Rides with Strangers (Concept Demo) – PC
Developer: Reflect Studios
Publisher: Reflect Studios
Release Date: June 29th, 2016
Nerd Rating: 6.5 / 10
Reviewed by Rhutsczar
Who is ready for an interestingly long night along a desolate highway? No one? You don’t want to explore what is left along this lonesome path? Oh wait, I did that game already. Okay, show is over. Go hitch some Rides with Strangers. The main product from Reflect Studios, Rides With Strangers, is very much a simulation of the hitchhiking experience. Reflect Studios sound familiar? In order to help raise money for Rides with Strangers, Reflect Studios released their side project Welcome to the Game. Be sure to check out that review as well for more cringeworthy content.
Alright, while it may seem a little on the nose, let me set the scene really quick. The player takes control of Elora, an introverted (yet strong and able-bodied) woman on her way to a new city for the job interview of a lifetime. Unfortunately, you car breaks down and you have to manage to hitchhike the rest of the way. Sound familiar? Sounds like the start of a bad horror movie. Anyway, you meet plenty of unsettling characters along this desolate highway and you must try to survive long enough to reach your goal…otherwise you may end up in the back of Father’s old sedan.
Now who exactly are the strangers that you will encounter? Well the primary one focused on in the demo is simply known as The Father, a man of the cloth who is quite probably a murderer and a rapist. Not being presumptuous though, as the dialogue between the player and The Father highly suggests it. After a slight deep dive into his character’s story (at least what is available), it seems he is rather tame in comparison to the others. Rides with Strangers has a creepy character roster ranging from a mommy’s boy to a dungeon master or a nympho, all just waiting to make you cringe.
Once you have flagged down your first stranger and gotten into their car, the game shows its true colors. Once you buckle that seat belt, Rides with Strangers turns into a game of observation. Each line of dialogue is player-picked, so it’s you choice of how deep of a conversation you want to have. Be wary of your driver’s movements and choices of words, as the game can change at any moment depending on any of your actions. You don’t want to be on the ass end of a super-not-scary-jump-scare now do you? Huh? Answer me HEATHEN!
If it sounds like getting to your destination safely is difficult, it’s because it is. However, there are counter measures in place so that we, the friendly neighborhood hitchhiker, are not completely and utterly at a disadvantage. There are three main options available and at your disposal:
- Keeping Tabs: Being able to look and stare at your driver, monitoring his/her actions. You can only use this a handful of times, until it grows too awkward and you may be killed.
- The Speed Limit: Driving too slow? Make sure you click on each of the speed limit signs as you drive past, as it will ensure that the driver will get you to your destination on time.
- Barrel Roll: If shit starts to hit the fan, do exactly what you should do. DO A BARREL ROLL! While this will put you back onto the highway with a possible(?) new stranger, this escape saves you for the time being. This is limited in use though, so be wary.
As for as actual scares go, Rides with Strangers really does fall short. While it can and does set up the spike with some disconcerting dialogue and a general uneasiness (or fear for my life), the fact that the title relies on jump scares is a severe disappointment. While this choice was either stylistically or due to cost restraints, it ended up being kind of a shit show. Sure, it gives you a little fright the first time around, after that though, there is no secondary impact. I would have much rather seen The Father pull me out of his car and either
- A. Hit me with something to kill me and screen goes black,
- B. At least throw me in the trunk of his car. That would have made much more of an impact.
Now what actually would make Rides with Strangers is if it was compatible with virtual reality hardware. Being that close and actually stepping into the shoes of Elora would make my comfortableness meter completely drop. I mean hard. Good news though, is that Reflect Studios has realized that concept as well. Even though their primary Kickstarter was funded, they are still taking donations. If they reach their goal of $55,000, then they will make it compatible with the Oculus Rift. Hopefully they can take it to the next level.
Since there is only the concept demo currently available for players, it is hard to tell what exactly Rides with Strangers will become once finally completed. A rather interesting idea, this concept demo provides plenty of framework for what could actually be a successful indie title. Featuring creepy as hell characters with a few unique mechanics to keep yourself from being murdered actually makes lemonade out of a an easily boring lemon. If you are looking for an intriguing dialogue-based game that will make you uncomfortable beyond belief though, Rides with Strangers is exactly what you are looking for.
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