A timeless, somber chef-d'oeuvre
At 18, April strange hallucinations start to disturb her happy life completely. They are so real as if they are happening in front of her eyes: One day, her friend's flat turns into the old forest Amazon and the other day a squirrel playing the flute appears in the Cafe where April is working. However, everything always returns to normal after a moment. A constant feeling tells April that these are not just common delusions. With the help of Cortez, a strange man living near her dormitory, our name-part is resolved to find out the truth. To her great surprise, April discovers another world named Arcadia, the realm of magic, which has been long separated from Stark, the world of science and technology she is living in. More significantly, the only gateway between the two realm, human dreams, are being destroyed by the evil Vanguards, who intend to merge Arcadia and Stark into a unique chaotic kingdom. The noble mission of saving the two worlds falls into the hands of April, the only human who can traverse between them.
The Longest Journey (TLJ) is a purely "point and click" traditional adventure game and divided into 13 chapters, similar to a novel about April's adventure. For the small number of Myst enthusiasts, this should be a must-play, thanks to the required constant speculation and the elimination of action factors. Though the features above actually define adventure games, it is they which are responsible for the diminishing popularity of the genre at present.
But come back to TLJ, once in love with the game, one will die with it! The rich world in TLJ offers up to 50 characters, but whether they are good or evil, they are living personality on their own. So real and successfully symbolized are they that players will have no difficulties sensing the nature insides basing on their looks and gestures. Unforgettable are the kind-hearted tone of the hostess in Marium and the blackest silhouettes of the Vanguards. The only character you may forget to mention is our heroine, because you are April herself.
The difficulty of TLJ puzzles can not be compared with Myth series, but they consistently stimulate players' surmise with a wide range of both high-tech devices and magical artifacts. Additionally, as its name mentions, the length of the adventure itself can be a challenge while our minds are overloaded with its abundant information. This is where the diary proves extremely useful. Fortunately, April is a studious girl so her diary is always tidy and detailed.
The most fascinating part of any adventure game is combining items. How players are free to use their imagination and watch the unexpected things happening with their manipulation can decide the success of the game. In TLJ, the challenge stems from not only the variety of items in this world but also their wondrous nature. Both realms are far away from our real world; therefore, do not expect things to follow common rules! For example, in an episode you have to use a magical needle to adjust the clock before opening the door of time. How easily might you get stuck in situations like this! But do not get frustrated because TLJ also cleverly simplifies item combinations into a unique manipulation to ease your pain. Whenever the right scheme is discovered, there will be a light signal to let players know. In most cases, hints are deftly hidden inside the journal and April is never left there high and dry.
TLJ is intentionally designed as a colorful, vivid picture book with beautiful scenes in each chapter and interesting cut scenes in the end to separate them. Backgrounds in game are all pre-rendered and thereby detailed and lively. Above all is the strong yet elegant contrast of the two realms. In Arcadia, April travels through countless beautiful landscapes under the limpid blue sky and radiant sunshine or through magnificent, shady mountain ranges, or between strange buildings of some antique styles in an ancient village. By comparison, Stark impresses us with everything we can imagine about a metropolitan area in 2 centuries from now (flying cars, skyscrapers and smoke from factory chimneys), somehow reminding of the Core World in Star Wars series. There are roughly 100 different scenes for you to discover throughout the journey.
Though TLJ is not the pioneer in the 3D revolution, its achievement in the field is remarkable. Though character models lack the detail of Siberia, the true magic is in their movements, which are completely rendered in real time in stead of building beforehand like many other adventure games. Another evidence of careful design can be found in the vigor transferred into various areas along the journey. In addition to main and supporting roles, a great variety of other "community" characters typical to each part of the world are conducting their daily routines, contributing to the whole vivid picture of TLJ. For example, when you come to Hope Street, an area of the underworld in Stark, it is inevitable to encounter bullying rascals or blind drunk bad women. Although they are mere ornaments and can not be interacted to, players would certainly feel lonely inside a beautiful yet empty world without them.
Audio is another forte of this masterpiece, especially the voice play which sharply depicts internal inclining of characters. To illustrate this, the reclusive clergyman at St Cathedral possesses a deep and mysterious voice; the boring policeman usually gives dogmatic responses; the smart dealers talk in his swift-tongued manner; and of course, I can not say how much I like listening to April's tender and soothing voice. Every single tone in the game is great, but the actual effect they make can not be described without listening to their flowing, emotional dialogues in various situations. Similarly, background sound tracks are all above good level. If you browse the official site of this game, you may be astounded by the long list of sound tracks utilized. Sound effects keep up with the two factors above, satisfactory in both quality and quantity.
It is the first single game that I post a blog entry about, because honestly, so many great memories of my childhood return whenever I double click its icon. And time only seems to consolidate its value.