I think what I love about the point & click genre is that its games tend to have a fairly focused feel to them. Don’t get me wrong, I also love games like Diablo where the story is nearly irrelevant to an experience that’s all about taking down baddies and collecting loot. But there’s something really satisfying about popping into the world of a point & click game and just focusing on a story and puzzles for a few hours until you reach its conclusion.
And in the case of Kathy Rain, that’s exactly what I got: a handful of hours of story and puzzles, after which I was all done. You play as the eponymous protagonist; a custom motorbike driving, eyebrow piercing college girl. It’s 1995, so the internet is a bit of a thing, but not a lot, and it’s not surprising at all that nobody in the game has a cell phone. As the game begins, Kathy learns that her grandfather has died, and although she has been estranged from her family for years, her grandfather was one of her few remaining relatives, so she attends the funeral.
While talking with her grandmother, Kathy learns that her grandfather spent the 14 years prior to his death in a catatonic state and finds herself compelled to look into how this came to be. Things, of course, turn out to be much stranger than you might initially expect, and before all is said and done, Kathy’s quest for answers leaves her interacting with the supernatural and reluctantly examining her own life as well as her grandfather’s.
The trouble is that Kathy really doesn’t want to think or talk about her past, so the game has a lot of mystery and build up that never pays off. There are a few tantalizing hints as to why she’s generally upset, but I felt like I was always asking questions that never got answered. She’s trying to get over past hurts, but because she is trying to avoid them, you never really get more than surface details, so even when she does find some closure of her own, it’s not really satisfying to you as the player. She’s likeable, so you do feel happy for her, but that’s as far as it goes.
Of course, the other major element to any point & click game is its puzzles, and I’m happy to say that for the most part, Kathy Rain’s puzzles are quite good. They have a logical progression and are neither too hard nor too easy. In more than one case, the game finds a way to tell you not to waste your time with a path that might seem logical but isn’t the right one. For example, early on, you find a combination lock and a nearby math book, and when you try using some highlighted numbers to open the lock, Kathy says “I don’t think I’ll be able to solve this with this book alone.”
Unfortunately, there are also a couple of puzzles that I never would have solved if the developers had not provided me with a walkthrough. Maybe I’m a dummy, but I’ve been successfully playing point & clicks since the 80s, so hopefully I have enough experience to overcome any lack of intellect. It really is only one or two puzzles, but the trouble is that in a game like this, even one unsolvable puzzle is a big deal, as it leaves you completely unable to move forward.
Mechanically, Kathy Rain is solid. Its graphics use the modern pixelated style we’ve seen in games from other point & click developers, and it never reduces you to pixel hunting, but isn’t overly obvious either. All of the dialogue is voice acted, and everyone does a great job. The music is likewise good, and it does a nice job of matching the setting and providing background for mood without getting in the way. I actually had to go into the options menu and turn it up! As far as I can tell, using a mouse is the only control option, but that seems fairly standard for today’s games, since they are often ported to mobile platforms. I would have liked a few keyboard choices, but the mouse works well, so this is a very minor complaint.
I like point & click games a lot, and despite its flaws, I think Kathy Rain is a good one. There are some gaps in its story, but I only care because I found the rest of it interesting. I really did want to learn more about Kathy’s family and their problems. The music and voice acting are good stuff, and almost all of the puzzles are exactly what they should be. If you’re smarter than me or can find a walkthrough for the couple that aren’t, you should be fine. As is frequently the case in this genre, you can play Kathy Rain from start to finish in fairly short order — I’d guess that it took me less than 10 hours to reach the end credits. But a game that keeps you engaged for 10 hours is always preferable over a game that has 10 hours of good gameplay and 10 more of filler, and Kathy Rain definitely kept me engaged for its entire length.