Currently, in Early Access, Howard Phillips Lovecar is the sort of crazy game that you’re just so happy someone is making. It’s experimental, utterly non-conventional, and completely unfinished.
But for all its rough edges and randomness, HPL manages to tap a seriously rich vein of nostalgia and to know why, you have to go back to the late part of last century, and the birth of the Grand Theft Auto franchise.
Far from the vast open world cities, top-notch voice acting and immersive storylines which now characterize the series, OG Grand Theft Auto was a top-down action whose closest relative nowadays would be retro indie titles such as Hotline Miami and Mr. Shifty. Back in 1997, GTA was a mega hit, and through many years of equal amounts of success and controversy, the game evolved into the monolithic franchise we have today.
But now, with its huge online community, cutting-edge graphics and living open-world, there is still one thing longtime fans tend to pine for from those old top-down days. Something that GTA did incredibly well even then when the perspective certainly didn’t exactly lend itself to excellence.
Yes, the series has always put its driving right at the forefront of the experience.
There was just something incredibly satisfying about boosting one of the game’s nippiest sports cars and putting your foot right down, the screen zooming out to give a better sense of what was coming up on the road ahead, the feeling of speed palpable as you gave the cops the slip.
But there was something more satisfying even than escaping a five-star rating in your newly acquired supercar.
The game lets you mow down hundreds of unlucky civilians in a most unsavory, but highly entertaining fashion, even rewarding the player with meaty points multipliers in the form of combos when you took down a load in one go. Hours could be spent just flattening the general public, leaving naught but a bloody stain on the sidewalk. If only that cathartic, almost therapeutic experience could last for ever…
Well, now it can. Howard Phillips Lovecar posits the idea that a whole game could be based around GTA’s top-down, pedestrian flattening vehicular carnage.
There’s not an innocent civilian in sight this time, though, just hundreds upon hundred of ominously chanting cultists. You must take the wheel of your pick-up truck, and splatter as many of these evil worshippers under its wheels as possible. And if you can’t run them down, well, you’ll just have to blow them away, with either your machine gun or shotgun, fired from the driver and passenger side, respectively.
You better keep those enemies’ number down, because if you don’t, then Lovecraftian cultists gonna do what Lovecraftian cultists do best: summon huge, disturbing mega-monsters, from putrid jumbles of pulsating tentacles to giant screaming disembodied heads. They’re procedurally generated, so you never know quite what you’re going to get, but one thing’s for sure. That screen’s gonna get full, and it’s going to get weird.
Feel like revisiting those classic GTA memories? Well, now you can! (with added eldritch horror).
Andy is a freelance writer for Game With Your Brain. You can follow him on Twitter.