|Developer||Mad About Pandas|
|Genre||Adventure, Mystery, Puzzle|
|Platforms||Apple Arcade, PC (Steam/EGS/GOG.COM/HumbleStore), Playstation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch (reviewed)|
|Release Date||3/26/2021 (Apple Arcade), 4/15/2021 (PC and Consoles)|
When you have “A Mystery Game” as your tagline, I’m going to gear up for a good mystery. Hitchhiker initially delivered on this and even offered the occasional emotional high along the way. However, it ultimately fell flat and left me wanting so much more.
Spiritual Content: Themes of spiritual exploration and discovery are present, mainly in objects that the characters believe can tell the future. One character starts speaking through another person’s body. You can then choose whether or not this character takes over the body of the person they’re speaking through. At another moment in the story, the player character utters a spell. There are brief references to past lives and zodiac signs.
Violence: A character tells a story about people becoming cannibals to survive a long journey, but none of it is shown. A few stories reference hordes of people attacking someone, then show these attacks in still images. Some characters get kidnapped.
Sexual Content: One character is accused of having an affair.
Language/Crude Humor: Language ranges from mild to severe, including crap, d*mn, h*ll, *ss, d*ck, sh*t, and f*ck. There’s little to no crude humor.
Drug or Alcohol Abuse: Your character is offered drugged food. If you choose to eat it, your vision gets temporarily altered. At one point, there’s a picture of someone smoking.
Other Negative Themes: The general vibe of the game can be somewhat creepy at points
Positive Themes: Some good themes include saving those you love, persevering through impossible circumstances, receiving help and advice from others, and so on.
ESRB Rating: T for Teen
In Hitchhiker, you play as the titular hitchhiker named Copernicus. He seems to have lost some important memories and seeks answers on the open road. But that road is less than linear, with dreamlike obstacles facing him at every turn. With the help (or, perhaps, hindrance) of his mysterious chauffeurs, will he be able to regain his memories and find his girlfriend before it’s too late?
Throughout the game, you ride with five different drivers, each of whom has a distinct personality and role in achieving your goal. Each driver offers a unique story that ties into your own journey in some way. However, these narratives feel a bit disjointed, almost like the game is a variety pack of great story concepts that are only loosely associated with each other.
Some odd details thrown out during these stories could literally be game-changing (for example, one driver mentions that nearly perfect robot replicas of people exist), but these are barely explored, if at all. They more so feel like half-baked ideas that were only included because the team didn’t want to cut them. “Killing your darlings,” as it were, is a painful but necessary process that this game might have benefitted from.
However, some of these b-plot points are genuinely profound and should have perhaps been pushed to the forefront. For instance, I thought the character Sayed was, far and away, the most intriguing driver. His story as a refugee trying to escape from his captors would’ve made for a fantastic game in and of itself, and I’m almost surprised they didn’t go that route instead. However, his narrative within the game acts as a great break from the rest of the story.
Not that the story is a chore to get through; it and the characters lie at the core of Hitchhiker. The vocal performances can be hit or miss but the ones that hit, hit hard. They add to the emotional weight and further immerse you. The misses, however, make me feel like they’re trying to convince me they’re deep without actually delivering.
This contributes to an overarching problem with the game, which is that it often comes across as pretentious. Some dialogue or scenarios string together metaphors or symbolism without having substance to back them up, creating a slight disconnect. I’m an artsy person, so I can appreciate good artistic language when I see it, but the game often fell flat in this regard.
Another area where I felt there were some shortcomings was with the graphics. Some environmental assets take a surprisingly long time to render, considering how simplistic most of the background elements appear. And, occasionally, there are minor camera glitches. Aside from that, the character’s movements are a bit stiff and their mouths don’t always line up with what they’re saying, but those are lesser issues by comparison.
The visuals, however, were consistently one of Hitchhiker‘s greatest attributes. While the primary art style was nice, the game majorly diversifies its look with some animated sequences peppered throughout. These alone kept things fresh, but the symbolism and visual storytelling added some much-needed uniqueness to the whole experience.
The music, while not as unique as the visuals, greatly contributed to the sense of adventure along an open road. Furthermore, it boosted the emotional beats and heightened the unease of certain scenes as they arose. There was never a track that felt out of place.
It only took me about 3 1/2 hours to complete my first run and by the time it was over, I was eager to start my second playthrough and explore different dialogue options. While my new choices made slight impacts on the specifics of some conversations, they didn’t seem to lead to any significant changes. The game definitely feels like it should have multiple endings, but I haven’t found any evidence of that in my playthroughs or online.
This fact combined with the vague and lackluster ending left me feeling cheated, to some extent. This story, and its concepts and characters, have tremendous potential, but it feels like that potential is barely tapped into. I genuinely hope this team creates a sequel, spinoff, or even a more fleshed-out remake of this title someday, as there are many more stories to be told in this wacky world.
The Bottom Line
Hitchhiker is a game with boundless potential, but it just missed the mark and may have included too many incomplete ideas in its story.