“It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.” – Ursula K. Le Guin,
Glitchhikers was originally released in 2014 as a short experimental game, this has now been redubbed Glitchhikers: The First journey with a new, reimagined version Glitchhikers: The Spaces Between arriving in 2022, expanding on the game and taking it to new horizons. This new game is an abstract journey through the spaces between places with plenty of interesting characters to meet along the way, all with curious conversations designed to encourage introspection and make the player think.
Developer: Silverstring Media Inc
Released: 31st March 2022
Price: £10.29 – £10.80
Glitchhikers: The Spaces Between offers players a variety of journeys without destinations, whether it be a nighttime drive, a walk in the park, or an aimless wander around an airport terminal there is no specific goal or aim besides being in the moment. Credits roll after each journey, establishing them as a stand-alone experience that can help with pacing. However, branching dialogue and exploration options mean there is definitely scope to replay the different sections.
Different journeys have different rules and ways of moving through them, for example, the player is mostly stationary in the vehicle while driving a fixed route whereas it is possible to freely wander through the airport terminal and even interact with a few objects. Whilst each journey is quite linear in itself, the game allows players to decide which journey to embark on next which provides an extra layer of choice and freedom.
There are plenty of distinct characters to meet on each journey, mostly hikers looking to express meandering or existential notions. There are a variety of conversations to have but all have a layer of depth that can contrast the relaxing nature of the gameplay somewhat. However, there is a lot of deliberate idle time or times without conversations in the game which allows players to enjoy the minimal scenery and reflect on some of the conversations topics.
The lack of clear objective in Glitchhikers make it a little strange, to begin with, but this unease soon fades away as the player allows themselves to connect with the introspective nature of the content. The game’s introduction makes it clear the experience is about the journey and that players are free to enjoy it in whatever way they please. There is no wrong way to play which is very refreshing! Additionally, the simple controls use standard mouse and keyboard controls, they are quite intuitive and there are instructions on-screen making it easier to relax into the experience as a whole.
Glitchhikers doesn’t have an overarching narrative as such and is more like a series of philosophical questions and mindful musings. Dialogue can touch on some heavier topics and is designed to make the player think, for example, a young female hiker talks exclusively about how pointless individual actions are given the vastness of the universe and relative insignificance of human existence. The player is usually presented with a number of different ways in which to reply, steering the conversation slightly and adding some replay value.
There are sections of voice-acted narration, also tackling thought-provoking subjects, these include radio shows and messages on screens in the airport terminal, however, conversations make up the bulk of the gameplay. Characters are distinct and engaging and each has a new ponderous idea they want to discuss.
Due to the nature of the conversations, Glitchhikers includes features that allow players to filter out certain subjects and leave conversations at any time. There is also a link to crisis resources and an optional in-game self-care checklist that asks about things like sleep and hydration. These considerate touches are implemented thoughtfully and are a wonderful addition to the game.
Glitchhikers has a distinct low-poly art style with moody, muted colour palettes with lots of blues and purples. The visuals also make use of hints of vibrancy to help create dramatic lighting effects and a real sense of atmosphere.
The music is mostly in a gentle lo-fi style featuring chimes, guitars and soft drums that make the perfect backdrop for the game. It is upbeat with melancholy undertones and while it is slow-paced for the most part it still manages to instil a little energy into the experience. There is no voice acting during the conversation but simple sound effects such as the vehicle moving or announcements about train stops help create an immersive environment. It would be nice to have voices to associate with different characters and discussions but overall the sound design works well and adds to the relaxing and pensive feel of the game.
Glitchhikers is unique and relaxing. The subjects broached are thought-provoking and interesting and their heavier nature juxtapose what is otherwise a very chilled out game, giving it a sense of substance. There is a loose empahisis on mindfulness, being in the moment and simply appreciating the journey which encourages the player to focus on what is going on, however minimal. This low-stress title achieves its goals and is a fantastically original and pensive experience yet it will probably divide audiences. The slow pace, philosophical discussion and minimal interactivity that lots of people will love are the exact same reasons that it won’t be some people’s cup of tea, and that’s OK because we’re all on our own journeys!
If you enjoyed this game you may also be interested in the following review:
LudoNarraCon 2020 – Neo Cab Review
Or for something else a bit philosophical, why not try:
Thing in Itself – A Short Philosophical Experience