A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Kathy Rain is a downloadable adventure game that centers in part on a murder investigation carried out by a strong-willed college sophomore studying journalism. Gameplay is based on classic point-and-click-style adventure gameplay, which could confuse or frustrate some players who aren't accustomed to trying to figure out what they need to do or where they need to go to advance the plot. While alcohol can be seen on shelves, players can't drink from the bottles or get drunk. There are some jokes with sexual innuendos, as well as some anatomy references, but there's nothing graphic or overt stated in the game.
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What's it about?
In KATHY RAIN, you play the titular character, a stubborn college sophomore studying journalism who ditches class to attend her grandfather's funeral. Once there, she reestablishes contact with her grandmother and learns that, in the years that she lost touch, her grandfather got sick under mysterious circumstances, then withered away and died. While being egged on by her nosy roommate to do more digging, she wanders from location to location, talking to locals to try to get to the bottom of what happened while hopefully avoiding getting into trouble or arousing the police's suspicion of her into digging into the past.
Is it any good?
This game is a strong, healthy, faithful throwback to classic point-and-click adventures that were extremely popular in the late '80s. There's good writing and some clunky acting, but both serve a noir story with a semi-modern twist. Set in the mid-'90s, the game takes ample advantage of the time period to require using awkward or emerging technologies from that time period: There are a few puzzles involving tape recorders, scanners, and even an IT department more interested in hacking than helping students. It's a world that feels lived in and thankfully void of the types of convoluted puzzles that sank the genre in its heyday.
Although there aren't hundreds of puzzles here, the game instead hinges on a few dozen refreshingly complicated -- but straightforward if you're thinking correctly -- puzzles. Expect to be stumped a few times if the genre is old hat for you, but it's going to be a slightly bumpy ride if this is your first time out with a point-and-click adventure. That isn't inherently bad, but Kathy Rain has no tutorial and makes no concessions to newcomers. You can certainly learn if this is your first time out, but scooping up every item you can, trying different combinations, and not being sure why has become the nature of these types of games, which you don't exactly need to embrace here -- you rarely have more than 10 items -- but it's a different sort of game and thinking than what is the norm for folks, unless you're a devoted fan of the genre. That said, this could easily make people converts, because so much of the game is centered on interacting with characters and approaching them correctly, rather than stringing together Rube Goldberg-like chain reactions of items. As it is, Kathy Rain is certainly worth a shot and has a very relatable storyline set in the real world, which is rare for the genre.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how families drift apart and lose contact with one another. Whose responsibility is it to stay in touch when someone is going through a hard time? What's the line between staying involved in that person's life and drawing up lines to maintain a healthier distance?
What would you do if someone in your family died suspiciously but the police felt it was an open-and-shut case?
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