Lovely pixel art can’t redeem poor writing and unintelligible storytelling.
The Long Reach’s website raises early red flags. The site has numerous grammatical errors and readability issues; highlights incredibly basic game mechanics, talking to NPCs and inventory management, as revolutionary; and boasts laudatory quotes from seemingly random individuals that are also grammatically incorrect and feel unprofessional.
Unfortunately, the readability and grammar issues that plague The Long Reach’s website continue into the game proper and make its already confusing story utterly incoherent.
The Long Reach’s story disappoints at every turn. I kept hoping its incomprehensible narrative would evolve into something interesting but it never did. The characters are never relatable and have very unclear motivations, and the mystery behind the central incident of the game – a laboratory experiment gone awry – is never satisfactorily explained.
The Long Reach is just too bloated with random things the developers probably thought seemed cool. Between Alan and Santa Claus and Jesus and crack houses, I couldn’t make any sense of it. It has no emotional core, no character or idea to attach to and find interesting. It also lacks a consistent timeline or any internal logic. I can’t tell if the game takes place over a single night or days or weeks.
Early in the game, there’s a very bloody massacre. Later, the circumstances behind that massacre are explained and we’re made to feel bad for one of the characters, but it’s entirely unearned. Up to the point of this revelation, the character we’re made to feel bad for has been presented as an unemotive nag. This is just one of the countless times The Long Reach tries to shock the player to little emotional effect.
My biggest issue with The Long Reach isn’t its failure to achieve anything resembling a cohesive narrative. It’s The Long Reach’s pervading and obnoxious self-assumed cleverness, most clearly on display in its dialogue choices, one of which is invariably a snarky quip that doesn’t land.
On top of all of its narrative problems, The Long Reach features ludicrously unintuitive item logic. One of the game’s early puzzles requires you to use a dog toy from your inventory on a busted vending machine. The broken glass of the vending machine supposedly allows you to cut the dog toy and use the toy as a key.
The Long Reach’s strongest aspect is its wonderful art and animation. I found myself pleasantly surprised several times by bits of lovely animation like the raising of a knife or the movement of a hallucinatory specter.
The Long Reach constantly thinks it’s so much cleverer and more interesting than it is, resulting in a game that is anything but charismatic.