Hitchhiker – A Mystery Game, developed by Mad About Pandas and published by Versus Evil, is like many games in the narrative genre: light on interaction while simultaneously requiring that you pay attention. Hitchhiker is very much a game about listening, assessing viewpoints, and role-playing in your responses. Unfortunately, it’s also a game that has a far more rigid narrative flow than you might expect.
Hitchhiker places you in the boots of an initially unnamed character, aimlessly travelling the quiet roads and suburbia down the American west coast. He is desperately looking for his girlfriend, though he can barely remember her name, their history, or even how he came to be traveling.
It’s a good setup for a game that slowly unravels past events, hinting at the conflict between accepting painful truths and fabricating your own, more tolerable, interpretations. Each driver represents a specific world view or approach to dealing with problems. Some want to stoically carry on as normal, another might want to find solace in past events, another wants to tackle issues head on with conflict. Each ride presents the protagonist – and therefore player – with plenty of “wisdom” to mull over.
However, before reading any further, you need to decide if you’re a fan of these narrative-driven adventures. You’ll find yourself in the passenger seat throughout – with one brief diner stop – occasionally responding to dialogue with one of two choices (though sometimes no choice is given at all). The responses usually revolve around challenging or affirming the viewpoint of the driver.
In an attempt to keep things fresh, each car has a myriad of doodads to examine, most of which give some insight into the driver or are used in simple puzzles. Each ride also has one or more surreal sequences that’ll provide minigames to solve – the reward usually being some sort of memorabilia that spurs the protagonist’s memory. These sequences provide a much-needed break from simply sitting and listening to the drivers, but only form a small fraction of the already brief runtime.
Hitchhiker also looks and sounds great. The visuals are not technically impressive – you’ll notice plenty of pop-in and object-clipping at times – but they’re paired with a great ambient soundtrack and quality voice work. The game has a surreal atmosphere throughout, which perfectly complements the unravelling narrative.
Unfortunately, despite Hitchhiker’s intriguing premise, excellent writing, surreal atmosphere, and brevity, several issues are still apparent. Firstly, interaction is severely limited. Unlike many narrative games that give players the ability to explore to some extent, Hitchhiker fixes you in place throughout, removing any sense of agency. Perhaps this literal paralysis is part of the underlying themes but it feels restrictive nonetheless.
Secondly, it becomes apparent your choices have only a minor impact on the flow of conversation, with some responses clearly designed to accommodate either choice and you’re spoken to far more often than you’re afforded a chance to respond. As you approach the end of any given ride, comments from the driver will indicate if they approve or disapprove of your choices – relative to their own opinions – but the story continues on a linear trajectory regardless.
Once you start to understand the mindset of the protagonist and what likely happened in his past, there’s still no way to alter the finale. At best, you’re left with an ambiguous ending and the hope your role-playing choices will influence their future decisions. On one hand, it provides a conclusion that’ll suit everyone. On the other, it feels too noncommittal given the developers ask the player to make so many dialogue choices.
Ultimately, I’d recommend Hitchhiker for fans of narrative games, given how it presents the underlying mystery and provides thoughtful conversations with compelling secondary characters, However, you need to accept an experience that is incredibly linear, with conventional “gameplay” interactions kept to a minimum. You’re quite literally along for the ride.
A review code for Hitchhiker – A Mystery Game was provided to Gameblur by the publisher
Hitchhiker - A Mystery Game (Xbox Series S) ReviewHitchhiker - A Mystery Game (Xbox Series S) Review
Story7/10 GoodThe great writing, the intriguing central mystery, and the complex backstories of the drivers are the highlights. Unfortunately, the ambiguous ending felt unsatisfying.
Gameplay5/10 NeutralPlayer interactivity is kept to a minimum and it increasingly feels like your dialogue choices have no major impact on the flow of the overarching narrative.
Visuals6/10 NormalAlthough not technically impressive, they do a great job of creating surreal and atmospheric environments and expressive characters.
Audio7/10 GoodThe voice work is outstanding - complementing the great writing - and the music adds to the surreal atmosphere.
- Thought-provoking, well-written dialogue
- Excellent voice work and ambient music
- Surreal and atmospheric environments
- Limited player interactivity
- Narrative flow is more linear than it first seems
- Ambiguous ending