The Longest Journey Review
The Longest Journey is one of the prettiest, funniest, most heart-filled, lovable games ever made. Now, I usually don’t do point-and-click adventure games; the only reason I even tried this is because I heard good things about the story, stories being my mortal weakness. The kryptonite to my Superman. The Starbucks to my caffeine addict. The parachute to my accidental airplane fall. It’s all of that and more, and has managed to not only become one of my favorite games, but also led me to wonder if there are other point-and-click gems out there that I’ve overlooked.
First, let’s get this out of the way: This game has one flaw. One. Uno. One of the puzzles involves an altar and some crystals, and ends up being so random and unexplained (by which I mean there’s absolutely no explanation or guidance to clue you in on what you’re even shooting for) that you could very well lose hours trying to figure it out. I’m not the best at puzzles due to some serious outside-the-box thinking that rarely meshes well with the strict solutions of games like this, but this was the only puzzle I had difficulty with. Just this one puzzle. Someone more logic-inclined than I may very well blow right through this particular section without any trouble whatsoever (and be an asshole for making me look bad), so it can hardly be considered an actual flaw. It’s just a minor frustration that got on my nerves at the time, a tiny pinprick in a massive orgy of stories and mythology and a million other wonderful little things that coalesce into an unforgettable game.
My absolute favorite thing about this game is that it has stories. Not just the excellent main story, but little stories that people tell that range from being tangentially related to the overall plot to being completely irrelevant. This is one of my favorite things about gaming, and something that I miss whenever I play through a game that lacks it; what’s the purpose of building up a bunch of characters if they have no stories to tell? Everyone in the real world has stories, and having even minor characters in games capable of telling short stories makes them and the overall world seem more real. I’ve never met anyone in real life who was just a dump of relevant information, so why should they be that way in games? Providing characters with stories that they recall when prodded, drawing from either their own experiences or miscellaneous stories that they’ve picked up and held on to for one reason or another, not only gives you insight into their thoughts, and by extension, their personalities/motivations, but it can also be an excellent, subtle way of adding foreshadowing. More games should be doing this.
Gameplay is nice and simple; many objects can be interacted with, some in different ways, and all of this can be done with left-clicking. Sometimes April (the main character) will have a sarcastic quip about whatever you clicked, and other times a small menu opens up that lets you interact with the object in other ways. You can press buttons, turn keys, and take items from your inventory to use them to solve puzzles. Opening your inventory is as simple as a right-click, and from there you can examine certain objects, combine others, and get more sarcastic quips from April. Having come from more complex games and mostly avoiding the entire genre, the whole thing is stunningly, refreshingly simple.
Backgrounds are set, so most of the game consists of running from screen to screen. Sometimes the camera pans to reveal more of an area as you move in a certain direction, but most of the time, what you see is what you get. For some, certain areas may feel a bit overlarge, but the backgrounds are so consistently beautiful and aesthetically interesting that most will never consider this a problem. This is mostly a problem for those who don’t figure out how to run until late in the game (double left-click), but once you get into the habit of running everywhere, each area seems just large enough.
The items that you wind up with are always strange and interesting. Occasionally you’ll pick up an item and wonder to yourself, “How the hell am I going to manage to use this?” It’s always amusing to find a use for those weird items, and the uses for things such as a toy monkey’s eye and calculator were so unexpected that I couldn’t help but chuckle at the charming weirdness of it all. Despite that weirdness, you’ll almost always have a good idea of what item to use in what situation thanks to your inventory typically housing several unique items at once; most of the time you’ll only have one item that really makes sense to use in a given situation, and even if you become totally lost, trying to combine random items together and/or using them on important characters is a surprisingly quick process. This, combined with the fact that there are usually only a handful of important characters around, helps to keep the frustration and confusion to a minimum.
Also of note: Certain areas become inaccessible when they stop being important to the story. This mean that you’ll usually only have a handful of screens to check if you’ve missed an important item or character necessary to progress. Even better, there’s an “overworld” kind of map where you can choose where to go, so the amount of confused running around you’ll be doing (if, like me, you have no sense of direction) is minimized. Even if that’s not enough, you can save anywhere, meaning you can save one place and check something, and if it doesn’t pan out, easily load that save rather than having to run back. Supremely lazy, and I totally did it a couple of times.
Art-wise, the game is undeniably beautiful, though the character models have aged quite a bit, sadly. They look blocky, very Playstation 1-esque (but realistic like in Final Fantasy 8), yet that doesn’t ever detract from the game. The main attraction would definitely be the backgrounds, which are consistently stunning and appropriate for each area. The game’s setting alternates between a futuristic world and a fantasy one, and both settings manage to be distinct without one ever looking better than the other.
Whether it’s taking the lead and driving the scene or simply sitting in the background, there’s no denying that the music suits the game perfectly. Even though a lot of the tracks are mostly background, they still manage to be the best kind of background music, interesting without ever being annoying. There are a few tracks, however, that are more energetic and commanding. I ended up finding one of these so interesting that I made and kept a save all the way to the end just to listen to it. There’s an impressive range of styles on display, all pulled off so well that there’s something for everyone in the soundtrack.
Here’s what you should do: