The Longest Journey (TLJ)
starts with a vision and a dream. In the vision the figure of a man is
suspended between streams of light. Above him, an ornate disk with carved
dragons begins to move, so that one dragon almost consumes the other.
There is a closeup of the man's face as his light-infused eyes startle
The dream portion begins with the figure of a young woman asleep. She is
transported to a remote, ethereal world where she encounters another
dragon; and this one is real, or at least as real as such things are in
dreams. The young woman is April Ryan, and it is she who will be making
the longest journey. More than just a journey across the game's landscape,
she will soon be taking you on a journey into self-discovery, sacrifice,
mystery and power.
One of the remarkable things about this game is its successful creation of
two contrasting worlds: Arcadia and Stark. The sense of authenticity in
these worlds is partly a result of the imaginative graphics (especially
the unusual, expansive backgrounds) and partly the result of the various
characters you can see puttering about, conscientiously minding their own
affairs. Both worlds are alive, complex and enduring.
Stark makes TLJ more than just a typical fantasy adventure. The sequences
in Stark anchor the story in a realistic framework and provide an
interesting version of a possible future society. There is more here than
meets the eye, though, and it is fascinating to watch the explosions of
magic breaking through the gritty texture of urban life with its
broken-down machinery, rusty pipes and cluttered streetscapes.
It seems natural to compare the Arcadia chapters to Sierra's King's Quest
series. Like the King's Quest games, Arcadia is a satisfying and
entertaining third person "escape", with fantastical environments and
characters that are full of personality. TLJ is less cartoon-like than
King's Quest, and the heroine is more down-to-earth. There is also a lot
more dialogue in TLJ (too much dialogue at times). Still, if you have been
thirsting for a King's Quest sequel, this game will certainly slake your
thirst for awhile.
Arcadia was my favorite of the two worlds because it was beautiful, quaint
and full of surprises. The Gribbler episode in Arcadia has all the best
elements of a classic fairy tale -- small fuzzy creatures, an
innocent-looking hut deep in the forest, and a heroine whose warm heart
overrules her caution, culminating in exquisite moments of sheer terror.
My other favorite -- the Roper Klacks episode -- is a self-contained jewel
of a chapter. It has everything you could possibly want in an adventure: a
terrific villain, dazzling graphics and cutscenes, amusing puzzles, and a
strong dose of whimsy.
I liked the pacing of The Longest Journey. You proceed through the game at
a comfortable stroll (double-clicking makes April run, and there is the
option to eliminate animations that makes her zip even faster). There are
some juicy puzzle challenges earlier in the game where you must slow down
and take your time to figure out what is going on. (There are no sliding
tile puzzles or complex mazes to REALLY slow you down.) The puzzles are
usually solvable if you are persistent and thorough. Note: be sure to
"look" closely at every item again after it shows up in your inventory.
Late in the game, I thought the puzzles became easier. That, combined with
a lot of endgame cutscenes and built-up tension as the many plot threads
come together greatly accelerates your progress all the way to the finish.
You will find it difficult to tear yourself away from the computer during
those last couple of chapters. (Don't become so immersed in the final
chapters that you forget to read April's diary. The diary entries add to
your understanding of the story.)
The interface is completely mouse-driven and easy to use. There is a
keyboard command for showing all exits, which I found to be extremely
helpful. Another important feature: the game gives you the option to
replay all the video sequences/cutscenes. It's a lot of fun to watch these
sequences again, and to relive some of the more exciting moments in the
There is more crude and obscene language in TLJ than I expected. Is it
gratuitous? In many places, yes. On the other hand, there is a fascinating
scene in the game when April confronts her younger, less thoughtful self.
In just a brief interchange between the two versions of April, the
contrasting language very effectively highlights her developing maturity.
In fact, watching April's personality develop during the course of her
travels is one of the most appealing aspects of the game.
Some minor quibbles: April moves gracefully and fluidly, but some of the
other characters do not. In fact, some of the characters look like
Frankenstein's monster when they walk. Although the game is beautiful --
even spectacularly so in places -- I didn't come away from it with the
feeling of having been immersed in an environment to the same degree that
I did after playing "Riven". I think this has something to do with the
game's focus on characters and plot, to the exclusion of lots of detailed
closeups of the environment. You visit so many places in the game, though,
that it makes up in graphical variety and breadth what it lacks in focused
The only bug I experienced was an occasional slowdown when the game
accessed the CD ROM drive. When this happened, the game would repeat the
same sound loop four or five times, pause and then go on. Once I realized
that the game was not about to crash, I calmed down and managed to ignore
I've seen TLJ criticized for not being sufficiently original. I disagree
strongly. It contains an extraordinary amount of plot and character
development. It comes closer than any game I've encountered to the feel of
actually playing a novel. There are so many elements in this game -- two
contrasting worlds, a panoply of non-player characters, an emphasis on
character development, a complex plot, entertaining side stories, puzzles,
plus movie-quality dialogue. The amazing thing is that it hangs together
so well. Just getting everything to work together so seamlessly is a tour
The final chapters of TLJ contain some interesting plot twists, and there
is a satisfying conclusion to April's quest. However, the epilogue felt
very much as though it was setting up for a sequel, and there were
questions left unanswered. Since I can find no indication at the present
time that the developers of TLJ are working on a sequel, I feel that the
game's end is ultimately unsatisfying. This is a disservice to the player,
and a mild disappointment in an otherwise enjoyable experience.
My hope is that, even if The Longest Journey has no sequels, other
developers will use the game as a blueprint. I would like to see lots of
TLJ clones. The interactive epic novel has been born whole here -- it
would be a tremendous shame it if were to die here as well.
Grade : A+
copyright © 2004