesn’t really push Kathy’s buttons.
Eileen is Kathy’s roommate. She’s religious, and a meddler, but she means well. Her role in the game is smaller than I would have liked, and she doesn’t really have an arc. She’s the typical side-kick, but not as memorable as, say, Grace from Gabriel Knight.
The rest of the characters, like Eileen, all have a personality, and that’s good, but they lack some depth. I felt more could have been done with them. Then again, the characters are more real than in some of the 100-plus-hours AAA games, so I shouldn’t complain.
I’m going to try to explain this without spoiling the game. That is a bit hard, however, so apologies if this is vague or spoils some things. It quickly becomes clear that there are supernatural elements to the mystery Kathy Rain is looking into. That gives the game a bit of a Twin Peaks vibe, and it gives an extra dimension to what is happening.
However, the ending then falls flat. There are two aspects to this. The first is that the ending fails to provide any real answers to the questions raised earlier in the game. We learn what happened, yes, but why it happened remains completely unclear.
Now, I have a tendency to want to have clear answers at the end of a story. I don’t like it when writers leave things hanging. That’s a matter of personal taste. However, there is a difference between leaving certain things open-ended, and not explaining why things happen at all. I’ll not spoil the climactic part of the game, but in it Kathy succeeds where many others have failed at… well, something. It does not become clear at all why that is.
The rules of what is happening are not explained either. That breaks Sanderson’s first law of magic, which means the ending is more deus ex machina and hand-waving than a proper climax.
The second problem is that the climax suddenly pitches Kathy against her flaws and makes her resolve the issues in her past. A good arc, if that had been foreshadowed properly. The game did not do that, though. Before the climax, Kathy is solving the mystery swimmingly without a bother from her flaws. The only reason you need Kathy to confront her flaws is because the game makes you. That’s not good storytelling.
Kathy Rain is a fun game. It starts off strong, but falters at the climax. That’s a shame, because it could have been a great game, up there with the Blackwell series and Gabriel Knight, in my book anyway.
Unfortunately, it now joins my large list of ‘okay’ point and click adventures.