A while back, the BBC did a series on the trains that travel across the hills of India. These were services built during British rule, engines still humming along thanks to sheer determination. The last episode visited Shimla, the summer capital of British India, including the Chapslee Estate. It had turned into a small hotel, where the now-deceased Kanwar Singh spoke fondly of its charms. He described his services not as a business selling accommodation or food, but selling an "ambience" of a previous age.
Kentucky Route Zero, a point-and-click adventure that was a decade in the making and that released its final episode in January this year, seems to provide a similar type of ambience, one not based explicitly in time. The story follows Conway, an antiques delivery driver making his final stop, searching for the mysterious eponymous highway in a world drenched with magical-realism.
You might have conjured up images of hillbillies and farming knowing the game is based in Kentucky. But this couldn't be further from the truth, with designer Jake Elliot, along with Tamas Kemenczy and musician Ben Babbitt, speaking of diverse literature, plays and films, such as the work of Andrei Tarkovsky, all of which provided sources of creative inspiration. "We have a story of somebody making a delivery," Elliot says during a group video call with me, Kemenczy and Babbitt, "But of course it's run through with the emotional realities of why they're doing it and what it means for them. That's how I'd experience it."