Oh, it’s coming. Kentucky Route Zero Act IV currently sits out-of-sight—somewhere among the hot haze of a distant horizon—but, rest assured, it is heading this way. No, we don’t have a release date still, but there is yet another teaser to polish with your eyeballs.
Last time, we had only an image. It was static, domestic, mundane. A person leaned on one of the many balconies of a high-rise populated by air-con units and washing that’s been hung out to dry. We don’t know the person in this image. We can only see that they hold a telephone to their ear. Who are they talking to? This new interactive teaser might have the answer. In it, there is a man who is seen talking into the receiver in a phone booth.
That detail is among the least significant in this image. Others raise questions that have our minds travel into that surreal twilight that Kentucky Route Zero so superbly depicts. Take, for starters, the fact that this man’s right arm hangs outside of the phone booth. This is necessary as it appears to have grown two thorny appendages. He dangles his arm rigidly with the extra weight of this alien life form clinging to it. It’s as if a pair of antlers sprouted from his wrist unexpectedly and now he’s on the phone urgently trying to find out what to do next. Who do you possibly call in such a situation? Hopefully Act IV will give us an answer.
The other obvious detail is the neon sign hanging from the brick wall behind the booth. A skeletal hand bends upwards at the wrist to hold a shot glass. “Hard Times,” reads the text next to it. A-ha! Hard Times is the name of the whiskey distillery that has been seen and heard throughout the series. In fact, we visited it in Act III, where Conway was tricked into being indebted to it. And it seems that many residents of game’s version of Kentucky have been similarly duped. It makes sense, then, that Hard Times and its web of debt that connects it to many of Kentucky Route Zero‘s characters should take centerpiece in Act IV. Maybe it will be so.
There is one other detail in this interactive diorama that should not be missed. Spin around the phone booth a little and you should notice that it projects a few streaks of faded white light behind it. What’s significant here is that these streaks of light move through the wall and come out the other side. You might think nothing of it—it looks like a simple mistake. But considering how every tiny detail in Kentucky Route Zero is manufactured with care, and given that the game is all about the unexplained magic and mysteries to be found behind the curtain of daily life, it’s worth paying attention to this. It might be that this is an icon for the game’s magical realism. Or perhaps this is some kind of Bill & Ted-style phone booth that can travel through, if not time, then dimensions. The possibilities multiply.