Shiver: Vanishing Hitchhiker gives a creepy twist on an already eerie urban legend.
Shiver: Vanishing Hitchhiker opens with the familiar urban legend of, what else, a vanishing hitchhiker. You stop and pick up a young woman on the side of the road and drop her off in a remote town. As you drive away you realize she forgot a teddy bear in the back seat, a teddy bear that reminds you of your childhood and a girl you once knew. You immediately turn back, and thus you enter small town of Gordon Creek, a town that appears to have been abandoned some time ago. Will you find the mysterious hitchhiker? And what connection does she have to your past?
While Shiver: Vanishing Hitchhiker starts with a familiar legend, it quickly takes several twists and turns that make the story unique. As you progress through the game you start to find journal entries pointing to disturbing incidences in town, and childlike drawings of various townspeople at the moment of their deaths. It is up to you to find out what happened to the people of the town, learn who made the sinister drawing and figure out how to stop them.
Vanishing Hitchhiker does a wonderful job of creating an eerie atmosphere. This is one of the few games in recent history that have made me jump in my chair. The graphics are realistic and there is a constant feeling that someone is watching you. The sound effects are subtle but enhance the feeling that you are not alone in this town. There is music throughout that game but it never overpowers and almost always fits the mood of the scene.
You will be traveling to numerous locations throughout Shiver. When you begin the game a lot of the town is closed off to you but it opens up as you progress in your investigation. You will visit many locations that are familiar to the genre, a haunted house, an abandoned hospital and spooky burial grounds. While these locations may seem cliché to the horror genre, they are well presented and work well with the story. The hospital in particular is creepy. I kept expecting something to jump out at any moment, and that was playing in broad daylight.
Shiver: Vanishing Hitchhiker feels more like a traditional adventure game with hidden object scenes thrown in. There are puzzles to be solved throughout the game. The majority of the puzzles are inventory based, but there are quite a few traditional puzzles as well. If you become stuck on a puzzle you have to option of skipping it once the skip bar fully charges.
The hint system in the game is well presented. You can use hints either within a hidden object scene or within the game itself to find out what to do next. After you use a hint you will need to wait for the hint bar to recharge before you can use it again. There are two styles of gameplay to choose from, casual and advanced, and you can change the style of play during the game in the options menu. You also have a task list that you can check if you are unsure of what you should be doing. The Collectors Edition also features a built-in strategy guide.
Shiver: Vanishing Hitchhiker succeeds in many areas but it does have its flaws. The hidden object scenes, while well done and clear, are junk piles more often than not. The storyline leaves more questions than answers by the end. The Collectors Edition does add about an hour of extended play and answers some, but not all, of those questions.
If you are a fan of the horror/mystery genre, or just looking for a good game to play on a rainy afternoon, I definitely recommend Shiver: Vanishing Hitchhiker.