The Long Reach is a 2D side-scrolling horror title that puts you in the shoes of a research assistant who is working at a research lab. He suddenly blacks out (very conveniently) and when he wakes up all around him has erupted into chaos, everywhere is messed up, damaged and his co-workers have turned into murderers. While it isn’t up there with some of the best stories I’ve seen in a game, it has quite an intriguing plot that certainly made me want to know what was going on and why. The writing throughout the game can be a little hit-and-miss, however, and I felt that sometimes it tried too hard to be funny and clever at points, whereas sticking with a more serious horror setting and feeling might have been a better choice to help keep the tension up more. Because what has ended up happening is a mish-mash of emotions from the player and it doesn’t work.
The gameplay is basic enough for everyone to understand, which in this case, is a good thing. As previously mentioned it is played from a 2D side-scrolling perspective and while you have full control of your character, it is very reminiscent of the old point-and-click games of the past. You pick up items on your way that have to be taken to another part of the map and used or combined with something else in order to progress further. So if you grew up with some of the older point-and-click games then I can’t see any reason why you wouldn’t get some enjoyment out of The Long Reach, despite some of its problems, which I will come on to.
In what is quite a rarity nowadays, The Long Reach is actually fairly challenging in terms of working out what you need to do to progress. This isn’t necessarily a bad point I’m making either, as at least in my eyes, it is quite refreshing to see a game that doesn’t hold your hand excessively or just outright tell you where to go and what you need to do. Here it is up to you to scan the environment, read everything you can and speak to everyone too and in doing so you will get subtle hints. But even with these hints, I was still a bit clueless on a couple of occasions when you finally work out the answer however, it feels like a real win. If you are somebody that gets frustrated easily if it isn’t clear what the next objective is then there might be points where you will just give up, especially if you’ve played and enjoyed the slightly easier and more recent point-and-click games such as Thimbleweed Park.
No good horror game will be complete without coming across a few lunatics along the way and here they are your co-workers, who once you get close enough to them, will chase and try to kill you with all manner of weapons. You cannot fight back against them, you simply have to run away and try to find a hiding spot to evade them. In this sense, it’s similar to something such as The Coma: Recut, another recent Switch indie horror title. Of course, if the enemy is in the same room as you, you can’t just hide and it’s done, you need to create enough distance before activating a hiding spot. You are also able to turn off some of the lights in certain rooms and hide in a darkened corner. Despite the fact that the enemies are just other humans that have all of a sudden gone a bit crazy, a really good job has been done in making them both disturbing and terrifying, especially when they are chasing you.
As with a lot of indie titles now, you may have seen or played something that looks fairly similar recently. But with that being said, it’s hard to deny that it still looks visually great. It’s all done with pixel art and while it’s not very detailed pixel art at that, it still manages to include a lot of small touches to the environment that makes it stand out a bit more. It’s dark and gritty when it needs to be which helps deliver the type of atmosphere the game tries to convey.
Speaking of atmosphere, The Long Reach manages to genuinely build up the atmosphere and tension as it goes on, which is pretty impressive considering the retro pixel look, but as mentioned earlier on, the dialogue will then try to be witty which breaks some of the tension. With it being a 2D horror title, it’s much harder for this game to scare than it would for a 3D game too, but on occasion, it can still manage to serve up a couple of scares here and there. The audio also helps too, and it is used as a very useful tool here to help ramp up a bit more tension. The slower paced, eerie music is soon to be accompanied by a frantic piece used when you are being chased, and it certainly lets you know that you’re in trouble.
Performance wise, The Long Reach runs great during gameplay as you would expect. I did however come across at least four major glitches during my playthrough in which I needed to quit the game completely in order to fix them. The first happened after about 10 minutes, after the whole intro section, my character suddenly stopped moving and I had to quit out of the game and play that whole section again, which is certainly not the kind of first impression you’d want from any video game. When you first boot up the game it can take an awfully long time to load, to the point where I started to wonder if it had frozen again, but no, it just really does take that long.
The Long Reach could easily be considered as one of the better point-and-click games of recent years providing you like your games to be a bit more challenging. If you’re easily frustrated you will probably give up way before the four or so hours it takes to beat the game, which is a shame because it’s a title that has something to give. It has an intriguing story that will make you want to carry on, but the narrative is a little off sometimes, which counteracts what it is trying to achieve. It’s certainly an alienating game, one that has some serious glitches, but those that stick it out and for those who enjoy classic games in this style, there is certainly enjoyment to be had.
Version Tested: Nintendo Switch
Review copy provided by Merge Games