Glitchhikers: The Spaces Between Review: liminal lo-fi
A long highway. A commuter train. A quiet airport. A hiking trail. All of these places have something in common: they’re transitory spaces, meant to be completely temporary for those who find themselves passing through. Sometimes they have more similarities with each other, such as other travelers going from one place to the next — temporary people that crossed paths for a brief moment, never to meet again. If we were to stop and connect with the spaces and faces in those moments, we might find that there’s something to be learned from one another, whether they offer us a fresh perspective on life or we offer one to them in turn. Of course, time waits for no man, and every journey — no matter how long — must end; it begs the question — what is life but a series of transitory states, of spaces between?
That’s one of many questions posed in Glitchhikers: The Spaces Between, a very liminal experience that spares no philosophical query whatsoever. Developed by Silverstring Media and published by indie powerhouse Fellow Traveller (Paradise Killer, Suzerain), Glitchhikers: The Spaces Between is described on its Steam page as “a surreal journey through the spaces between places” where you can “find yourself along the way.” And for only $12.99, the fare is a fair price for those who know life is about the journey and not the destination.
Glitchhikers: The Spaces Between opens up in an interesting way — you’ve arrived at a convenience store, although it’s not clear how or why. As you go inside and approach the counter, some answers are offered, but only in an operational sense: you’re at a waypoint, and your next journey is just outside. Perhaps you’d like to drive on a starlit freeway, the moon and your thoughts keeping you company? Or would you prefer to take a commuter train, bouncing between conversation and cars while you wait to arrive at your destination? There are more options later on, but for now, one of these will suffice. Grab a drink from the fridge if you feel so inclined and get going — your journey awaits!
Opting for a nice long drive, I hopped into the car and just… you know, went. The stars were twinkling, the roads were clear, the DJs were waxing philosophical, the random people stalled at the shoulders were letting themselves into my moving car with ease, the… wait, what? Yeah, about that — there are an assortment of different characters in Glitchhikers: The Spaces Between, and they all have something interesting to posit from the passenger seat of your vehicle.
Be it your car, an empty airport, a park, or a train car, Glitchhikers: The Spaces Between is full of people with different things weighing on their minds. One disabled hiker vents about how frustrating it is to travel via airplane when their wheelchair is often carelessly damaged by personnel, while another grieves over the loss of his brother, hoping to find solace in the words of strangers about what lies beyond this life. Occasionally, they’ll ask questions, prompting a series of possible replies to choose from. All of them are reasonably thought out, and choosing any of them will further the dialogue in a meaningful, thought-provoking manner.
Although I will always rate any game that quotes Zhuangzi highly, I have to caution anyone interested in Glitchhikers: The Spaces Between: this game is more of a meditative experience — one of philosophical meanderings — than an actual “game.” It is many things, such as a walking simulator, an atmospheric narrative, a chill journey, but action-packed it is not. If you love chill music and ambient sounds with synthwave coloring and low poly art direction, I highly recommend popping in some headphones and playing this at night for an hour or two before bed, but if you’re looking for a point to it all, I fear you’ve missed the point of Glitchhikers: The Spaces Between entirely. Just sit back and let the game happen to you, and don’t be afraid to stop when and if you have to. After all — who says journeys must be completed all in one go?
Glitchhikers: The Spaces Between is excellent, but it’s not for everyone. If walking simulators aren’t your speed, I don’t know if this is going to be the one that’ll change your mind. But if you’re a huge fan of liminal spaces and esoteric musings, Glitchhikers: The Spaces Between is absolutely for you, but I recommend it in small bursts. If anything, it’s reminded me that sometimes it’s not the answer that matters, but the fact that we’re asking questions is enough. Thanks, disembodied low poly heart particles in the middle of the woods!
Final Verdict: 3.5/5
Available on: Switch, PC (Reviewed); Publisher: Fellow Traveller; Developer: Silverstring Media, Inc.; Players: 1; Released: March 31, 2022; MSRP: $12.99
Full disclosure: This review is based on a copy of Glitchhikers: The Spaces Between provided by the publisher.