Kentucky Route Zero: TV Edition

Game review by
Chad Sapieha, Common Sense Media
Kentucky Route Zero: TV Edition Game Poster Image
Story-driven quest has no combat, some drug and alcohol use.

Parents say

No reviews yetAdd your rating

Kids say

No reviews yetAdd your rating

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this game.

Positive Messages

Themes focus on issues central to modern American life, including work, dreams, obligation, and growing debt. The story can be interpreted as a critique of capitalism.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Main characters are likable and sympathetic, but make some questionable decisions. Delivery driver Conway, in particular, descends both physically and mentally as game progresses, resulting in erratic behavior.

Ease of Play

There's not really any way to lose. Players progress by exploring and making dialogue choices.

Violence

There's no combat, but Conway breaks his leg in a mine accident and must receive medical treatment. Dialogue contains discussion of death. Skeletons appear later in the game.

Sex
Language

Dialogue contains occasional profanity, including the words "damn," "hell," and "s--t."

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Conway takes a powerful anesthetic that causes hallucination. Characters discuss alcohol and drinking, and Conway drinks whiskey.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Kentucky Route Zero: TV Edition is an adventure game for the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and Windows PCs. This version collects all acts and interludes of a popular episodic adventure game into a single package. It's a surreal story that focuses on a small group of companions traveling around the highways and back roads of rural Kentucky, hoping to deliver a package. There's no combat or action, though one of the characters breaks his leg and must seek medical attention -- including a powerful anesthetic drug -- to treat his injury. The characters explore the world, observe events, and chat with people they encounter. Topical themes touching on modern American issues -- including people laboring under mounting debt even as they continue working -- eventually begin to emerge. Conway, one of the main characters, appears to be a man descending in his faculties, suffering mental and physical deterioration while reflecting on the past. Dialogue includes occasional profanity, including the word "s--t." A scene is set in a bar, and one of the main characters drinks whiskey, affecting his behavior.

Wondering if Kentucky Route Zero: TV Edition is OK for your kid?

Set preferences and get age-appropriate recommendations with Common Sense Media Plus. Join now

Continue reading Show less

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say

There aren't any reviews yet. Be the first to review this title.

There aren't any reviews yet. Be the first to review this title.

What's it about?

KENTUCKY ROUTE ZERO: TV EDITION collects all five acts and additional interludes comprising Cardboard Computer's critically acclaimed episodic adventure game. It tells the story of Conway, a delivery man charged with ferrying a package to a hard-to-reach address in rural Kentucky. It begins simply enough, with a stop at a gas station along Highway 65, where Conway asks for directions. But things soon take a strange twist as Conway encounters odd characters who are there one moment and gone the next. It also runs across weird buildings that play host to bizarre situations and organizations, such as a government bureaucracy office that's both inside and outside at the same time. Joined by Shannon -- a TV repairwoman he meets along the way -- Conway eventually finds himself traversing a strange underground highway, the titular Kentucky Route Zero. There's no combat and not even any real puzzles beyond working out how to follow directions provided in dialogue. The focus is instead on exploration and dialogue, with players motivated by curiosity to discover what happens next, and what it all might mean.

Is it any good?

Is it a game, or is it art? That's the question that Kentucky Route Zero: TV Edition will leave many players pondering. There's no failing, succeeding, or even really changing how things play out. You can control character movement, pick where to go next, and make dialogue choices, but really you're just along for the ride, taking in the images and dialogue that the game's designers intend for you to see. Best to think of it as an interactive version of your favorite surreal TV show -- think Twin Peaks, or The Prisoner -- but with themes and ideas that are a bit more comprehensible and relatable. Kentucky Route Zero is, at its heart, a story about the American condition. It's about people getting along in a world that, at best, seems to have forgotten or ignored them, or, at worst, is out to slowly crush them. It's about people withering under debt, traditional livelihoods being threatened by progress, and people remembering the past, for better and worse.

To get the most out of this compelling, imaginatively told tale, it's best to go in without expectations. Don't go looking for conflicts and challenges, because you won't find them. At least not in the traditional sense. It's better to allow yourself to be enveloped by the game's mood and mystery, facilitated by a haunting soundtrack that transitions between banjo blues and creepy rhythms, and a dark, minimalist visual presentation where areas hidden by shadow are often as striking and memorable as those bathed in light. Kentucky Route Zero: TV Edition is a game designed to make players think about their lives and those of the people around them, the psychological and emotional obstacles we all face and the direction in which we're headed. It doesn't pretend to have any answers, but it does show people enduring and persisting, and perhaps that's a start.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about using media to teach kids empathy. Kentucky Route Zero: TV Edition features characters facing familiar problems, but did you feel strongly for what they were going through?

  • Do you ever try to save some of your money? Can you imagine future situations in which it might be important or useful to have some cash stashed away?

Game details

Themes & Topics

Browse titles with similar subject matter.

For kids who love great stories

Our editors recommend

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

See how we rate

About these links

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization, earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes when you use our links to make a purchase. Thank you for your support.

Read more

Our ratings are based on child development best practices. We display the minimum age for which content is developmentally appropriate. The star rating reflects overall quality and learning potential.

Learn how we rate