There is NOTHING about hitchhiking that seems appealing to me. Walking down roads and hopping in cars with random strangers? No thanks, it’s a hard pass. Doing it in video games, though? Yep, that’s fine, and that’s exactly what players will do in Hitchhiker: A Mystery Game. This isn’t your conventional road-trip with a stranger though, but rather one that’s packed with intrigue and surrealism as you unravel the mysteries behind your missing memories.
Hitchhiker: A Mystery Game puts players in the role of a young man who finds himself taking a ride down a farmland road with a raisin-farming gent named Vern, with the man’s memories of how he got there seemingly missing. It doesn’t take long for conversation to spark between them both, with a sense of familiarity felt with Vern. What is his story? Why does he seem familiar? How does he know you? And most importantly, why does he have a picture of you and your missing girlfriend in his car? These are the sort of questions you’ll have answered as you delve into conversation, with a further four trips with different drivers seeing the mystery unfold in its entirety.
Players actually get to shape the narrative a little, with choices made as to how they respond to the conversation. Admittedly, I don’t think these choices affect how the game plays out that much, but they will change up each driver’s perception of you and how they choose to respond. It’s a nice touch, with the choices shifting the conversations in different directions.
“There’s a believable sense of humanity to each character that really shines through in their personality.”
The conversations are enjoyable too, especially with the game’s eclectic cast of characters and fantastic writing. Whether you’re chatting with an immigrant seeking a safer home, a waitress who had recently seen you in her diner, or a man simply looking for his dog, there’s a believable sense of humanity to each character that really shines through in their personality. They all have their endearing little quirks and it’s neat to learn more about them. Shout out to the voice acting too, which is delivered expertly throughout and makes Hitchhiker: A Mystery Game’s experience all the more believable.
Of course, there’s also the matter of the mystery of who you are and what exactly is going on. Well, Hitchhiker: A Mystery Game will certainly answer those questions and it takes plenty of intriguing and suspenseful turns, though I was left slightly underwhelmed by the pay-off. Don’t get me wrong, it was nice to see the story reach a conclusion and there’s plenty of room for player interpretation (you might be tempted to play through again to see the clues you might have missed), but it’s all presented with a bit of a whimper as opposed to a dramatic finale.
“I enjoyed my time with Hitchhiker: A Mystery Game and seeing its many peculiar sights as we drove down the many roads…”
Hitchhiker: A Mystery Game doesn’t offer a whole lot in the way of gameplay outside of sitting in the car and conversing with the driver, but there are still moments of interactivity. You’re able to examine the inside of the car for example, with little items scattered around that might give away small snippets of story information or just let you learn more about the driver. They’re small details really, but it’s an appreciated addition that fleshes out the experience. You can also potch around with some objects; I found myself constantly fiddling with the door locks and opening windows, even IF they didn’t seem to affect the main game in any way.
There are occasionally puzzles to solve too, though they’re mostly simple in design and won’t require too much thought from the player. Some see you interacting with an object in the car, some see you seeking specific items, whilst others are more riddle-based or test your observation skills. They’re not challenging, but they offer a fun little diversion to the narrative.
I enjoyed my time with Hitchhiker: A Mystery Game and seeing its many peculiar sights as we drove down the many roads, but it did have a few issues here and there. For one, there’s plenty of pop-in in the environment, whilst it occasionally suffers from some frame rate stutters too – there’s nothing game-breaking, but it’s noticeable. Some segments of the game could also be a little bit guilty of dragging out a little longer than they needed to. Whilst Hitchhiker: A Mystery Game’s cast of characters were certainly interesting, there were times where I wished it pushed on a little further to the bigger picture at hand.
Hitchhiker: A Mystery Game offers an interesting mystery with likable and intriguing characters, though it’s guilty of losing its way a little in the final act. Don’t get me wrong, there’s a definitive ending and I was fully invested in the story until then, but I just hoped for a little bit more of a payoff – especially since it manages to build up so much suspense as you go along.
Still, like a lot of drives, sometimes it’s about the journey and not the destination, and Hitchhiker: A Mystery Game delivers there. It’s not perfect, but it still offers a suspenseful and slightly surreal mystery that will keep players guessing throughout.
Developer: Mad About Pandas
Publisher: Versus Evil
Platform(s): PlayStation 4 (Reviewed), Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, PC
Click here to visit the official website.