Last year, games such as Glitchhikers and Three Fourths Home addressed us from behind somber masks as we drove down their lonesome roads. The former took us on a spiritual journey to have us question the direction our lives were headed. While the latter acted as more of a reminder to continue to treasure those we hold dear with its cruel, twist ending. Now, The Long Way, which also uses the format of the road to talk to us, sheathes a mystery amid its lurid horizons.
Out of those two previous thematic cousins, The Long Way‘s fiction starts out closest to Glitchhikers—it has that same Lynchian blend of surreal and mundane. You walk across the screen, head bent with ennui, and use both hands on the keyboard to enact the hitchhiker’s pose: arm outstretched, lazily, with a thumb pointing upwards.
At all times, you’re silhouetted in dark purples against an apricot skyline. The scenery being doused in the heavy colors from a setting sun is artistically pleasing. One of the drivers who picks you up recognizes the beauty of his surroundings with such vigor that he immediately dumps you from the vehicle to turn around and fetch a tent to camp under the sky. It’s among the first signs that these small town strangers are unpredictable and have no care for your journey’s duration.
The way you appease each driver is to navigate brittle, dual-choice conversations. As you’re unsure of any goal except to advance along the road to the next town, your first impression will probably be to tip-toe around each new personality, so that they drive you further and further. You learn to become liquid in your interests in order to adapt to theirs and keep them talking.
One guy will want to see you as a patriot from the past, another as a chilled out music lover, so it is these you try to become when conversing with them. If you fail, you’ll choose a new route through the dialogue next time and hope for the best, that is, if they didn’t kill you.
But, it turns out that your goal isn’t to appease these carriers. You’ll notice that, on occasion, there are sheets of paper either scrunched up into a ball on the ground, or nailed to a telegraph pole. This is the The Long Way‘s surreal side offering you hints. The sentences won’t make much sense at first, but you should soon see that certain strangers are privy to talk about an occult conspiracy, speaking in strange jargon that matches up with the words on the paper.
This is all I can tell you, for The Long Way is a game that should be figured out steadily. To encourage you when you need it, as the game does require repeat plays, know that there is a proper ending to be reached.
You can download The Long Way for free here. It was made for the Global Game Jam.