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Open Roads review – The perfect game for nosy people

Open Roads screenshot
Image: Annapurna Interactive

If you’re the sort of person who paws over every item you can possibly get your hands on in a video game, Open Roads, the latest game published by Annapurna Interactive, is for you. Although it’s ultimately the tale of a mother-daughter road trip, it’s also a nostalgic trip back in time for players — and the ultimate opportunity to be really, really nosy.

Set in the early 2000s, if you’re of a certain age — like we are — Open Roads will instantly release a wave of sweet nostalgia within you. It’s like an interactive time capsule, with everything from kitchen implements to PC screens and mobile phones perfectly capturing the era. And as nice as it is watching an SMS being typed out on a telephone keypad, or seeing a print-out of directions from an era before we all had sat nav built into our phones, those aren’t the things that are going to keep you playing Open Roads.

No: it’s the relationship that plays out between Tess and Opal, the daughter-mother protagonist duo at the heart of Open Roads. You see, the game takes place shortly after Opal’s mother and Tess’ grandmother has passed away. The pair are clearing out her house when they discover mysterious documents that may suggest their much-loved relative was harbouring some huge family secrets. They could ignore it, pretend they never found anything, sure. But where’s the fun in that?

Open Roads screenshot
Image: Annapurna Interactive

Instead, Opal and Tess decide to chase the clues, heading out on a road trip that will take them to a long-abandoned summer house and further afield, all in the hopes of finding some answers. You’ll get to enjoy rich conversations between the two, learning more about them, their lives and their relationships, and you’ll also get to poke around every nook and cranny in multiple different environments.

Related: 20 best story-driven games on PS4 and PS5

It’s perhaps so engaging because the actors behind Tess and Opal — Kaitlyn Dever and Keri Russell, respectively — do such a fantastic job of bringing both characters to life. Their voice acting is natural, expressive and filled with emotion: you’ll instantly buy that this is a real mother and teenage daughter, experiencing all the unconditional love yet endless frustration which comes at that particular time of life.

Dever and Russell have their work cut out for them, too. Thanks to Open Roads’ unique art style, neither character is fully animated. Drawn in a 2D cartoon style, they display the occasional facial expression but their mouths don’t move when they speak. It could easily throw you out of the experience, breaking your immersion, but thanks to the excellent voicework it hardly matters at all.

Open Roads screenshot
Image: Annapurna Interactive

While Tess and Opal are animated in 2D, the world they inhabit is fully 3D, allowing you to explore in first person, poking your nose into just about every corner you want. You’ll root through bedrooms, shuffle through crawl spaces and finger long-abandoned possessions, with so many objects you can pick up and examine in more detail. You’ll take control of Tess, the daughter, but Opal is with you for most of the journey, so you can get her input on many of the items you pick up.

Find a photograph, for example, and Tess can holler “hey mom!” to get her mother’s opinion on what she’s looking at. Many of these exchanges will lead to deeper conversations between the two, and so it’s worth interacting with as many items as possible, initiating conversations each time you do. We lapped up each and every interaction between the pair, revelling in their rapport and the tenderness that’s clearly apparent — even in the moments they don’t see eye-to-eye.

Our main problem with Open Roads? It’s woefully short. You’ll be finished with the game in around three hours, and that’s even with taking your time to look at most items you get your hands on. It doesn’t feel long enough: as soon as the mystery that Tess and Opal are unravelling comes to a head, it’s pretty much over. We were left desperately wanting more. It’s not that the conclusion is unsatisfying, per se. It’s just sudden. There definitely could have been more here.

Open Roads screenshot
Image: Annapurna Interactive

There’s also little reason to play again — other than to experience the story, and perhaps double-check for any items and conversation-starters you might have missed. This isn’t a game that offers up any type of challenge, either: you won’t find What Remains of Edith Finch-style minigames here, or point and click elements. You’ll occasionally have to find a key, or a way to get through a door, but everything is laid out and obvious, so it’s highly unlikely you’ll ever be left searching for a way forward.

Still, as we’ve said numerous times before, if our biggest complaint about a game is that it leaves us wanting more, we’ve got a very good game on our hands indeed. Given the rocky development of Open Roads — it was originally being made at Fulbright before team members distanced themselves from the studio head given multiple reports of toxicity — it’s almost a miracle it’s seen light of day at all. Its team deserve to be praised for carrying on despite such adversity, when many others would have just walked away. It shows real commitment and love for the project — a love that shows in just about every moment you spend with Open Roads.

It’s clear that Open Roads is a passion project, one filled with personal touches, love and its team’s personality. But it’s also a triumph: Tess and Opal’s story is gripping, and you’ll eat up every minute of their road trip mystery, hanging onto every word of their conversation. Add to that a unique and beautiful art style, some incredible voice performances and so many nostalgia-inducing objects to nosy at, and you’re left with a truly memorable experience. It’s just a shame that it’s all over so very, very quickly.


Open Roads review – GameSpew’s score

This review of Open Roads is based on the PC version of the game, with a code provided by the publisher. It’s available on PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, Switch and PC.
Editor in chief // Kim's been into video games since playing Dizzy on her brother's Commodore 64 as a nipper. She'll give just about anything a go, but she's got a particular soft spot for indie adventures. If she's not gaming, she'll be building Lego, reading a thriller, watching something spooky or... asleep. She does love to sleep.