The Longest Journey (PC) review
"What did we used to like about adventure games? I can't believe that it was the puzzles involving MacGyver-like intuition (combine the apple with the hair spray to get a flamethrower) nor the amazing graphical achievements (anyone else remember having to click on things just to get the game to tell you what the hell it was?). It's easy to believe, with the lack of adventure games out today, that genre outlived its welcome. At the same time, it's hard to completely buy this when games such as ..."
What did we used to like about adventure games? I can't believe that it was the puzzles involving MacGyver-like intuition (combine the apple with the hair spray to get a flamethrower) nor the amazing graphical achievements (anyone else remember having to click on things just to get the game to tell you what the hell it was?). It's easy to believe, with the lack of adventure games out today, that genre outlived its welcome. At the same time, it's hard to completely buy this when games such as Maniac Mansion and Monkey Island are still heralded as enjoyable classics, with memorable characters and witty dialouge that people still quote.
Ah yes... witty dialogue. There's the clincher. That's why we kept playing those games long after we'd looked up the improbable answers on gamefaqs. The main drive of any adventure game has to be its dialouge, first and foremost. The entire point of an adventure game is to click on various objects and see what the main character has to say about them, whether it's a smarmy 4th-wall breaking comment, or an in-depth explanation of in-game technology and logic.
Enter April Ryan.
The spunky female lead of Longest Journey doesn't fail to deliver. Whether she's commenting on the end of the world or a nifty house plant, she carries a consistently sarcastic and cynical tone that is instantly endearing and infinitely entertaining. It goes deeper than that, though. She’s also got a lot of problems.
At key times throughout the game, April's sarcastic facade is challenged by events or other characters, and we get a glimpse at the April Ryan hiding underneath the witty dialouge. This is typical of the amount of depth put into the game. When April Ryan is left vulnerable, we genuinely feel pity for her, but along with it comes a sadistic interest in finding out what makes her tick. Put simply, The Longest Journey manages to be a very human game, dealing not with teenage super heroes who save the world without batting an eye, but with a very real person, someone who is not only resistant to face her destiny, but someone who is often very frightened of what she's encountering. Someone whose life will forever be changed, and maybe not in a good way.
In the days of yesteryear, adventure games relied mostly on exaggerated characters in exaggerated situations, surviving on the merits of their wit and often Douglas Adams-inspired ability to fudge their way through the most dire of circumstances. The Longest Journey moves away from this, choosing instead to focus on a more realistic story with more realistic characters. At the same time, it doesn't forget its obligation to entertain its audience, and as a result strikes a good balance between humour and realism. The moments when the two collide in a sort've new-wave dark satire are some of the greatest in the game, and refreshing in a genre that followed a fairly standard formula for its method of story telling.
The meat of the game is wonderful, and the wrapping is equally gorgeous. The graphics are beautiful, even for today's standards, and the sheer range of the designs is impressive, covering both fantasy and cyberpunk in the best mixture of the genre that I've seen since Final Fantasy 7. The music is remarkable, as well, featuring orchestral arrangements that can only be described as intensely enigmatic, leaving one with only a vague sense of their intentions, but oddly fitting for every scene it accompanies. The voice acting is impressive, especially in a piece that's so varied and yet requires such precision.
The only area Longest Journey suffers is in the puzzle element. Aside from a couple bizarrely tricky curve balls, every puzzle is pretty straightforward and easily solved. Half of the time it's the old "use the right item on the right area" adventure game standby. The rest of the time, you progress simply by exhausting your conversation choices. Yet despite this, you won't find yourself taken out of the experience at all, or even really noticing. It's a testament to the amazing script, story, and voice acting that you'll actually WANT to hear what everyone has to say about everything and the flow of the game feels completely natural.
Which is good, because there is certainly a lot to do. The game (true to its name) is long, clocking in at about 25-30 hours. Keep in mind that since there are no side quests or alternate paths, this is 30 hours of pure story and environment and, amazingly, none of it is wasted. Every screen and every character has something unique to add to the player's understanding of the game world, making The Longest Journey one of the more immersive games of its time.
If you haven't played it, do yourself a favour and pick up a copy. While it doesn't offer much in terms of gameplay, it's one of the best stories and original worlds you'll encounter. You'll come away loving the characters, the setting, and the developers for bringing it all to life. This is one for the ages.
Community review by zippdementia (October 25, 2008)
Zipp has spent most of his life standing in an open field west of a white house, with a boarded front door. There is a small mailbox there. Sometimes he writes reviews and puts them in the mailbox.
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