Open Roads review: "A cozy, nostalgic road trip that can't quite get into gear"

Open Roads screenshot
(Image: © Open Roads Team)

GamesRadar+ Verdict

Open Roads' mother-daughter travelog about discovering long-buried family secrets is heartfelt, but this lightweight driving adventure doesn't reach the momentum of the mystery it so carefully maps out.


  • +

    +Compelling mystery set-up involving long-buried family secrets and a search for the truth

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    Thoughtful writing and pitch-perfect voice acting make characters feel authentic and empathetic

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    Detailed environments and item interaction make for a more intimate story


  • -

    The overall story lacks forward momentum, with the main mystery winding down just as it's getting started

  • -

    Missed opportunities to delve further into the more challenging aspects of its themes

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The heart of any story in the road trip genre is the journey, not necessarily the arrival, or sometimes not even arriving at all. Open Roads is a driving adventure that, although reached its intended destination, never felt like it fully arrived. It has an intriguing set-up: a mother and daughter hitting the road to discover long-buried family secrets told through considered conversations and snooping through dust-coated mementos. But just as you think the story is settling into a familiar rhythm, it hits the brakes, halting all momentum for the mystery it so carefully mapped out. What at first feels like a build-up to a tyre and tarmac travelog adventure, instead feels like a quick nip to the corner shop.

Open Roads follows teenager Tess and single mum Opal on a spur-of-the-moment road trip prompted by the discovery of a hidden trove of diary entries and letters stashed away by their recently deceased grandmother/mother. Wanting to know more about these long-lost secrets, the two set off on a road trip, the two treading the same paths, buildings, and highways that their family traversed decades before.

Fast Facts

Release date: March 28, 2024
Platform(s): PC, PS5, PS4, Switch, Xbox Series X, Xbox One
Developer: Open Roads Team
Publisher: Annapurna Interactive

The mystery concerns the true mapping of the duo's family tree, with a paper trail of notes, letters, and snippets of written memoirs guiding Tess and Opal to a string of long-abandoned family homes. Each chapter sees you playing as Tess, freely poking around one of these 3D environments and picking up objects for a closer look. In the same way as Life is Strange and Unpacking, Open Roads finds intimacy in everyday objects and the game's opening chapter is a great example of it. The first location is the family home as Tess packs up her room and wanders around the now sparse house filled with moving boxes. 

Photos, bills, and written notes create the foundations of this family portrait, but there's joy in picking up the most mundane objects just to have a nose. What's great is that you can call Opal over to give commentary and share memories about particular items, further adding to the importance of these possessions. A blockbuster-style VHS tape of Clueless, a library book about bootlegging, an obnoxiously coloured work uniform – it's not only about the important stuff but we learn the more subtle quirks of these characters too.

Other pit stops on the road include a handful of abandoned environments which are where Open Roads shines. Rummaging around these old, forgotten places feels like you're excavating further into this family's history. They really capture the beauty of somewhere that has been lost to time, and snooping through the dust and grime to find these important relics feels gratifying. Often you'll need to find keys to locked boxes or items to progress the story (a screwdriver to crack open a car's glove compartment, for example), it's a simple way of adding to the mystery and contributes to the feeling that you're actively seeking out answers instead of them being plonked conveniently in front of you.

Blast from the past

These mementos are just objects, but what gives them meaning and purpose are their roles in the family history. I couldn't care about these environments and objects if it weren't for the fact that I'm genuinely invested in the game's characters, and Open Roads does a fantastic job at making you care about both Tess and Opal, in both the writing and what the voice actors have brought to the audio booth. Kaitlyn Dever brings such warmth to 16-year-old Tess. Her excitement is so utterly contagious and she can masterfully make Tess' teenage bluntness come across as comical and endearing.

Keri Russell who plays Opal gives the character fantastic nuance. Every time she talks about her past and upbringing there's a faraway tone in her voice, almost as if she's been transported back to that moment. The mostly static sequences where it's just the two of them chatting in the car highlight their mother-daughter chemistry – even their bickering feels authentic and familiar. Oddly, there's minimal audio and music throughout the game, but the duo's acting carries the atmosphere from beginning to end.

Complementing the actor's stellar performances are the colorful 2D character animations. These portraits are fairly stationary and cycle through a carousel of gestures that convey just enough to color the tone of the person speaking. These charming animated flairs also happen when Tess picks up particular objects. Instead of having the object float in dead space as you pick it up and turn it over, Tess' hand will appear grasping the item – holding up a postcard, flipping over a photograph, or turning a page in a notebook. They're lovely animated details that, again, evoke an intimate connection between the player and the object.

Needs more gas

Open Roads screenshot

(Image credit: Open Roads Team)

With an engaging mystery set-up, charming animation flourishes, plus the brilliant character acting and writing – Open Roads' first hour feels like you're buckling into a cozy road trip, one with mystery and discovery at every pitstop, punctuated with great dialogue and character work. But as the first hour rolls into the second, and then crawls to the third (final) hour, it becomes apparent that the scale of this mystery is actually quite small in scope, with storylines gradually plodding into an underwhelming stop. It's a shame because the story introduces a handful of interesting topics – the struggle of being a child with divorced parents, the pain of keeping secrets from those you love, and the dynamics between a ruptured family – but these feel unresolved or, at minimum, reach an unsatisfying conclusion.

Tess and Opal – as wonderful as they are – don't grow on their adventure. I never felt like the two understood the other in any new ways, or grew closer (or apart) as a mother and daughter. The road trip feels less like a journey pursuing answers to tough questions and more like a quick holiday break. There are dialogue options, but there's no web of consequences or decision-making, leaving the ending feeling like a handful of missed opportunities. 

Even with its flaws, Open Roads still remains a road trip adventure worth playing. It's thematically lightweight with little conflict, which may suit those looking for something more in line with a cozy adventure instead of a character-driven mystery game. It's disappointing in that it doesn't successfully address the challenging subject matters it introduces, but – most certainly here – it's about the journey, not the end destination. 


Open Roads was reviewed on PC, with code provided by the publisher.

More info

Available platformsGames, PC, PS5, Xbox Series X
Freelance journalist

Rachel Watts is the former reviews editor for Rock Paper Shotgun, and in another life was a staff writer for Future publications like PC Gamer and Play magazine. She is now working as a freelance journalist, contributing features and reviews to GamesRadar+.