I never have and probably never will hitchhike. It seems like the scariest thing ever, and if ten seasons so far of Criminal Minds has taught me anything, it is not to get into a car with an unknown person, man or woman or child, no matter what time of day or state/county. Still, there is something fascinating about the concept, of having two people unfamiliar with each other putting all their trust out there, for a little help getting from point A to point B. I’m sure there are some kind souls out there that are genuine good Samaritans, and I’m sure there are plenty that are not. That’s kind of what Hitchhiker: First Ride is about, but there’s also some other weird things happening that I couldn’t grok. Plus, raisin jokes.
Hitchhiker: First Ride, a Humble Original from Mad About Pandas and current freebie over in the Humble Monthly Trove, begins innocently enough. You’re a hitchhiker, taking a ride somewhere else. Unfortunately, you are unable to remember who you are or where you’re headed, as if something in your recent past has stolen your memory. The car’s interior and highway offer some clues, like a hidden matchbook, a photo of a young couple in the glovebox, reality-breaking billboards, and chatty crows. The man driving the car is a mustache-sprouting farmer, specifically a raisin grower, and he seems bent on helping you discover your memories while also revealing more about his life. Naturally, not everything is as it seems.
In terms of gameplay, there’s a lot of sitting around and listening to your driving companion chat away the minutes and miles. You can also interact with different elements of the car, and sometimes these interactions lead to discoveries and sometimes they don’t, such as flicking the bobble-head on the dashboard. There are also dialogue choices to make at various times, like whether you will taste one of this farmer’s home-grown raisins or not. I know, that’s a big one. Harder than deciding Duck’s fate in season one of Telltale’s The Walking Dead. For a good while, honestly, I looked out the window and watched the landscape zip by, curious to know what was over that hill or if anyone lived in that house or if that billboard really said what I thought it said (it did).
At one point, Hitchhiker: First Ride takes a turn. Reality breaks, and I had a hard time following where everything was going. I might need to play it again. The driver knows things about you that neither you, the in-game character, or you the person playing the game know, and it’s a bizarre feeling, being left out of your own story. You begin to feel trapped, longing for air, a sinister aura surrounding you, judging every future choice you make. This is, by all accounts, a well-done metaphysical mystery, but I’m not going to stand here and tell you I completely got down with it on every level, especially the cartoon play-like storytelling near the end. Also, grapes are totally better than raisins, which, when you think about it, are dead grapes.
I think I liked 2000:1: A Space Felony a wee bit more, as I felt more in control of the unfolding story, but this was still super neat and different, and I’m excited to see Hitchhiker: First Ride develop into something more.