“The Long Reach is an adventure game filled with colorful characters, puzzles, and a shock of discovery”. That’s the official description on xbox.com at least, and it’s pretty accurate, but they also have it listed as a role playing game, and something tells me that’s a mistake. The Long Reach is developer Painted Black Games’ first game that I could find, and you can tell they draw inspiration from classic adventure games like Monkey Island and Kings Quest with its pixel art, clever sarcastic characters and item based puzzles. Let’s get into it!!
For the most part, your time with The Long Reach will be spent playing as Stewart as he navigates the halls of his research facility on the day of the big Christmas party. The research facility’s motives are kept a secret, but the project Stewart is a part of has something to do with teaching its subjects new abilities subliminally. As the main story opens, you move Stewart to a piano where he begins to play. Later you find out that Stewart has never taken a piano lesson in his life. Surprise! The scientists are also the test subjects!
As any good horror/thriller movie or game has taught us, things tend to go wrong when manipulating the human brain. Stewart passes out playing the piano and awakens some time later to the research facility in shambles, and the story unfolds from there. Stewart is hilariously naive at this point, and as he passes by a broken vending machine covered in blood, he remarks “someone must have really wanted chocolate”. This is an example of the humor throughout this game and it lays it on thick to the end credits.
The story from here on out is moved forward by interacting with other members of the research team, and you are presented with small dialog options that have no influence on the story itself, aside from the final decision the game gives you. This doesn’t mean you should avoid talking to the other scientists during your play through, as all of them have been affected by the research in their own scary, and sometimes hilarious way. One of your colleagues thinks he’s a dog, and another, named Maxwell, thinks he’s his D&D character and leads you on a small quest to recover a very well know artifact in order for you to pass through his area.
As you pass through this area you notice that it’s more of a sacrifice room, and maybe Maxwell isn’t as playful and harmless as you once thought. Unfortunately, that’s where your interaction with Maxwell ends, and that formula is repeated for the rest of your interactions with the other scientists. They are few and far between, and I would have liked more interaction with Maxwell and some of the other test subjects, that way we could experience their side effects. There just isn’t enough character interaction, and one piece of advice I can give you to enjoy this game a bit more would be to read the emails, post-it notes and to interact with anything that the environment lets you. All of that not only provides you with hints at puzzles, but gives you some background information on the characters and events leading up to the accident.
At its core, The Long Reach is an adventure/puzzle game, and most of its puzzles are to retrieve a set of keys to gain access to a room or to use an item from your inventory to fix a problem. You can combine items in your inventory, and can also pick up items that aren’t involved with any puzzles, but I never reached a limit to what I could hold, so horde all of those small items! Chances are you will use them in a later puzzle, and this will prevent any unnecessary backtracking.
Most of the puzzles you encounter consist of 1-2 steps, or 1-2 items to solve, but there was one that took 4-5 steps, and that was easily the hardest of the puzzles in the game. Feel free to experiment with items you know will not work on certain objects, as Stewart will often chime in with his brand of sarcasm, often leading to a funny one liner. One item I tried by accident resulted in Stewart saying “that worked in the Youtube tutorial I saw” making fun of the walkthroughs that happen with these games.
There are a few enemies lurking the halls and they will kill you on contact, so there is some stealth needed when you know they are nearby. Since there is no combat in the game, you are forced to run and hide until the enemy has moved on. You can hide in shadows, crates and air ducts (there’s even a Die Hard reference) so you’ve got enough tools at your disposal to avoid the enemies.
The term Pixel Art Thriller is also used to describe this game, and I think that’s where this game shines. The pixel art is used in a way that there’s enough detail to understand that something bad happened (blood on the walls, Christmas decorations torn, dark abandoned hallways) but it still holds true to the Monkey Island and Kings Quest graphics that clearly inspired it.
The sound effects continue the trend and match the graphics with a familiar set of beeps, swishes, taps and clunks that were in adventure games of the past. The music is a little more modern and relies on eerie tones and synthesizers that almost always hint at a pop scare, but that scare never happens. There were a lot of times I was reading a note or some dialog and the music was pumping like I was being chased by one of the enemies. I’d quickly exit the menu back to the game only to find nothing happening.
A big part of my gaming style revolves around achievements. I find that they add a lot to the game and sometimes force you to play in a different manner that you normally would. The 15 achievements are tied to story events and collectibles. Fortunately, one of the collectible achievements is for reading all the emails on 8 computers. Like I mentioned above, this is a good way to get a bit of backstory on the characters and events leading up to the start of the game. There is one missable achievement that I got by accident when I selected a dead body to hear one of Stewart's sarcastic comments. Other than that, you can easily mop up all 1000 points in one play through. I was able to clear the game and its achievements in 3 hours.
I enjoyed my short time with The Long Reach, but I feel that there were some missed opportunities when it comes to the puzzles and character development. The story focuses on a failed experiment, and there are countless patient/scientist side effects that could have been explored, ranging from violent to funny. With more characters, comes more possibilities of puzzles that could focus on the hallucinations that Stewart experiences, and the hallucinations that the other subjects are having. Particularly, more interaction with Maxwell would have been great. He was the only character that really got some attention and it wasn’t nearly enough.
With the short story, limited characters, limited puzzles and no branching storylines designed for multiple playthroughs, I cannot fully recommend this game for the $15 USD that it is priced at. There’s just too many better options for your money at this price point, and this is a game best saved for a sale or if it gets added to Game Pass.
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