Developer: Painted Black Games
Publisher: Merge Games
Release Date: Out Now
Format(s): Nintendo Switch (Reviewed), PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, Xbox One, PC, Mac
Since I’m a fan of both adventure and horror games, The Long Reach had been on my radar ever since I first gazed my eyes upon it. Why not, too? The mixture of psychological horror and point-and-click style puzzling seemed like a great idea, and one that not too many developers have toyed around with as of late – being able to play it on the go with the Nintendo Switch just sweetened the deal.
Fortunately, for the most part it delivered exactly what I’d hoped for – it’s a creepy title with plenty of neat puzzles that consistently spring those adventuring ‘eureka’ moments. There are a few issues that prevent The Long Reach from achieving adventure game greatness, though.
The Long Reach’s tale sees a science experiment go wrong, causing people to go a little insane and witness strange hallucinations. Oh, and they also just so happen to kill everyone around them, so it seems that the s**t really has hit the fan.
Talking too much about the story would be a disservice to The Long Reach though, because there’s a hell of a lot more going on than it would initially seem and spoiling it for any potential players would ruin the experience. You’ll see the game play out from multiple angles, and with so many different characters to interact with and horrific twists aplenty, you’ll be kept on the edge of your seat right until the game’s satisfying conclusion. The tale really did hook me in (I’m a sucker for a good psychological horror) though and it’s probably one of The Long Reach’s strongest points.
With its point-and-click style gameplay, the bulk of your time with The Long Reach is spent finding items and using them to solve the myriad of tricky enigmas that are scattered throughout the game world. It’s a formula gamers have been used to for years now, and for the most part it’s executed well here too – some of the puzzles are incredibly clever and satisfying to solve.
There are some that are a bit more obtuse and frustrating though, with the solution never necessarily being so obvious. This could be down to simply not having found the required item yet, but it’s often down to the puzzle not really indicating what you actually need to do. The environments you explore are large in size and spread across multiple floors too, so it can be a bit of a pain to go around scouring each area and trying to seek out any missing items or clues – it makes the age old adventure game trick of ‘pressing everything around you and hoping for the best’ a bit more frustrating…
It’s not always the case though, and there are definitely more well-designed puzzles present in the game than poor ones – it’s just that the less enjoyable ones stick in the mind because they take a lot longer to solve. Items you can interact with are clearly indicated though, so at least you’re never aimlessly interacting with your environment. You just have to be thorough in your approach and pay attention to every small detail around you.
Besides the puzzling, you’ll come across the occasional action sequence too – don’t fool yourself into thinking you’re safe because of the point-and-click style of the game, because there are plenty of opportunities for your character to get killed. One early example of this sees you running from a rabid scientist as he hunts you down with a metal bar. However, you also need to fool him into knocking down a hanging corpse for you (gruesome, right?), so you’ve got to be quick and clever as he pursues you. It adds a nice little twist to the constant puzzling of the game and keeps you on your toes throughout. Don’t worry about dying too much though – there’s a generous saving system in place that ensures you never lose much progress.
The Long Reach’s tale is genuinely intriguing and the script well-written, so the scenes where you converse with other characters are always entertaining. You’ll get multiple choices too, with each one embracing your character’s personality but also allowing you to address the situation in different ways – you could be all serious for example, or alternatively you could take the sarcastic approach.
This could be a bit hit-and-miss though – the mood of The Long Reach is a sombre one, so making wise-ass jokes all the time felt a little out of place. They were often present when just examining items around you too, which again felt inappropriate given the overall theme of the game. That’s not to say that they’re not entertaining, because they did make me chuckle at times, it just felt a little out of place.
Unfortunately, there are also a couple of minor gameplay issues that are hard to ignore. One of those is the load times – whilst they aren’t always present, when you come across one you can expect to be left waiting for some time. There was also the fact that the game wouldn’t recognise my button inputs at times, typically after interacting with certain objects. It was only for a second or so, which is generally easy to look past, but it could frustrate when in the midst of exploration or trying to outrun an enemy. There’s nothing game breaking though, so I can’t hold it against the game too much.
Visually, the game adopts a 2D aesthetic that looks pretty great in-game. Each environment is detailed and full of different things to check out, whilst the lighting, disturbing sights, and vast amount of blood helps create a really sinister atmosphere. Mix that in with the effective sound design, and you’ll find that the The Long Reach can be pretty chilling – one early area of the game was shrouded in darkness but full of strange voices, which definitely put me on edge when playing at night with headphones on…