I wasn’t sure what to expect when I started playing The Long Return. It looked like a cute and fun game, but I was also wary of being lured into being sucker-punched at some point. What I found was an enchanting visual story full of whimsy and only small touches of sadness. The Long Return is a relaxing puzzle game with very light platforming elements included. Although I was lead directly through each zone, in many of the zones, I was free to wander as much as I wanted to. This is our The Long Return review.
The basic concept of The Long Return is a cub is following in the footsteps of the paths he’s previously trodden with his mother. This is shown by shimmering images of both of us, which lead the way. These short memories are brief but are also often touching because they capture small, quiet, intimate moments between cub and mother. The inclusion of these scenes not only helped guide the way, but they also added some real heart to the experience.
Along the way, one of the main goals is to collect diamonds. These diamonds are often hidden in the ground or vegetation, but can also be hidden in the various animals. I was worried about some of the animals because they could have potentially been dangerous to a small cub on his own. However, there is no combat in this game. Most of the time, all that is needed is to go near the animals to get them to drop their diamonds. But there are some animals which have their own puzzles to figure out. The diamonds are not just something to collect either; they can be used to purchase hints in the various puzzles in-game. The price for these tips is often steep, though, and frequently only told me the part I already figured out. Your mileage on this might vary.
Although there isn’t any combat, the world does have its perils. It’s very possible to fall off the world, drown, or even get shot by a laser if you aren’t careful. I also noticed every time this happened; I lost a diamond. So I made the natural assumption if I ran out of diamonds, that would mean game over. However, that doesn’t happen. In fact, there seems to be no way to get a game over screen. Losing the diamonds just meant I had less currency to purchase hints with.
The Long Return does a great job of giving visual clues about what I needed to do. There were a few times I felt lost about what I needed to do, but I always found the clues were there; I just wasn’t paying attention. The same thing goes for the puzzles and mazes. Whenever I was at a loss for what to do, it was because I had ignored the clues. I love everything was not spelled out for me. I had to think about things, but at no point was this game stressful or frustrating, which is a nice change of pace from some of the games I’ve been playing lately.
The art style is simple but also lovely, although there are some parts of the scenery which oddly had no collision to them. For example, there’s a part early on in one of the snowy areas, there are what looks like little boulders. However, when I went to jump on them, I’d fall through them or could just walk through as if they weren’t there at all. I’m not sure if this is intended, but it did dimish the play experience a little bit.
I also had some issues with moving the camera around to change my view. There were often certain angles I couldn’t get but could use in other areas, which made traversing the zone harder than it would have been otherwise. For example, one of the puzzles opened a path that required me to hop down to lower platforms. I was unable to turn the camera around enough to double-check the location of the platform relative to where I was or to even see how far I needed to jump.
Lastly, I want to mention the music in The Long Return. Much like the art style, the music feels very simple, but it sets the stage for each zone clearly and is a pleasure to listen to. Gameplay and music work together hand in hand to set the mood for each zone, and it was a pleasure to see both unfold together. Also, thankfully, the soundtrack is available for purchase as well!
If you’re looking for a pleasurable puzzler with an endearing story to tell, The Long Return is for you. It’s a low-stress game with a few challenges but nothing extreme and is well worth the time.
A copy of The Long Run was provided for the purpose of review.