Now and then, games come along that defy your initial expectations, and the Long Reach certainly aspires to be one of those titles. This indie adventure presents a pixel art point and click that seems almost pedestrian at first, before tearing down reality your reality and plunging into a nightmare. Created by Painted Black Games, The Long Reach is already available for Nintendo Switch, and it is definitely not the same blistering array of pixels that retro platforms regularly hawk on the Nintendo eShop. Instead, a sparsely populated menu and a chilling electronic soundtrack accompany the opening moments of The Long Reach, as players begin a disturbing dive into the human psyche. This is The Long Reach review.
The Long Reach makes a significant effort to keep players in the dark. From the off, the game’s logo portrays very little and players find themselves deposited on the streets of a nameless urban metropolis. The pixel population is barely lit as the protagonist loiters between the dim hum of neon signs, and the oppressively dull palette feels a world away from games like Spooky Doorway’s Darkside Detective. This turns out to be a deceptively brilliant way to introduce players to the basic mechanics of The Long Reach. With little exposition, it presents an intuitive movement system. Important items are obviously telegraphed by a yellow outline, and players get an early opportunity to utilize the games dialogue system.
This all makes The Long Reach easy to get into, until things take a very dark twist. Without much warning, everything begins to spiral out of control. The edges of an otherwise mundane world start to unfurl as players are dragged sideways into a vortex of insanity, featuring everything from bloody crusades, images of Cthulhu, to Shelly. An unexpected change of narrative perspective only serves to add to the underlying uncertainty surrounding events and Painted Black take every opportunity to play on these fears, with a wide variety of utterly bizarre events. Roaming madmen, hallucinations, double crosses, and a masterful use of audio make creeping around The Long Reach uncomfortable at best. Stepping into the dark as malevolent voices whisper unintelligible nothing to you is just as uncomfortable on an indie adventure as any AAA outing, and Ruslan Viter’s electronic soundtrack manages to ratchet up the tension without breaking the user’s sense of isolation.
Dialogue is equally impressive in this regard. Writing in The Long Reach feels present. Unlike many games that are idealized versions of ourselves, the individuals in The Long Reach are petty. Like the flawed individuals that we are, they swear, bicker, lie, and do not always explain themselves. Some of the characters are utterly insane, some are friendly, and some will chop you up into little bits. The problem is, you never quite know which is which until it is too late. These people are sloppy, ill-mannered, and have their own motivations. They also feel real because of it. They act out in a way that most of us would if our world started to crumble, and as a result it makes the events of The Long Reach far more engaging.
In order to get to the bottom of a what is going on, players must overcome a series of puzzles. For the most part, these rely on some light touch clues and the game’s inventory system. Keys, crowbars, and cables, to name a few things, can be scavenged and used to affect particular objects in the world. Outside of a few moments of inspiration, this feels as average as it sounds. With no penalty for incorrect actions and some claustrophobic maps, it becomes all too easy to simply go looking for all the connectable items. Click everything and you will find the door to the next chapter opens very quickly.
Dialogue, although engaging, has more emotional impact than the outcome of any particular scene. I died enough times, and made repeated use of the save points, to determine that narrative is generally fixed. This, unfortunately, undermines an excellent script that makes every effort to keep players on their toes, with episodes and individuals that mean you can never quite trust what you are doing.
The Long Reach is a psychopath. It is charismatic, engaging, and shows utterly no empathy as it drags you down into an imaginative delirium. It is unfortunate then, that this ingenuity does not extend to the puzzle designs and game mechanics. The Long Reach aims high and trips. It builds a taut atmosphere, that rarely relies on jump scares and has some genuinely interesting ideas. For that, it deserves credit. If the edge of the seat is your favorite part then The Long Reach is available for $14.99/£12.99 in the Nintendo eShop.
- Great dialogue
- Solid narrative concept and some really interesting ideas
- changing narrative perspective feels fresh
- small maps
- strange logical leaps occasionally
- little divergence form the set narrative