The Longest Journey is what its name implies, a long and grand adventure. There is no pretense or hidden message to be had. That's probably the game's greatest charm, having a fun story and protagonist without having to worry about much else. With diverse supporting characters and an interesting story with overall good story progression; The Longest Journey feels well worth your time.
You play as April Ryan, a young, struggling artist attending an art school in not Venice. She's eighteen, sarcastic, and more or less normal. She rents a tiny room at a boarding house designed for varying kinds of art students from sculptors to dancers. She may seem to have a generally pessimistic outlook on life, but this comes mainly from the adverse effects of school and her dreams that seem to become more real by the night. Her sarcastic attitude isn't used because she's too cool or super edgy, it's because she is stressed. She reacts to things the way she does as a way to cope, rather than put someone down. She is not mean spirited or spiteful, and is more caring than she lets on. April's voice actress is able to bring this out flawlessly.
The supporting cast can come across a bit underutilized, but they are fun and help build April as a character. The voice actors in the game all do a great job with their given roles, but some are repeated as more minor NPCs that stay in the background. While the supporting characters have and maintain their own personalities; this is still very much April Ryan's story. Everything that happens in game is supposed to affect her, and by extension, the player.
The Longest Journey's story spans two worlds. Stark and Arcadia, both in balance with one another. Both are Earth, but neither is really whole. Stark is the our world, a place of logic and machinery. Arcadia exists opposite that, a land of dreams and magic. The year in Stark is 2209, and is a somewhat believable future. It's heavily corporate, there are minor space colonies surrounding Earth, but everything is structurally the same. There are flying cars, but streets and city layouts are the same. People don't dress incredibly zany and aside from a few technological advances, it feels well grounded. Arcadia is more medieval in nature by contrast due its lack of science. It has magical creatures, witches, wizards and other what have yous a plenty. You'll interact with some of these creatures directly, others are referenced, but most are only seen. April is tasked with restoring the balance to these two worlds, while uncovering the mystery of herself, her dreams and a corporate conspiracy.
The game sometimes has a problem with being a bit too exposition heavy. While the game usually allows the player to soak in the plot through naturally spoken dialogue, it will sometimes get ahead of itself and begin dropping plot points in a way that may leave the player more confused than they should be. This happens only a few times throughout the game, but it can be very tedious when those points come up. The story may also seem to drag on about two thirds of the way in. The plot becomes more of a fetch quest than a series of naturally occurring fortunate and unfortunate circumstances. It does not last too long and it picks back up again at a pace that ramps things up well through the climax.
The game is in 2.5D, meaning you move around in a mostly static, flat, single frame environment with 3D character models thrown out on top. This look works well for the style of gameplay involved. Graphically, the game can be pretty hard to look at. The game forces itself to fit and run full screen at all times, leading to block-y textures and atrocious 3D. The text in journal entries and dialogue suffer from this as well as it is impossible to read some of it. Though it should be noted that the resolution problem never hindered me from solving any of the puzzles. Musically, the game hits its mark in just about every way possible. The songs presented in the world of Stark have a dark menacing tone to them as they reflect the mood of the people and environment of the city. While in contrast, the music in Arcadia has a more natural and relaxing feel to it.
On gameplay, there isn't much to say. It's very much a point and click adventure title. You scan the environment for things to use as get over your next road block. There is not much to say here except that the design is competent and people easy to use. Puzzles never seem so out of touch with reality that you'll find yourself giving up them. It should also be noted that when you click on places for April to go towards you have to hit the escape or you'll end up waiting forever for her to cross the screen as she slowly plods forward.
The Longest Journey is all about the journey and it definitely does that well enough to justify its ten dollar purchase.