The Longest Journey, released over a decade ago in 1999, is an old game now. The Developer Funcom has moved on to larger action adventure titles and large MMORPGs but in many ways ‘The Longest Journey’ is still as relevant now as it was when released. Sure it looks dated, with PS1 level graphics, and despite a talented vocal group the dialogue is stilted compared with some of the more dramatic modern games released today, but there’s no denying this is an adventure with a heart and soul eager to be unleashed.
It’s a point and click adventure in the style of Monkey Island, set in a world composed of pre rendered computer graphics with animated characters (think Final Fantasy Seven minus the lego style proportions). As such it suffers from a lot of the problems of it’s genre; there are a few puzzles which are just too random so that even once you know the answer you’re struggling to see the logic of how you should have got it (an early offender with a rubber ducky and a traintrack particularly annoyed me) yet mostly it makes sense in a fairly linear fashion. It looks horrifically old yet the character details are still clear, cleverly designed so that even with a textureless face they all look unique and consistent. Whilst the graphical quality is painful at times to a modern eye, the aesthetics on display are constantly excellent.
I’d say the Longest Journey’s biggest problem is the large piles of exposition that characters constantly dump on you. It has a complicated story, and there are many points where large amounts of information need to be digested. Fortunately you can rush through dialogue with the Esc button, reading subtitled ahead of the actor so you can get through the exposition quickly. This is a shame because the vocal talent here is actually quite good; April in particular is well acted and comes across as endearing, sympathetic yet strong throughout. It isn’t as well choreographed as it could be, coming across almost like a stage play with one character speaking at a time, but Ragnar Tørnquist’s script is excellent. It’s just that when characters speak slowly and they have a lot of lines it gets painful to wait for the actor to work through some of the longer scenes.
The story has quite a few twists and turns, taking April on a journey through two separate worlds, across forests, mountains and oceans, around a futuristic city and eventually out into space. You start being introduced to Cortez, a man who knows something about the world and with a keen interest in April, and for the first half of the game he acts as a sort of guide. Eventually though Cortez disappears and you pick up Crow, a semi-sidekick who you can summon at will to do things for you or occasionally just for a chat. Both worlds have a plethora of villains, friends, tasks and are full of variety that constantly keep the games interesting. Certain scenes, and characters, you will remember years after playing the game.
I can heartily recommend this game to anyone with an interest in storytelling in the video game medium, or an interest in adventure gaming, although caution you a certain amount of patience will be required. It is certainly worth it though for the adventure. It took me a good twelve-thirteen hours to work through it from start to finish, even with the dim recollection of playing it ten years before giving me the edge on some of the more remarkable puzzles.