Adventure games have had sort of a spotty history. Early ones, like the Sierra
Quest series and many of the Lucasarts games, are considered true gaming
classics. But as time went on, the clever puzzles and witty dialogue were replaced
with full FMV scenes and spoken words. Although not all adventure games with
this “new technology” were ruined by this onset (case in point: Gabriel Knight
2), others were harmed immensely (like King’s Quest 7) .
action/adventure wave didn’t help much either, making people think of such games
as King’s Quest 8 and Tomb
Raider when they heard the word “adventure.” The Longest Journey
hearkens back to an age of simple puzzle solving, clever speech and beautiful,
atmospheric graphics which don’t require the latest video cards to run.
You’re April Ryan, a regular girl vying for a position in an art college.
In a twist of fate, you discover that a world of magic and mystery called Arcadia
exists parallel to our own (called Stark). With the help of a very diverse cast,
it falls on your shoulders to save the world (as always).
For those of you who’ve played recent adventure games like Escape
from Monkey Island, the interface will look familiar. You use a point-and-click
system to interact with the world. When you click on an object, you can select
if you want to look at it, use it, or speak to it (or eat it, if you’re so inclined).
The right click brings up an inventory, where you can combine and toy with the
items you hold. This interface takes barely any time to get used to and becomes
more intuitive as time goes on. Most importantly, it never gets in the way of
As is standard these days, the game uses 3D characters overlaid on 2D pre-rendered
backgrounds. Every background is beautifully rendered, from the idyllic forest
scenes to dirty back alleys, and preserves the atmosphere of the game amazingly.
Top that with some spectacular cutscenes that meld almost invisibly with the
game itself and you wind up with a very pretty picture.
the game is one of the prettiest of its kind, it really shines when it comes
down to the story. Although my glib summary of the plotline may make it seem
like another simple “save the world” affair, it really is anything but. The
characters are so well created and seem so realistic that the incredulous events
of the story seem to be that much more real. Your experiences in Arcadia involve
many Tolkienesque creatures such as cute mole-people, the Alatien (a race of
strange winged creatures) and the Venar (who have no notion of the past or future).
Each of these races has their own culture, history, and behavior, which really
fills out the story.
The dialogue is simply some of the best around. It sounds real. It’s difficult
to describe, but the things that people say are almost exactly the things you’d
expect them to say. This is especially true of the main character April. Her
fairly normal life is shattered by all sorts of unbelievable, fantastic experiences.
You can tell by the way she speaks and acts that she never quite copes with
what’s around her, giving The Longest Journey a believable, gritty realism
that’s so often lacking in adventure gaming.
The voice acting is very appropriate and lifts the quality of the game. Although
you’ll find the standard comic relief, most of the characters have very non-stereotypical
voice types and often cover a range of emotions. April’s voice personifies an
insecure teenager and has the depth to take her through all the twists and turns
of the game. There’s lots of improvisation going on as well, probably most apparent
in Burns Flipper, a hilarious psycho hacker.
The game is also pleasing aurally. There isn’t that much music (except in cutscenes) but every area has an ambient soundtrack. From birds in a forest to congested traffic, the background sound makes the scene seem that much more real.
The Longest Journey is a masterful adventure game. Although not incredibly
impressive technologically, it encapsulates all the elements of a good adventure
and is an absolute must-have for any adventure gamers out there.