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Tuesday, 13 March 2018

Review: The Long Reach

Review: The Long Reach

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The Long Reach
Painted Black Games | Nintendo Switch | Digital Only
1 Player
Reviewed by: Curtis Chapman | 13th March 2018

Developers Commentary by: Roman Tomilin - Painted Black Games

* Review Code Provided by: Merge Games *

Nintendo Play is joined by Roman Tomilin , producer and developer of The Long Reach, head of Painted Black Games, for the included Developers Commentary.

Run, run as fast as you can, you can’t catch me Mr Psychopath. That’s the general theme in Painted Black Games’ new 2D horror adventure, The Long Reach. Out 15th March 2018 digitally on Switch and priced at £12.99. Will you manage to reach the end of your journey and save the day, or will your character spend the entire game huddled in a corner wishing this was all just a bad dream?

Horror films always contain at least one person who believes that it is better to hide under the bed or cower in a cupboard than face their demons (sometimes literal) head on. It grips the audience, with at least half of them secretly praying that the grotesque figure hunting the unarmed teenager will eventually find them and finish them off. Until they do though, there’s an air of suspense that grips the viewer, keeping them on the edge of their seats, and that level of anticipation is something that Painted Black Games attempts to siphon into The Long Reach.

The Long Reach Screenshot 1

In Baervox, New Hampshire, important science is happening. An attempt to transfer skills and knowledge instantly through computer systems leads Stewart, a low-level worker, to wake up alone in a testing room after a routine experiment. It is clear that something has gone wrong and it is up to Stewart to figure out what it is, and more importantly, how to fix it.

The Long reach is a twisted narrative adventure littered with puzzles. The 2D side perspective grants the player with rooms to traverse and objects to discover, with anything of interest being highlighted when passed over. Items are picked up and stored in your inventory, ready to be called on to solve one of the many puzzles when required. The game is clearly inspired by indie classic Lone Survivor, apparent in both its art style and the level of creepiness that oozes from the title.

Developers Commentary
Roman: We love adventures as a genre and played them a lot. Distilling specific sources of inspiration is challenging.
Besides the visceral and surreal theme of the story, the main elements of fear and suspense lay in the players’ encounters with the deranged that are encountered throughout the game. This is achieved through footstep indicators, sound bars that are highlighted on the floors of the dimly lit rooms, becoming more opaque the closer their proximity, giving you ample time to ensure you aren’t seen, ducking for cover or hiding in the shadows to avoid detection.

As thrilling as this sounds (and it really is), the whole mechanic is sadly underdeveloped. After an initial instance or two it becomes apparent that these strategically placed enemies are simply a means to an end, being less of a way to build suspense and simply just another pawn in the current puzzle you are trying to solve, requiring them to be navigated into certain situations in order for your character to progress. Toward the end of your journey, the game begins to branch out slightly, giving the impression of enemies following patrol routes, though this ends before it really gets started. Adding a more structured patrol mechanic to the enemies, akin to those in classic titles such as Maniac Mansion or Clock Tower, would have done a much better job and keeping the player constantly unnerved about who they might find every time they move between rooms.

Developers Commentary
Roman: We thought of focusing on enemies as a more distinct mechanic. But, after all, we wanted to make an adventure with survival element and not vice versa. Eventually, haunting is more of ‘spice’ for our game than a mechanic.

The Long Reach Screenshot 2

Harking back to a time when puzzles were occasionally so obtuse that it left the player either trying absolutely everything in their inventory randomly on anything interactive just to see if something happened or just heading online (or to the local game store) to read a walkthrough guide, The Long Reach follows suit at times, expecting you to put two and two together even if it hasn’t necessarily told you that you need to.

The puzzles themselves are clever and well thought out and once solved become fairly apparent, though a few of them contain so little in the way of context that you end up with the impression that the game is trying to be smart simply because it can, holding back just enough of the information required to make you stumble a few times looking for a solution, often leaving you wandering around aimlessly for periods of time.

Developers Commentary
Roman: We wished to construct tricky puzzles, for which a player would need to understand the logic of the game. We only hope we succeed.

The storyline is well written with some subtle dark humor and a fair amount of adult language. Although talking to other characters in the game presents the illusion of branching dialog, ultimately conversations are inevitably steered toward the exact same endpoint. Unfortunately, the game does not contain voice acting, something that would have complimented this title nicely.

Developers Commentary
Roman: We never consider voice acting as an option. In our opinion, format of our game does not imply it. There are not that many dialogs in The Long Reach. Besides, we tried to make players imagine the characters’ voices themselves. Again, we only hope we got it.

The Long Reach Screenshot 3

The games art style follows the industries current obsession with revisiting the pixelated retro aesthetic of yesteryear. Though that said, the sprites are well animated and the low-resolution gore does a better job of disturbing the player than any 3D rendered scene ever could. Music and sound effects do not attempt to mirror the vintage styling of the graphics but instead borrow straight from the horror movie audio handbook, with low intense music and sudden shrill audio cues doing a good job of setting the scene.

Overall, The Long Reach is a solid narrative driven adventure game. While it constantly attempts to engage the player, puzzles are occasionally too smart for their own good and its main unique selling point does little to keep the fear factor up at the height that the developers clearly intended it to be. It is, however, an enjoyable title with an unusual story and definitely and certainly a series that is worth developing further.

Many thanks to Roman for his discussion during this review.


+ A twisted, well directed story.
+ Quality 2D gore.

- Some puzzles are just too random.
- Underutilised enemy gameplay mechanic.

Verdict: Above Average – Worth a Try

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