Some of the best games I saw at PAX East this year came from the big booth put up by the Transatlantic Gaming Summit, a collection of nine German indie game developers sponsored by the Goethe-Institut USA.
I’ll be highlighting a bunch of these German indie games throughout out PAX East coverage, but wanted to start with the one that I think stood apart from the rest of the games the most. It’s a remarkably simple game, arguably a sitting simulator in the developers own words, but one that was telling the beginnings of a story that was already clinging to my attention and stuck with me throughout PAX and beyond.
You’re a hitchhiker on a strange journey, unable to remember who you are or where you’re headed. Something in your recent past has stolen your memory— but what?
The actual mechanics of Hitchiker are incredibly simple, almost non-existant. You are a hitchhiker, riding shotgun in a car driven by a raisin farmer from somewhere in California; the location doesn’t really matter. You can look around, stare out the window, and interact with the various items in the car’s front seat.
As you drive through the stylized and vibrant landscape, you’ll make small talk with the driver. Things seem benign and actually quite chill: the game has a stellar soundtrack, and the artistic direction is fantastic. It was really quite a welcome moment of relaxation from the chaos of the PAX East convention floor.
And then, things get weird.
The farmer starts up a strange discordant song about “challah bread” and “hell” (ominously echoed by the radio). You find a matchbook hidden in your armrest, and are told to pull a photo out of the glovebox that isn’t of the farmer, but you. The roadside itself slowly seems to take on a surreal, ouroborian nature. Your driver says that he is interested in helping you, and gradually you realize that his memories are providing you with an unexpected window into your own backstory.
The entire experience very quickly goes from relaxing to Lynchian, and transforms from a sitting simulator to a much more compelling narrative experience. I was lucky enough to get a chance to talk with producer and besigner Patrick Rau, who confirmed my suspicious that there is something far more meta-physical going on in this ride, and by the end of it I had a pretty good idea of what this all might mean, but I ‘m not about to spoil that for you.
This first “ride” or chapter of Hitchhiker was released as a Humble Original in January of this year.
There are further rides scheduled to follow in the near future, in an episodic format. I, for one, cannot wait to see where this story goes from here.