The Longest Journey Review
Brutally Difficult Puzzles in Fantastical Places
Aug 4, 2020
(4 min read)
(4 min read)
The year is 1999. You’ve just booted up your Windows 98 PC and settled into the stiff-backed chair in the Computer Room. Your mom has logged off AOL and retired to the den to watch a rerun of last week’s episode of Friends, and you’ve got the whole place to yourself tonight. You’ve grabbed a can of Surge from the mini-fridge in the garage. You tear the plastic film off the CD case of a new game you picked up from Circuit City on the way home with your money from your part-time job at Blockbuster. Look down. It’s The Longest Journey.
Despite my quintessential “90s experience” set up, I didn’t pick up this game until 2015 when I started exploring PC games. The Longest Journey is a point-and-click puzzle game from a bygone era, and the low graphical quality doesn’t really take away from it too much. You may have to futz with your computer settings to even run this game, but I highly recommend you do — while there are better iterations of this same idea that came after (such as Broken Age), The Longest Journey carries with it a very specific place and time in gaming that is worth revisiting.
Eighteen-year old April Ryan is transported from her home in the industrial, cyberpunk world of Stark to the high-fantasy realm of Arcadia. An ancient dragon informs her that she is a shifter and holds the power to jump between the two worlds. A cataclysm approaches as the line between the two dimensions grows thinner, and April finds herself thrust into the responsibility of saving the universe from collapse. The story grows increasingly convoluted as it continues on, throwing in a host of characters with impossible-to-pronounce names and lore much deeper than it has any right to be. April herself is a likable protagonist, but by the time she imprisons the Chaos Vortex in the Talisman and releases The Crow to help her complete the trials, you’ve likely been lost for hours.
Luckily, none of this is particularly important to the experience of The Longest Journey, however. Primarily, this is a point-and-click puzzle game. The story exists to tell April to move from one place to the other. The settings themselves are extremely imaginative, and considering the year this game was created the worlds are beautiful. The contrast between the high fantasy and hard sci-fi settings that are constantly clashing provides enough entertainment in itself. The characters, while strange and almost otherworldly, have a lot to say. Dialogue can get quite intricate at times.
The Longest Journey is the absolute definition of “old point-and-click games that are way too difficult for their own good.” For the most part, these puzzles have complex solutions that the game has provided you with enough information to figure out, but there was one puzzle in particular I had to look up. Lo and behold, it seems that almost no one on earth was able to figure out that you’d need to combine clothesline, a rubber ducky and a clamp to create a fishing line and pull the key out of a grate. Putting aside this puzzle and a few others scattered about, the challenge is quite fair. It’s important to pay attention to settings and side comments from passerby because it’s likely they’ll drop a much needed hint.
Though not the fault of this singular game, the naming scheme of the sequels is absolutely infuriating. The first game is titled The Longest Journey. The second game is titled Dreamfall: The Longest Journey. The third game is titled Dreamfall: Chapters. There is some Fast and Furious nonsense going on here and I won’t stand for it.
Final Verdict: 7.5/10 — Brutally Difficult Puzzles in Fantastical Places
The Longest Journey is an interesting attempt at fusing science fiction and fantasy and succeeds on many levels in that regard. While the story grows increasingly incomprehensible as it goes on, the puzzles increase in difficulty on a fair slope. With one or two standouts that literally cannot be solved with a human brain, The Longest Journey succeeds as a picture perfect example of the ultra-hard environmental puzzle games that 90s PC gaming was famous for. Combining strange objects, working through dialogue with weird NPCs and exploring both cyberpunk and fantasy worlds at once provides enough charm to make up for the convoluted premise. It is, unfortunately, dated as hell. If you enjoy puzzle games and working your brain to its absolute last, The Longest Journey might still hold weight even 22 years later.
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