TLJ is like a film that - although fairly basic in plot - offers an artistic experience that leaves a lasting impression
If you've never played this game, but you are considering buying it due to the rave reviews published here, then I submit a word of caution. Don't get me wrong, it's a brilliant game (perhaps the best point-and-click adventure game I've played apart from Discworld) but it's far from everyone's 'cup of tea'.
The Longest Journey has many good points, but it also has a few dozen bad ones. My largest gripe is the fact that - despite rumours to the contrary - the storyline isn't that good at all. After discovering the storyline about a quater of the way through the game, I was vastly disappointed, as I had been told that the story was brilliant, even original. Not the case. The fantasy/sci-fi crossover has been done before, and the idea of a balance between the two worlds is an old one (see Flight of Dragons, for starters). Indeed, being a writer myself, I saw most of the plot 'twists' coming a mile off, and was left - by the end of the game - thinking I could have done a whole lot better. Another let down on the storyteller department was the dialogue. Although I'm willing to bet that it suffered somewhat somewhere in translation, it still does not excuse some of the lines of speech that at times are downright corny, predictable and long-winded (most of the game is taken up by dialogue, and while there is nothing wrong with this, the dialogue is at times pointless and repetitive).
Story aside, TLJ has but a few inconsequential flaws. The animation is pretty bad, as are the blocky characters. I do not usually gripe about graphics, but in an adventure game, graphics keep the eye entertained in the middle of aforementioned lengthy dialogues (although I do have some great things to say about the graphics a little later). Another problem I had with the game was the often out-of-place course language. Sure, it's realistic, but the game itself isn't, so why stick a million f-words into a fantasy game that could otherwise be suitable for all ages? Seems a little ignorant and juvenile to me.
And now the good points.
Firstly, let me start by saying that the voice acting is brilliant. When you consider some of the cringe-worthy lines they were given, the voice talent has done a remarkable job in fleshing out the characters with drama and subtlety alike, where required. It is in no small part to the acting, that the characters were given a life that is lasting and memorable. However, credit must be given to the writer for the creation of the main heroine, April Ryan, who is far from the a-typical girl. Some degree of thought has gone into the personality of April, and it shows, as you could quite easily imagine her as being a real person, with real likes, dislikes, fears and quirks. By the end of it, I found myself actually very fond of the little lady (and her sexy voice. (clears throat)).
And then there is the art of the game. This is probably the strongest point of the whole 50+ hours, as the music and imagery alike both leave a lasting impression on the soul, which is something a video-game rarely does. The scenes are vast, beautiful, sprawling with wonderful graphics (a "stark" contrast to the blocky characters) and intricate detail. Moreover, the music is haunting at times, and subtly provoking at others.
Like a film that - although fairly basic in plot - is an artistic experience that leaves a lasting impression, The Longest Journey will both frustrate and amaze you. However, if you have no interest in beautiful art, music, acting and characters, and dislike heavy dialogue, weak plots, and games which require you to think, I'd avoid this one if I were you. Fortunately, I'm not you, which is why I gave TLJ a respectable rating.
Based on the the Mooncalf Reviews scoring system as shown on this blog post:
> > Story: 3
(Predictable storyline with clichéd notions to be found in both of the opposite worlds. Gets a 3 for effort though.)
> > Hook: 3
(If - unlike me - you don't see the twists coming, then you might personally be more hooked than I was)
> > Characters: 5
(Much like it's superior sequel, TLJ's narrative strength resides in its realistic and colourful characters)
> > Originality: 3
(Point and click adventure games, by this point, were becoming something of an outdated notion. Which is why it was both a brave and foolish choice of genre for TLJ. Would have benefited from some form of genre-cross like in Dreamfall)
> > Art: 4
(Some conceptually astounding works of art, but some pretty badly designed character animation)
> > Voice Acting and Script: 4
(Excellent voice acting from nearly every character, but some of the script might have got lost in translation)
> > Music Score: 5
(The standard of music you might expect from a Howard Shore composition)
> > Fun: 3
(While adventure games are seldom 'fun', TLJ actually manages to both challenge and entertain with its interesting puzzles and complex worlds)
> > Freedom: 1
(As to be expected from an adventure game, TLJ allows for no freedom to deviate from the plot, and no real digressions for those stuck or bored)
> > Lifespan: 5
(Perhaps it was just me, but TLJ took me a long time to finish. As far as adventure games go, this is one of the longest ... journeys)
> > Multiplayer: 0
(No multiplayer support)
Total Points: 36
Gamespot converted rating: 7.5
Note: Consider buying this game, simply because the second in the series is a serious improvement, and it would be foolish to play Dreamfall without first playing The Longest Journey.