I have a jacket that looks very similar to Tess’s Open Roads. It’s a blue bomber with yellow and burnt orange accents, and that’s not all Tess and I have in common. While discreetly exploring her childhood bedroom in the first few minutes of the game, Tess comes across sets that base her setting in the early 2000s. There’s a big black TV and scattered boxes of DVDs, little bottles of glittery nail polish, a black-and-white strip from a photo booth, 9/11 newspapers and newspapers hunting for bigfoot, and a bright pink tube of sickly sweet lip balm. . These are remnants of her teenage years – the room is cluttered and mostly empty, most of her belongings packed away, ready to move out. Tess flips through the rest of the room’s photos and yearbooks, her hand-drawn fingers reaching out to interact with the 3D objects, revealing more of her background with each touch. The cuff of his jacket becomes familiar every time it comes into frame.
Open Roads A story-driven, exploration-based game about Tess and her mother’s road trip when a death in the family uproots their lives. After cleaning the house and finding a mysterious diary in the attic, Tess and her mother, Opal, printed out directions from RoadBuddy (not MapQuest) and set off on a long drive. Emotional upheaval is inevitable.
I watched the developers play for the first 15 minutes or so Open Roads, and I was immediately drawn to the preview. Visually, the game is polished and attractive; The settings and interactable objects are 3D, while the characters are hand-drawn, carving depth into each scene. The developers at Open Roads Team have uploaded real-life handwriting samples to create yearbook pages, postcards, and letters that eliminate the threat of pixelated text that breaks immersion. During the conversation, the characters float through the action like old Disney storyboards, making the whole experience feel like a lucid dream.
Tess and Opal are fully voiced by the two main actors, Kaitlyn Dever and Keri Russell, and in the scenes I’ve seen, their performances are fantastic. The interactions between Tess and Opal are simultaneously loving and intense, as a mother-daughter relationship can be. The writing is both evocative and original; the dialogue flows smoothly, even with the different player-chosen paths each conversation can take. These characters feel immediately real.
He lives in the house Tess and Opal left behind and has a sense of history. Each room has personal, hand-crafted touches, and the developers have added pieces of their own lives to the game. That chair next to the table? It was modeled after a developer’s own childhood memories. Old, creepy ornaments in the attic? The developer’s grandmother passed down these exact decorations in real life. The writing on the wall? They are the drawings of the children of the creators. These details won’t be obvious to most players, but they give the game a sense of authenticity as Tess explores the closets and nooks and crannies of her family’s home.
Open Roads not only provides early 2000s nostalgia, but also reaches back and references the 60s and 70s, spanning multiple generations in Tess’s family. As Tess explores the house and picks up various items, Opal provides context and tells stories about their lives, and there are branching lines of dialogue. At one point during the preview, playing developer Tessy decided to walk away from the refrigerator without closing the door, prompting Opal to scold her. Tess and Opal’s relationship is charming and warm, but there’s a sense of tension throughout their interactions that I want to explore in the full game.
Open Roads it feels like a mix He went home, Life is strange and What remains of Edith Finch, in the best way. The writing, voice acting and animation style harmonize within the first few minutes of the game to create a realistic and nostalgic world filled with vivid characters. When the game hits PC, Switch, PlayStation and Xbox on February 22nd, I’m ready to hit the road with Tess, Opal and their printed driving directions. After all, I have a jacket.