The Long Reach Nintendo Switch Review
Developer: Painted Black Games
Publisher: Merge Games
Release Date: March 15th 2018
File Size: 448MB
The Long Reach is about the dangers of the human mind when the failsafe parameters of our dreaming subconscious overloads and spirals out of control with no reprieve. How would people react in such as state, and what dangers would that present to society and the people around us? Those are two key questions explored in The Long Reach.
The main protagonist is snarky guy named Stuart. At least that is how I made him. You have multiple dialogue options which can make him nice, sarcastic or foul-mouthed and rude. Be aware that if you to with the rude option, there will be a lot of swearing. On top of those options which ever line of dialogue you choose gives you some options based on it further driving in that sort of personality you want to give him. None of these affect the story in any way, but they are a fun option to have.
I was kindly asked by the developers to avoid spoiling the story, so I will stop here. Everything I have described here can be learned within the first 20 minutes of the game, so there will be quite a lot more for you to unravel about the mystery of how this mysterious outbreak started and how to resolve it.
I quite enjoyed this fresh take on an apocalyptic, outbreak-style story. Far too often, we are finding stories dealing with the undead, parasites or demons. It was a refreshing change of pace to come into this game and find one delving into the concept of dangerously altered human psychology.
Music Focuses on Setting the Mood
The music in this game focuses on setting the mood through a low background beat. While you are generally exploring, it is going to be mostly quiet as the developers wanted to create tension through effective use of low notes played on brass instruments, an eerie flute that pops in occasionally before bringing in a piano to finish the track off with a quick slide down the keys. The track fades and a new one starts generally following the same low notes rule but using some different instruments to keep things fresh.
There was one scene in the middle of the game where your location and the focus of the game changes from puzzles to pure story and horror. It was here that the music really shown. It came to the forefront and set the mood perfectly. It was fast, loud when it needed to be and made me feel anxious when revelations about Stuart and the situation he found himself in began to unfold. I absolutely loved the change of pace here, and it made me appreciate the fact that their use of slow, low tones in most other parts of the game were solely a stylish choice. These developers are capable of some great and intense music when the situation calls for it.
No Voice Acting
There is no voice acting in this game. It is purely focused on traditional methods of reading, and there are a lot of potential lines of dialogue thanks to the options you are given. There were a few parts of the game where some things were happening on the screen while my eyes were being forced to focus on the words at the bottom of the screen. In this sort of horror game, voice acting is not necessary nor is it expected because of the 2D art style. I found myself feeling though that this was a personal sort of experience which would have greatly benefited from voice acting provided it was done by skilled voice actors who could have achieved the levels of tension implied by the story. This wasn’t a great detriment to the experience, but it would have taken it to the next level in my opinion.
There was one implied voice in the game which I found a little humor through, but as a result it detracted from the tension it was supposed to create. This voice belongs to a particularly crazed fellow with a pension for beating people to death with an iron bar. When he spots you, he lets loose a high-pitched scream that I found to be kind of similar to the fallen ones from Diablo 2. I’m glad that they included some sort of battle cry for him since it gives you an audible cue for when you have been detected, but it just sort of made me chuckle when I heard it.
Environmental Sound Effects Add a Lot
There aren’t many environmental sound effects but they are effective when you hear them. When someone speaks to you over a radio, the cackle of the radio bleeds through. You might come across a TV letting off a lot of static. When you walk through the snow outside, you can hear a satisfying crunch with each footstep. Each one of these sound effects do well at setting the tone and enhancing the atmosphere of the game.
A Rich 2D Art Style
The Long Reach employs a detailed 2D pixel art style with large sprites for both the environment and the characters. There was a lot of love put into the environmental designs which really shows through. For example, you may come across a vending machine with blood-smeared, broken glass or the decrepit remains of a poor soul laying gutted on the floor with their ribs poking out. The dark lighting emphasizes how dangerous the world around you is as you may stumble upon enemies lurking in the dark beating their victims to death or as you wondering into a hallway where all you can hear are disembodied voices chanting in unrecognizable words. The art style does a great job instilling a sense of dread upon the player and brings about a surprising level of unease.
Some Serious Technical Difficulties
On a technical level, I was not impressed with The Longest Reach. The first problem you will encounter is that there is a fairly lengthy initial load time from the menu. It requires just over 57 seconds just to get into the game. Once you are actually in, the load times are fairly quick, but that first one is a little hard to stomach. However, the initial load time by itself isn’t actually the problem here.
I found that there were a surprising number of instances where the game would perform a soft-lock, and this happened at an alarming frequency. By a soft lock, I mean that the music would still be playing and I could still press the flashlight button with functionality, but nothing else at all would work. When this happened, I had no choice but to exit the game and restart. This was just incredibly frustrating, and the problem was compounded even worse by the long loading time required to get back into the game. This didn’t happen to me again once I got past the halfway point of the game, but it really hampered my experience.
Aside from the soft-locks, I didn’t notice any slowdown, but there were some oddities which occasionally occurred with the AI. Take a look at the picture I have included here. A soft-lock had occurred just after I locked this guy in a glass room. When I restarted the game, he ended back up in his normal position, but he didn’t actually register my presence anymore. There was also another time where he saw me, then instead of running towards me, he started running backwards away from me.
Hopefully a performance patch will be on the way to fix these issues, but I fear these issues will be a problem for most players until it happens.
The object of this game is that you will be walking around a lot searching for objects in the environment to interact with. When you find something that you can check, its contours with glow with a bright, yellow line; sometimes you will just get information about them; sometimes you will pick them up; sometimes you can use your acquired items on them to progress. It can take a while to figure out what you need to do as objectives can be spread out from one another. No direction is given. You are pretty much on your own here, so you will need to pay close attention to the environment and remember everything you saw in order to quickly figure out where to go and what to do. You will need to focus especially hard in handheld mode as some of the items can be small and easy to miss. Some of the puzzles can be a little confusing, though. One of the first you will come across will require you to cut a hard doggie toy on broken glass to turn it into a shiv then stuff it into a sparking elevator button so you can press it and continue. This just didn’t make much sense to me and took me a while to figure out as a result. When all else fails, at least just run around and click on everything with all of your items, and eventually something will work.
Combat is a Non-Option
There is no combat in The Long Reach. When you encounter your enemies, hiding or running is your only real option. There are a few instances when you can use acquired objects and the environment to your advantage, so these are more strategic victories than actual combat victories. Sometimes I found myself wishing I could have used that crowbar I found I bash in some crazy brains, but that was in no way the focus of this experience and probably would not have been of much merit here.
A Few Great Horror Scenes
This is a game which takes place in phases. There aren’t distinct chapters, but there will be a few locations you will visit. The focus in those areas will be different. The majority of your time spent with this title where be a facility where the main objective will be solving these item-based puzzles to get through it and there really aren’t many scares. It is more designed to make you feel uncomfortable. However, there are a few instances where you will find yourself in a new location, and there aren’t any puzzles there. Those scenes are completely dedicated to the story and horror, and they have excellent pacing. There was one scene in the middle of the game which was particularly powerful. If most of the game had been like that, I personally would have loved it a lot more and would have scored the gameplay section much higher as that scene gave the horror and story aspect the focus it deserved.
*This review was written by Brian Myers for switchwatch.co.uk.
Anytime there are technical issues in a game that automatically dampens the value a little. If I am going to spend any more than $3 on a game, I anticipate that it will work well. For it to be locking up so frequently on a $15 game was not encouraging to say the least. If you can look past that, then this is a fairly decent little puzzle horror game that will provide you about five hours of entertainment. There isn’t going to be much replay value in this one aside from perhaps playing it one more time with better pacing since you will know how to solve the puzzles and trying different dialogue options. At $15, there is naturally going to be a lot of competition on the eShop in terms of price, play time and effectiveness at delivering a horror experience. As far as 2D horror games go on the Switch, there isn’t much competition to be found, but for just a little more money you can get some much scarier 3D games such as Outlast or Resident Evil Revelations 1 or 2. However, if you want a decent, 2D psychological story targeted at adults with puzzles, bloody scenes and a few decent scares, then this one will be for you.
Detailed Pixel Art Style
Story Concept Is Evocative
Music Shows Occasional Brilliance
Sometimes Unintuitive Puzzles
Soft Locks Far Too Frequently
57 Second Initial Loading Time
Horror Game That Didn’t Scare Me Much