“The Longest Journey this, The Longest Journey that” is all I’d been hearing for years. Everyone kept talking about it and yet I was unable to find the game... until a friend sent it to me as a birthday present. I was completely overwhelmed – I finally got it! I installed it (works like magic on Windows XP), played a little, then got carried away by real life. It wasn’t until a month or two later until I resumed playing. Within a few minutes, I got completely sucked in. Ditching the school work, I let myself get lost in the beautiful world of The Longest Journey.
One thing you have to know about TLJ is: it’s a story. It’s one long, beautiful, dreamlike story. And it goes like this...
The Divide between twin worlds has been kept safe by the Guardian of the Balance for thousands of years. But now, the Guardian has left his tower and the armies of Chaos are about to destroy everything that exists. There is only one person who can save the twin worlds and restore the Balance...
Her name is April Ryan and she lives in a futuristic Venice in the United States. Centuries away from our time, she lives in the Border House with her friends, leading an average student’s life. April is an art student, working at a café in her free time. Everything seems alright until her dreams start haunting her and even coming to life. There’s a mysterious man, Cortez, who seems to know a lot about the dreams she’s having. Bit by bit, the story unfolds – April discovers she’s a Shifter, a person who can step between the twin worlds unharmed. And once again, the fate of the world... pardon me, worlds, rests on an average girl’s shoulders.
What is really interesting about The Longest Journey is the variety of locations you will visit. There is a very neat balance between the modern sci-fi world of Stark and the fairytale-like world of Arcadia. You will get to visit April’s school and working place, discover the new DNA-based ticket system in the subway, rescue a rubber ducky, trick a powerful wizard, swim underwater, fly in a floating fortress, meet winged people, and use magic... And that’s just a small list of what TLJ has to offer.
There’s a very subtle, but effective, personal story going on. It involves April’s childhood, her feelings towards her friends, April herself. It’s interesting that she grows as a person, but stays the same old April at the same time. Her witty jokes will make you laugh without a doubt.
The Longest Journey, however, is not a game you’d get for your eight-year-old niece. While the story initially seems very cute and innocent, it’s not that way throughout the game. Some characters swear a lot, one of them particularly likes to abuse the f-word. And by “abuse” I really mean abuse. Apart from swearing, there’s quite a share of sexually-oriented themes. If homosexuality bothers you, well... you’ll either have to live with it or skip some of the dialogue.
There is one more thing about the storytelling, but this one’s good: expect lots of spoofs. April is a very sarcastic character and her clever replies are often connected to something from ‘our time’, referring to famous literature, books, and movies. My favorite one is probably the TLJ version of Tolkien’s “The One Ring” poem from The Lord of the Rings.
Speaking of dialogue – expects lots of it. Lots and lots and LOTS of it. If you’re one of those who tend to skip over whatever the characters are saying and move on with the puzzles, it ain’t gonna work. Dialogues are long, informative, fun, and very important for the story. You’ll find out lots of thing about each and every character and even get to listen to a few beautiful stories!
There will be times when you’ll be overloaded with new information. I’d just sit in front of my screen, trying to sum up everything I’d heard in that one long reply. But have no fear, you won’t miss a thing – do you know what diaries are for? Well, April has one, and it’s quite useful. Each time something important happens, she will sum everything up in a page, maximum two. Her entries are often humorous. There are times when someone spends ten or so minutes explaining something and all she does is sum everything up in a sentence or two. I admit, it made me want to bang my head against keyboard a couple of times... But I’m not complaining because I love dialogue in games.
Most of the puzzles are inventory-based, so be sure to carefully search areas and examine the items in your inventory. Like I said earlier, the game is heavily story-based, so the puzzles are insanely easy. Just put the object you’d like to use over an area and if it glows, it’s a bingo. If it doesn’t... well, try something else and search around. There are a few harder puzzles, of course, that require the use of deductive reasoning and logic. You might be banging your head over a couple of them, but they shouldn’t keep you stuck for more than a few hours, a day at the most.
The interface of the game is pretty simple: 3D models on 2D background and a cursor. It’s your classic point-and-click adventure: the little arrow changes into a glowing sword-like arrow if you can interact with environment/characters, giving you options to examine them, talk (or eat!) to them or just plain use the object. The cursor morphs into a glowing eye if there’s something to just examine.
Double-clicking will make April run.
Graphics are simply beautiful. The game dates back to 1998, so it’s not a surprise that the resolution is locked at 640x480 pixels. But the graphics still look amazing, in my opinion. Backgrounds are beautifully painted, with lots of small details and objects to interact with. Character models look a bit weak and not as detailed as the environment, but they still serve their purpose. April changes her outfit more than once, so don’t worry about getting bored of her standard outfit.
Music... the wonderful music. Some of the themes will stay stuck in your head for a while, some you won’t even notice. Sound effects are awesome and the game is full of them – from distant crowd’s murmuring to swamp mosquitoes’ buzzing to gentle wind blowing between the rocks.
What really stands out is the voice acting – it’s perfect. What really struck me when the credits rolled was the fact that there are only a handful of voice actors voicing dozens of different characters! They’ve done an amazing job.
Now, the bugs... I’ve encountered some of them. My game locked up once when I tried to save, which was very frustrating. More than once there was highly annoying stuttering sound during some of the longest conversations in the game and that was not the most pleasant thing in the world. But, I have good news: the design team is staying in touch with the fans and releasing new patches as soon as someone reports a new problem. After installing it I didn’t encounter a single problem, so that’s one huge thumbs-up to the TLJ team.
Once you finish the game, you will be awarded with the Book of Secrets. You can unlock it at one point in the game, but you don’t have to. The Book of Secrets is a small book full of concept art, a soundtrack including some of the music that wasn’t used in the game, and – my favourite – a collection of voice recording sound clips. Voice actors having fun, trying to say one line over and over again, warming up, joking... it really makes the playing worthwhile.
In conclusion, The Longest Journey is a classic adventure game true adventurers should not miss. It’s one of the greatest stories ever told, including amazing (and very different!) characters and locations. Don’t let the long conversations scare you – if you like storytelling, this game’s for you.