Ever since the days of Full Throttle, Day of the Tentacle, and Grim Fandango, adventure games just haven’t been the same. Where are the titles that cause fans of the genre to leapfrog every possible obstacle on the way to their local video game retailer for the express purpose of getting their grubby hands on the games as quickly as possible? Where are the worlds of King’s Quest and Gabriel Knight? I guess what I’m trying to say to you is that adventure games had gone missing for quite some time. A revolutionary new title was needed to remold the genre, to lure today’s twitch gamers back to the beautiful world of exploration, memorable storylines, and unforgettable dialogue. Well, my friends, that revolution has arrived, and it’s called The Longest Journey.
You play the part of April Ryan, an art student living in the future who has everything going for her: a decent-paying job in a local caf?; good friends that she can count on; a nice deal on a room in a local boarding house; and a new big city life to really pursue her career in photography. But as of late, April has been having rather vivid dreams. These dreams are so vivid, in fact, that she’s almost certain they must be real, at least some aspects of them, at any rate. Seeing as how I refuse to spoil any of the story, let’s just say that these dreams, coupled with other strange and amazing events, lead April on a quest to unite two parallel worlds. One of these worlds is comprised of fantastical magic, whereas the other exists through science and technology. While each of the worlds are certainly on opposite sides of the proverbial fence, it must be restated that it is April’s goal to reunite these two worlds with each other.
After delving into the game and all of its many elements, you’ll find yourself amid an experience that showcases all the classic adventure game essentials: a background full of objects to click on, which causes interaction; an inventory just waiting for you to find all sorts of cool stuff to fill its many pockets; and plenty of odd items to fill said inventory. Now, of course, with all of the typical adventure game essentials come all of the annoying frustrations. For example, reaching a point far into the adventure, only to find that you must retrace an insane amount of ground because you’re missing a critical item. However, these frustrations are few and far between, and with good reason: there’s an incredible world the game wishes you to focus on – not petty difficulties. The critical areas of the screen are easy to find with your mouse (none of that ?find the most miniscule pixel to click onto for progression’ in this game); you move through environments slowly enough to enjoy them, yet also at a decent enough rate to keep things fresh; and an in-game diary is kept for Miss Ryan, which allows the recording of game events so you can easily keep track of the story. One of the coolest features is the inclusion of a special puzzle that, once finished, unlocks special outtakes from the game.
Any good adventure game knows to focus emphasis on a good story, and The Longest Journey is no exception. This is one of those games you play because you’re so excited to discover the next chunk of the mystery, and learn more about April and the cast of characters involved with her. The desire to find out more of the story is what will keep you pushing through the more annoying puzzles of the game, and they’re always worth finishing, as the story driven payoff really does keep you coming back for more. One of the main focuses of the April character is her humor, and in between asking questions about her own mortality and existence, she has great quips that keep the tone serious, yet enough humor is trickled into the seriousness to keep gamers amused and lighthearted. When you converse with other characters, it is actually because you want to talk with them, never because you feel forced to. You’ll actually find yourself caring what happens to nearly each and every NPC you meet, which is the mark of good storytelling.
There’s something special about the environments in a good adventure game. The right look and feel of an environment can inspire the kind of feelings that will make the game remembered for its specific locations. The Longest Journey knows this, and the designers have worked their collective asses off to make sure that the gamer experiences plenty of memorable locations and scenes. A mixture of still CG and animation creates the perfect atmospheric blend, and it makes the backgrounds much more interactive than your average adventure title: grass swaying in the wind, shape-shifting environments, ocean waves that rise and fall while you’re on a ship.
While The Longest Journey doesn’t necessarily revamp the genre in terms of gameplay, it doesn’t really need to. When playing this game, you’ll uncover an amazing adventure that draws you into its story while awing you with superb dialogue, wonderful graphics, and music/SFX that only serve to tighten the story’s firm hold on you. Make no mistake about it, whether you’re an adventure gaming junkie who misses the days of old, or a wet-behind-the-ears adventurer eager to see why this genre is (still) one of the best, The Longest Journey belongs in your collection.