The Long Reach (Nintendo Switch) Review

By Renan Fontes 21.03.2018

Review for The Long Reach on Nintendo Switch

There's quite a lot of potential to be found in the typical outbreak narrative. With the collapse of civilisation, writers can explore human nature in a primal, degenerative way. Characters undergo inherent challenge, society can either crumble or rebuild, and audiences can get a glimpse of what life could possibly be without stability. It's an uncomfortable, yet alluring, setting that grips on premise alone. At the same time, however, outbreak narratives can be derivative, tone deaf, and thematically unsatisfying. Setting itself up as a point-and-click adventure, The Long Reach is Painted Black Games' latest attempt at the setting, and it unfortunately falls somewhere between engaging and unfocused.

Outbreak narratives are typically separated into three major settings: before, during, and after. The Long Reach opens with a brief before that transitions into a stage somewhere between during and after. The outbreak has clearly already occurred and done some damage, but still recently enough where society hasn't found some semblance of stability to cling onto. On paper, this is a smart way to lay down the groundwork. Audiences catch a glimpse of normalcy before moving onto the main plot. Unfortunately, not much that's established in the opening winds up relevant.

Screenshot for The Long Reach on Nintendo Switch

Players take brief control of Calvin, the fiancé of one of the story's principal characters, but the only important detail conveyed is a tenuous relationship between the two of them. In a gameplay sense, this opening does serve to allow players to accustom themselves with the control scheme, puzzle-solving mechanics, and dialogue tree, but it doesn't feel all that necessary considering the main portion, starring Stewart, establishes all this in just about the same way. In reality, the section with Calvin is meant to be a minor twist before the story properly starts, but it lacks proper weight, especially since Calvin is an insufferable protagonist. If anything, the initial control shift to Stewart is a breath of fresh air.

Unfortunately, in a move too cohesive for its own good, Stewart and Calvin are almost identical in personality. Switching from one to the other does absolutely nothing for the story other than change the setting, forcing audiences to wonder why two playable characters were necessary in the first place. Both men are sardonic deadbeats trapped in situations they don't want to be in, while sporting an arsenal of quips in lieu of depth. It's hard to care about a point-and-click adventure's world when the only thing driving the protagonist is the emotional depth of a pre-teen. Stewart, like Calvin, is a victim of an incredibly juvenile script.

Screenshot for The Long Reach on Nintendo Switch

The script is especially frustrating because it clashes with every other aspect of The Long Reach. The atmosphere is oppressive, with hostility around every corner; the gameplay strips Stewart away of any retaliation, forcing him to hide from enemies instead of confronting them; and the general look of the world all come together to create a genuinely unsettling environment filled with great sprite-work. If every trace of dialogue was removed, it might actually make for a vastly superior experience. Stewart's dialogue tree always feature some form of sarcasm for the sake of a quick joke, and these jokes always clash with the scene. They happen so frequently that one has to wonder whether or not the story is actually a parody of the horror genre instead of a serious attempt at writing a compelling outbreak narrative.

Stewart's comments get especially frustrating when they are unprompted. Upon stumbling on unsettling sights, Stewart will occasionally comment without any input. Sometimes it will just be an acknowledgement of the situation, but most other times he will fire off a quick joke or funny comment to remove any and all tension from the moment. It's disappointing considering how many potentially impactful moments are ruined by an overreliance on comedy.

Screenshot for The Long Reach on Nintendo Switch

Puzzles don't fare much better, sadly. Most are fine enough, adhering to the point-and-click standard of finding an item and using it where it makes sense, but others seem totally nonsensical. Far too often, puzzle solutions boil down to a process of elimination over critical thinking. When stumped, simply use every item wherever you can, regardless of whether it makes sense or not; chances are it will pay off. Worse than puzzles, though, is the AI. Occasionally, enemies will refuse to continue their moving cycle until triggered into a chase. These chases are actually fine enough, with enough thrills to the concept to stay engaging, but the illusion of danger fades away when the AI needs to be manually triggered so progression can be made.

Is The Long Reach bad? Not entirely, but it's not particularly good, either. It can make for a fine enough playthrough on a rainy day considering its short length and, at the very least, interesting tone, but it does little justice to its premise. In using its humour as a crutch, the story loses almost all tension and the puzzles aren't engaging enough to justify halting the narrative in its tracks. With a better script, this could have been a genuinely impressive take on the outbreak premise, but it's instead a rather dry waste of potential.

Screenshot for The Long Reach on Nintendo Switch

Cubed3 Rating

5/10
Rated 5 out of 10

Average

The Long Reach just barely misses the mark thanks to a painfully tone deaf script full of juvenile dialogue and puzzles that rely on process of elimination as much as actual thought-work. The general aesthetic of the world is appealing, with just well-crafted sprites, and the atmosphere is appropriately oppressive, but the overall story feels bound together by a script that can't decide between humour and tension. When every character speaks the same way, alternating between sarcastic quips and actually moving the plot along, it makes for an exhausting experience. Along with repetitive dialogue trees, it's hard to immerse oneself into the narrative. The game is short enough and might be worth buying on sale, but it certainly shouldn't be purchased for full price.

Developer

Painted Black Games

Publisher

Painted Black Games

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  5/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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