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SummaryStunning. Absolutely brilliant.
The GoodI just finished TLJ, so I'm writing this with a very vivid memory of the game. And the conclusion? The Longest Journey is one of the most beautiful, immersive, spectacular games I've ever played.
The thing that strikes most about TLJ is its unique story; I'll admit I haven't read all that many books in my day, but I've yet to meet a story that's quite as... esoteric as that of TLJ. Somewhat reminiscent of an old favorite of mine, a movie called Flight of Dragons, TLJ manages to beautifully combine a classic fantasy world and a dark, futuristic yet contemporary Earth. The beauty of TLJ is how the writers managed to handle the distinction: Stark and Arcadia, the world of Logic and the world of Magic. The game is absolutely immersive: the open landscape and auspicious landmarks of Arcadia, next to the dark, claustrophobic Stark. Where in Arcadia I felt enthralled and free, in Stark the atmosphere is dark, brooding - as if evil is rampant on every corner... not once did I nearly jump from my seat, not because something surprising happened on the screen, but because the creepy atmosphere made me so nervous a creak or footstep in the house would freak me out.
Add to this the astounding artwork, the variety of settings (futuristic post-industrial world, a fantastic town, underwater city, deserted island and middle-of-center-of-everywhere realm) that are so beautifully thought out and drawn you can almost feel like you're there, spectacular background stories and depth of the game universe, and terrific voice acting to boot - and you've got yourself one of the deepest, most immersive games I've played since Star Control 2.
If that's not enough, this game has what is quite possibly the single best soundtrack ever to be featured in a computer game, written and perfected by Bjorn Arve Lagim. The soundtrack alone is worth the purchase, take my word for it.
The BadUnfortunately TLJ is not without its flaws, two serious and one minor. To begin with, the game is plagued with bugs. On my machine (AMD Athlon 1GHz, A7V133 and GeForce2GTS) -- and, to my understanding, on most NVidia-based video cards -- the game crashes whenever I try to enter the police station through the front door. Luckily there's another way of doing this, but that's hardly an excuse. Moreover, the game refuses to run at 32 bits per pixel on my machine, resulting in very dithered animation, thereby detracting from the beautiful graphics. And, to top it off, whenever I switch tasks (using Win2k), the 3D textures and alpha become corrupt and I have to restart the game.
That isn't a big deal, but worse is the fact that at least three or four times throughout the game I got stuck because I failed my pixel-searching (specifically, I didn't locate the valve on the machine next to the Boarding House, the light switch in the police station toilettes and another something I can't remember offhand). Also, being a linear game (which, so long as not blatantly obvious a la Max Payne, is not necessarily a bad thing) it happened once or twice that I didn't realize I had to do something before another event occured (for example [spoiler alert]: giving the map to Flipper before the pizza appears in the trashcan). That is the only reason I had to use a walkthrough, and I hate using walkthroughs.
The third problem is the fact that towards the end of the game (starting from the sixth episode or so where it's not as apparent, becoming a much bigger issue towards the tenth episode) some puzzles get much, much easier; for example, killing the snapjaw and finding the talisman isn't even a puzzle; neither is getting rid of the Chaos Vortex and helping Adrian fend off Gordon. The fact that monsters like The Gribbler and the mutant at the end don't even give you a run for your money is both good and bad: good because it means you can't die and won't have to reload, bad because it emphasizes the linearity of the game (or rather shouts it out loud).
Finally I'd just like to say that while the above detracts from the game, it by no means makes it unplayable -- just be prepared for an occasional grunting.