22 Aug 2008

WEEKEND WASTER - The Longest Journey

The game this week that will kindly relieve you of your Saturday and Sunday (and possibly the rest of the month) is The Longest Journey.

It was released eight years ago, but you should still be able to find it in your local game shop. I picked it up recently, re-packaged in the Dreamfall Limited Edition release, but it's also sold alone on budget for just under a fiver, so that's your best bet and a cracking deal to boot.

I know the original release had some problems with XP, but the one on Amazon looks like it's compatible. Alternatively, if you already own a copy that's been gathering dust for too long then the official site has a few suggestions on how to make things all better.

THE GAME

April Ryan is, perhaps, my favourite video game character ever. She's not too pretty, not too confident and not too well-endowed. In fact, she's just... average. I appreciate the subtlety in her moods and expressions and her position is something many people will instantly relate to, that of a student struggling to pay the bills and wondering whether she is really on the right track in life. I adore her cynicism and uncertainty and it's a joy to watch the character evolve as the game progresses.

The story is set in a techno-hip future Earth. It's a world built around science and industry. Venice, where you begin the game, is a sprawling mass of rusted metal and dingy back alleys. It's a threatening, dystopian environment, filled with corrupt corporations and flying cars.

All this sounds very typical of a sci-fi setting, but alongside this genre standard is a great deal of personality and depth. There is much that the player will recognise: a student life filled with nights out and lazy mornings, meeting friends at a local haunt and struggling with coursework... It's beautiful and fascinating and predicting the next direction the story will take at any given time is pointless.

If you watch the trailer on the left, you'll get a feel for what the game is all about. Without giving too much away, there is obviously more to this vision of the future than meets the eye and, as you begin to explore April's life and her circumstances, you will also come to understand more about the world and the true nature of its existence.

If there is one problem with The Longest Journey, it's the insane difficulty level. In true adventuring style, the game is packed with baffling puzzles and inventory-combining tosh and being a bit of a dim-wit, I've never entirely enjoyed that sort of thing. If this turns you off then I urge you to play the game hand-in-hand with an internet walkthrough in case you get stuck, because its too easy to desert the game out of sheer frustration.

Trust me, it's worth it. PC Gamer magazine weren't kidding when they called it the "pinnacle of classic, point-and-click adventure gaming". In terms of game mechanics there's nothing new here, but if you are hungering after a rich, involving and often amusing storyline with characters that you can deeply care for, this is the game to play.

2 comments:

Chris Dymond said...

My completionist self has been meaning to play this since it came out. It's almost certainly the best regarded adventure game I've never played (with the possible exception of Runaway). I even bought and installed it about 3 years ago and started playing it (in bed on Sunday mornings with my wife).

But it just had too much text to read to get into the story properly...

internisus said...

You don't have to go through Amazon to get this modern classic--buy it on Steam along with the sequel.