Throwback Thursday: The Longest Journey ReviewAs April Ryan, travel from the ocean floor to the outer reaches of space on an amazing quest to restore balance between the worlds of Stark and Arcadia.Posted: 03/19/15 | Category: Review | Developer: Funcom | Publisher: Empire Interactive (English) | Platform: Windows
Release Dates: 1999 (Norway), 2000 (UK and North America)
Note: Review first published in November 2000
The Longest Journey will never be distributed or sold in any store in America. Let me repeat this in more detail for those who did not understand the first time: if you want to play this game, you will have to purchase it from overseas because The Longest Journey will never, ever be seen on any store shelf in any CompUSA, any Electronics Boutique or any Wal-Mart in the United States. Funcom has had offers for distribution and turned them down in search of a bigger payday. It ain't gonna happen. Even if The Longest Journey sells 5 million copies in Europe--it still ain't gonna happen. For this game has every strike against it that you can think of. Puzzle solutions that would make no sense in the real world, protracted stretches of dialogue, a mythological universe rich in folklore, and a plot and theme brought to life by fully developed characters that we can't help but care about. In short, it is a traditional, old-fashioned adventure epic.
With the release of The Longest Journey, writer and producer Ragnar Tornquist has immediately elevated himself into the hallowed ranks of Roberta Williams and Jane Jensen as a storyteller extraordinaire. His imagination has birthed a universe of characters and scenarios that will inhabit your imagination as vividly as anything from Frank Baum's Wizard of Oz or Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland. This is a game that begs no sequels but has set the groundwork for endless retellings and updates. It is a breakaway game that would be equally effective as a novel on the order of Tolkein's Lord of the Rings trilogy or a live-action, special effects-laden Hollywood blockbuster. It is the first game that I will ever be awarding a grade of A+, and I have reviewed over 150 games and played well over 400 adventure games. Is The Longest Journey the game that will finally save the adventure genre? No. No single game will shoulder that burden. But it is a huge step in the right direction. It is the apex of adventure gaming.
Exactly what is it that allows The Longest Journey to transcend the normal limitations of the adventure genre? First and foremost is April, the central character. Though the shell of the plot is your cliched "save the world" (or in this case, two worlds) theme, the framework upon which this story is composed delves much deeper. For April is entering upon a rite of passage; a maturation from the indecisive, self-deprecating teenage years into a hesitant adulthood that is at first shunned and then gradually embraced. Her reluctance to face responsibility, as evidenced by her leaving home, forces her eventually to confront a confused past. Yet, these universal themes of adolescence, femininity, and sexuality are presented so subtlety that the game can be enjoyed on many different levels. If one were to extract the superb dialogue and scripting from The Longest Journey, we would still be left with a game that is the equivalent of any of the King's Quests or Monkey Islands. That is how much better this game is than anything on the market. Finally, the game's conclusion and epilogue are masterpieces of subtlety. A dazzling ending is surpassed by an even more surprising epilogue.
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