A car slips westward, drifting past a steadily changing landscape of a desert, then a city, then a farm, before finally under the canopy of a thick forest. Some vaguely familiar vaporwave plays, and the sun beams down, warm in light if not in sensation. You are on a road trip—except "trip" is a misnomer. There's no destination, there is only road.
In its current state, Adrian Forest's Road Trip is the sort of game that some purists will say isn't a game at all. There is very little direct, mechanical interaction with the game—you can choose to activate what Forest calls a "cartoonwave" effect, which adds bold black outlining and a jittery blend of analog and digital distortion. And that's it. And I love it.
It's obviously riffing on this classic Vine:
…which is probably my favorite of the genre. The smooth synth loop, the reveal of Bart & co. at their most relaxed, the purple hills in the distance—they all sync up to evoke the sort of purposeful aimlessness that real road trips often aspire to, but rarely allow for. Real road trips require budgets and itineraries, two words that cut against the entire notion of free wheeling escape.
But Road Trip has no itinerary, at least not yet. Forest notes that he plans on adding additional features, including a day/night cycle, an emoji-based conversation system, and intertwining use of explicit narrative and landscape. Those are all things that will make this count more as "a game" to people eager to keep score. (And, who knows, maybe it'll join the likes of Glitchhikers, Wheels of Aurelia, and Jalopy as cool, dialog-driven road trip games.)
But me? I'm in no big rush to see it gain new features. I'm pretty happy with this as it is.
My largest complaint, in fact, is that it only "runs" when it's the active window. I wish it's something I could leave on in the corner of my screen, a little windowed escape whenever I need to slip away. In fact, let's take a quick trip together, right now, before things get more cluttered.
You can download Road Trip for Windows or Mac for free, right here.