Nostalgia Lane: The Longest Journey

In seeing that FunCom put out a new official site for The Longest Journey, my brain started ticking.

Then it wheezed to a halt and coughed a bit.

I pulled on the starter.  Nothing.  Primed the pump (mm taco!) and tried again.  VROOM!  We’re back in action!

Anyway, my brain says to me, it says, “Hey Syp!” (yes, my brain addresses me using my pseudonym)  “Hey Syp, why don’t you start a new and mostly unnecessary article series on some of your old favorite video games?  That should appease those internet monkeys for another hour!”

I had to agree.  The monkeys need to be fed.

So let’s start with The Longest Journey.  Let me ask you this: what are some of your most beloved books?  For me, they’re usually epics, huge stories of adventure and fantasy and imagination.  In the oft-pronounced “dead” genre of adventure, storytelling had the potential to be just as poignant and moving and epic in a video game as it does in books.  Adventure games (which are now making a comeback on — of all places — the Apple app store) made you work to solve puzzles and navigate dialogue trees in order to advance the story, and in so doing, immerse you in the events, making you an insider instead of a mere observer.

I’ve never felt such a strong connection with the story of a game as I did when I first played through The Longest Journey (TLJ) in 2000.  When I finished, I tried to tell as many of my friends as possible to try it, and was rewarded when my best bud in Japan fell in love with it in just the same way.  It’s a game that’s also an experience and a slowly-spun tale.

TLJ begins in the dream of one April Ryan (voiced by Sarah Hamilton), an aimless art student who gradually discovers that she has a latent ability: to move between worlds.  In this case, it’s between her world — the futuristic technological world of Stark and the olde tyme fantasy world of Arcadia.  It turns out that there’s a lot of really bad mojo happening in both worlds, but from a singular threat, and she’s eventually tasked with helping to combat it.

As you progress through the game, you go through “chapters” (each with their own heading) as you would in a book.  Each chapter advances the story, and in many cases, alters the game world as time progresses.  April’s funny inner narration and outwardly awkward/frustrated dialogue develop this character into someone you genuinely care about.  She comes across an entire cast of memorable characters, such as a talking bird called Crow, a fellow world-shifter, a dragon in human form, and an evil Alchemist, all of whom are loaded with dialogue and secrets.

I replayed The Longest Journey a year or so ago, and apart from the puzzles being easier (they’re devilish the first time if you don’t have a walkthrough), the story still hit me in the same way.  I eagerly downed the sequel, Dreamfall, which — while good — wasn’t quite up to TLJ’s perfection, and ended on a cliffhanger that as of yet is not resolved.

This might not be the game for you if you hate “wordiness” or, y’know, “stories” — it seems as though there’s a sizable portion of gamers who are annoyed at dealing with chunks of text and dialogue, preferring instead to blow crap up.  But if you want to experience one of the finest moments of adventure game history — TLJ is still around and still highly playable.

Favorite Points:

  • My relationship with Crow
  • April’s inner monologue and observations
  • The rich “story” feel to it all
  • Occasional raw and harsh revelations and actions
  • The 2D art backgrounds

7 thoughts on “Nostalgia Lane: The Longest Journey

  1. inquisitorgoody February 2, 2010 / 12:22 pm

    My favorite all time game in the world ever is by far and away The Secret of Monkey Island I had it on the Amiga 500 and it was on 4 floppy disks, with another disk to save onto.

    It’s still probably one of the best adventure games ever made, I loved the feel of it, the music and the storyline. The graphics were pretty pixley but that only adds to my love when I look back at it.

    My Brother downloaded it to his xBox 360 over christmas and I completed the whole thing in about 4 hours and it’s still got it 🙂

    Also UFO Enemy unknown… now that was a strategy game….

  2. Fuzzy February 2, 2010 / 12:27 pm

    I think I have this game somewhere from one of my raids at the nearby used game store back in my college days. The official site used to have a few BGMs from the soundtrack, and they were wonderful to listen to.

    Someday, I’ll burn myself out on MMOs and fire this game up.

  3. dieselfumes February 2, 2010 / 1:06 pm

    Hey Syp,

    TLJ was one of my wifes all time favorite games to play and mine to watch over her sholder. I remember coming home to find her at the computer and me asking her what has happened since the last time I was in. I also have to agree Inquisitorgoody on the UFO Enemy Unknown excellent game, I would leave work drive home to get in perhaps thirty minutes of play before having to head back to work.
    It is strange how things work out. Today I was going to send you an email on an article I came across that I linked to MMO’s and thier origin, but it is also about ‘Nostalgia Gaming’. I wrote up an article on my blog but I invite you to just head over directly to the article itself at Edge Mag. and make your own connection. Enjoy

    http://www.next-gen.biz/magazine/the-making-of-gauntlet?page=0%2C0

  4. Slurms February 2, 2010 / 1:22 pm

    wow, I’d never even heard of this game. Looks pretty good though.

    I was just writing up a throwback article to. I had picked up Psychonauts for 2 bucks this weekend and the entire Xcom (otherwise known as UFO Enemy Unknown) series for 2 bucks last week on Steam and have had all those great gaming memories flooding back.

    good stuff!

  5. Daeke February 2, 2010 / 2:08 pm

    Better than Indigo Prophecy? I’m gonna have to try it out, then.

  6. Alcasm February 2, 2010 / 4:30 pm

    You know, this is one of those games that I have had on my Must Play list for years now. I’m really going to have to track down a copy in the near future as I don’t play nearly enough Adventure games considering my love for the genre.

  7. Dblade February 2, 2010 / 6:02 pm

    Syp, if you have a DS, try both Hotel Dusk and Trace Memory. The DS actually started the revival of adventure games, and there are a ton on there, from ports of games like broken sword, myst, and syberia to original ones like time hollow and touch detective.

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