This is the one hundred fourth entry in the Scratching That Itch series, wherein I randomly select and write about one of the 1741 games and game-related things included in the itch.io Bundle for Racial Justice and Equality. The Bundle raised $8,149,829.66 split evenly between the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund and Community Bail Fund, but don’t worry if you missed it. There are plenty of ways you can help support the vital cause of racial justice; try here for a start. Lastly, as always, you may click on images to view larger versions.
A game about walking through crowds.
True to its description, Walking Tourist is indeed about walking through crowds. The unnamed protagonist is expecting a visitor from out of town, and decides to explore the city to find interesting places to show them. The walking in Walking Tourist happens in turn-based fashion, moving one hex tile at a time, at which point all the other pedestrians and cars will move too. Each level is a puzzle, where players must work out how to navigate the crowds in order to reach the exit, and perhaps find a few prime photo spots or cool restaurants along the way.
In truth, just getting to one’s destination is rarely that difficult. Doing so with one’s “politeness” meter intact, however, is another story. Politeness starts at zero, and can only go negative from there. Stand in another pedestrian’s way, helpfully indicated by the direction they’re looking, and they’ll sigh grumpily as our protagonist gets a -1 to politeness. Stray from a footpath and walk on the grass, and take another politeness hit. In especially crowded areas, the protagonist can get coffee from coffee stands, granting the energy to shove other pedestrians out of the way at the cost of a significant decrease in politeness. Fortunately, there doesn’t seem to be any limit to how low politeness can get. As long as our heroic walker makes it to the exit, the level is completed. Shove someone in sight of a police officer, however, and risk arrest, which requires starting the level over again.
Shoving is rarely necessary, though. Most levels simply involve walking around, threading a path through other pedestrians, who never seem concerned about politeness themselves. Mechanically the levels get repetitive, and it doesn’t help that Walking Tourist is clunky to control. Versions for Windows and Android are included, and I suspect the latter was the focus during development. It feels like it was designed for a touchscreen, and was then awkwardly translated over to a mouse-only system for Windows. While the main display scales up to fullscreen, the user interface does not, so I was left with tiny menus and HUD elements. Scrolling the screen in order to see the rest of the level is possible, but really hard to do. I had to click the screen — but only somewhere near the center, and I think only on actual hex tiles, not the background? — and drag around, but could only scroll a short distance before having to start the maneuver over again. It seemed like my dragging only actually registered about half the time. Why couldn’t the view just scroll when the mouse cursor reached the edge of the screen, like every other game?
Walking Tourist was also clearly designed on a small budget. There’s no music, and the simple sound effects repeat often and quickly grate. The levels are accessed from a zoomed-out hex-based city map of sorts, but it’s quite small when scaled up to fullscreen, and confusing to navigate. Various mechanical elements are poorly explained as well. At one point I was granted the ability to run, with a short message telling me that running is sometimes useful. There was no indication of what running actually does, or how to do it. I’m not sure I ever actually did. But I was able to get through all the levels, so I guess it wasn’t that useful after all.
If I had stumbled upon Walking Tourist outside of this series, I doubt I’d have stuck with it after the first few levels. But, as I tackled it in short play sessions, it started to grow on me a bit. Levels may not have much variety in terms of puzzle elements, but they do have nice thematic variety. One set of levels involved climbing the hills on one end of the city, walking through parks dotted with vista views (described in text, not shown) to find. Another set is on an island near the city port, full of piers, beaches, and parks to explore. Later I headed towards the urban center and found myself navigating subway stations and train cars before emerging onto busy streets and wandering through libraries and museums. It reminded me of exploring I’ve done myself after moving to a new city, finding little details and places that make the city special.
If you don’t mind some clunky controls and simple presentation, you might enjoy poking around this virtual city too. As long as you don’t get fed up with all those other pushy pedestrians. If you missed it in the bundle, Walking Tourist is sold for a minimum price of $2, letting you play on Windows or Android, where the controls might feel more natural.
That’s 104 down, and only 1637 to go!