Get In The Car, Loser!, an RPG about a hapless university student whose best friend drags her on a road trip to save the world, has been one of my most highly anticipated games of the past few years. Creator Christine Love’s other works—especially 2012’s Analogue: A Hate Story—have had a big influence on me as a writer, and following the development process of Love’s first major foray into the RPG genre has shown that she put an incredible amount of care and creativity into the project. And now that I’ve played it, I can heartily recommend it to anyone who’s enjoyed her previous work, as well as fans of RPGs and well-written character-focused games in general. But if you’re not sold yet, read my review, loser!
At first, I was a little bit concerned that the real-time combat of Get In The Car, Loser! would be a bit too frustrating for me—I’ve never really considered myself particularly good at video games, especially not when they require quick reaction speed to master. Its system does look a bit complicated at first, but after playing for a while, I managed to get the hang of it. A lot of the strategy comes not just from the frantic and rhythmic button-mashing of battle, but also from the equipment you have countless options for arranging and upgrading. You’ll also gather knowledge about enemy weakness and attack patterns as you go, and you always have the option to flee from battle and spend more time driving around grinding before taking on harder fights if you need to. For anyone who’s really not interested in that, there’s also a story mode that makes the battles easier, but to my pleasant surprise, I found normal mode to be an exactly satisfying level of challenge.
But beyond the intricacies of battle, Get In The Car, Loser! really shines with its heartfelt story about courageous friends taking on the world together. The parallels between the ancient evil that the protagonists are on a quest to defeat and the contemporary fascism of groups like the American alt-right might initially seem a bit cheesy and “on-the-nose” to some, but they’re also honest and sincere; the game doesn’t pull any punches with its political messaging, and I really respect that. And as the characters develop, the expertly paced writing reveals a lot about the way their own personal struggles have been impacted by living in a world with such hatred in it, as well as how their love and support for each other gives them the strength to continue fighting. Get In The Car, Loser! applies the unabashed emotional openness of a shounen anime to a cast of queer women and non-binary people, and that’s a rare and beautiful thing to see.
All of these impactful themes are wrapped in a gorgeous brightly-coloured pixel art aesthetic, and scored by a soundtrack that absolutely slaps. Even the toughest of battles feel fun to keep retrying when you’re listening to fantastic songs by composer Christa Lee and vocalist Jami Lynne like “Spirit of the Times.” It’s right up there with Bastion and Transistor for game music I’ll probably be listening to for years. And while there are several planned DLCs including the currently available Battle on the Big Boardwalk, the main story of Get In The Car, Loser! is completely free. So if you haven’t checked it out yet, there’s no reason not to get in the car for one of 2021’s most heartfelt and memorable gaming experiences.