The Longest Journey promises a really long journey and one of the greatest adventures in the history of video games.
Let's take me for an example. I love video games with a passion. But I honestly have little time for them in a life full of busy schedule. If I were asked to do as I mentioned above I'd probably pass.
But oh boy, I've tried to pass on the adventure game called The Longest Journey but I can't. I just can't! It's magic I tell you.
The Longest Journey is one such point-and-click adventure game from Funcom. There are occasional puzzles and lots and lots of lines of text. Talking to people and reading texts is the primary way of progressing in the game. This may sound pretty lame in practice but when done right it's absolutely magnetic. You just cannot stop playing it till it's done. As a matter of fact, I only played a short demo which made me desperately get this game and play it. And I'm sure I wasn't the only one. This game earned lots of awards and praise. This game made me love the adventure game genre like no other.
How was this game special? Let me tell you all about it.
In the game you get 'scenes'. It is made of a 2D background images, which sometimes animate to illustrate water waves or turning of wheels. But the image is done so good it almost feels almost 3D. At least that's what I thought when I played the demo. You cannot control the camera which always remains at a fixed position in the scene. Sometimes it pans to show you more if it doesn't fit in the screen. Throughout the scene there are 'hotspots' or interactive zones which you can click to interact with. You can pick up things, talk to people or even observe and comment on it vocally. The cursor will change to inform you that you are hovering over one such hotspot. Clicking it will unveil more options to interact with it. Gathering an item from the world will store it in your very own inventory, where it remains forever until it is used somewhere. If the item can be used somewhere in the world it will highlight when hovered over the hotspot while holding the item.
You control the protagonist April Ryan solely using the mouse. She is rendered in 3D however but navigation on the 2D scene is still done using mouse. You move from one place to another by clicking somewhere on the scene. Exit markers, which is also hidden by default is revealed by the change in pointer coloration when hovered over. Clicking an exit will cause your character to walk towards it and load a completely new scene.
There are occasional puzzles you'll encounter. The puzzles usually involves using items to interact with a person or a door. Or assembling multiple items to gather to create a new item, which in turn can be used against something in the world. It is advisable to gather as many items as possible. Most items has its own use somewhere in the game. But you cannot get stuck in the game because you forgot to pick up an item earlier. The game is designed that way. There are no game over screens earlier. You simply cannot proceed if you haven't solved the puzzle.
The puzzles are usually obvious as you can figure out which one of your items is required to finish the puzzle. But some puzzles are downright annoying because they are not obvious by any means and you'll have to resort to a trial-and-error method. Even more frustrating if you have two pages of inventory screen full of items to try. Thankfully, such puzzles are rare to come by.
The game otherwise proceeds mostly using conversations. There are lots of people to talk to and you also get a choice of dialog during the conversation often. There are no adverse effect of choosing one dialog over another. All leads to the same story. However thanks to the game's superb voice acting it's always fun to read and listen to choices.
The game includes a diary of sorts. The diary fills up with text which narrates your progress so far. Impressively, the text reflects any decisions you made in the game as well. For example, if you chose not to do something, it will be mentioned in the diary. The diary also hints of what to do next. So if you're stuck anywhere (and I'm sure you will be as a first-timer) first thing you must do is check the diary.
Most of the game uses 2D graphics. Only the protagonist, other characters and some interactive items use 3D models. While most models are average quality at best, April's model shows more polygon count and looks better. And surprisingly the models blend in well enough with the surrounding considering they're 3D models on a 2D surface. They cast shadows but due to the limitations of the 2D surface, sometimes they're out of place. There is also the rare clipping issues.
The major flaw of the game's engine (although not a flaw for its time) is that it is limited to 4:3 aspect ratio. So on modern widescreen monitors it will probably won't look as good. But when it was release, 4:3 monitors were the norm so it was not a bad decision by the game makers.
Apart from that, the visuals are breathtaking. Like I have stated before, sometimes these 2D backdrops can be mistaken for 3D easily. The lighting also works well to create an impressive scene overall.
This is one of the reasons why the long lines of text and the point-and-click adventure is not boring in the end. Rather, it is far from boring. The voice acting is professional. You can enjoy every sentence, line and word of it. The character portray emotions very well and manages to deliver movie-like quality.
Sometimes you may not notice the music playing because it's presence is not that big. But that actually turns out to be great. Music is called from only when needed. And when it does starts playing you will be absorbed even more in an already immersive game. It's well done and fits the atmosphere every time.
The hear and soul of an adventure game is and always has been: its story. The Longest Journey's story is epic on several levels and is told in chapters.
You play an usual art college student called April Ryan. She has dreams lately and these dreams becomes too real to call them dreams anymore. Little did she knew, that she would soon embark on one of the grandest adventure ever to discover the true meaning of her dreams, if they are dreams at all.
On the way she makes lots of friends. And lots of enemies. As the player, we interact with everybody and we can soon find them likable or even lovable. Even April will soon become dear to anybody who has been playing for a few hours. Maybe the magic is in there: the characters are all very believable, very likable and almost never annoying. As the story unfolds you'll always want to know more and see more of the fantastic worlds the game has prepared for you.
I could intrigue you by telling you the whole story or even how it all begins. But that would be spoiling and I'm not that cruel. I'd let you experience the greatest adventure on your own. But I can promise you a really long journey and one of the greatest adventures in the history of video games.
An adventure game such as this holds little replay value. Because your choices really do not dictate the story. They can only help you progress. But I give it considerable replayability points just because once in a while, after you've finished the game, you'd want to embark on this grand adventure once again. It's a feeling impressed upon you that will speak. You will definitely want to hear April and her wonderful friends once again.
FINAL VERDICT 9.5/10
The Longest Journey is a really long journey. It can take you over 30 hours to finish it. When you do finish it, you will feel satisfied to have embarked on a journey with April Ryan: a journey you will never forget.