It can be argued quite easily whether The Longest Road on Earth is even a game. Personally, it falls into the category of an experience more than anything else. There are no ways to fail, the ‘levels’ are incredibly linear, and there are no dialogue choices – heck, there isn’t any dialogue at all. This is done to let the actions and music take centre stage. The entire experience is open to the player’s interpretation, which is quite interesting. It will be nice to compare this review to others to see how the narrative of this game affected us all differently.
Essentially a walking simulator, a lot of the enjoyment of this game is down to the player. If you are not sucked in by the melancholic-yet-soft soundtrack or the actions that are happening on screen, you’ll find it hard to connect at all with what’s going on. The bulk of the experience includes you doing chores and mundane, everyday activities, which I guess is fitting, as this is how I felt playing the game. Some sections were painfully drawn out and slow. For example, early on there is a scene where you are riding the train somewhere, and your character is alone in their booth. Your only option is to just sit there and listen to the music playing. There are no actions to do, you cannot get up, and the surroundings have nothing of interest to look at. This invoked a feeling of loneliness, especially in this character’s story. Still, at the same time, I’m playing a video game! It was dull – as were many other parts.
Gameplay-wise there is very little on offer. You move the character within each chapter with the joystick, only moving left and right. Any of the face buttons can be your select option – which is prompted by a square on-screen to select and an upside-down triangle to hold. Every character walks at the pace of a snail, and I found myself growing impatient, not knowing what or where I’d be interacting with something next. This led me to hold the joystick in one direction and spam the A button until an action occurred.
One area of the game that I think deserves praise is the soundtrack. I have since added this to my music library to accompany me on my commute to work whilst I read. The music is soothing the majority of the time and calms you. Over time, it becomes white noise in the sense that all songs are similar, and once you’ve got through the first 25 minutes or so, all songs merge into one. But that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. You get used to them, it doesn’t demand your attention, and I found comfort in the melody of many tracks – hence it being perfect for when I book-read!
I was impressed at first that the songs for each scene within The Longest Road on Earth fall perfectly in line with the actions on screen and fade to black as the song ends. This was until I refused to cooperate for one scene and remained standing in a kitchen refusing to pick up my coffee to see what would happen…. After around four minutes, the track ended, there were five seconds or so of silence, and then the same track began again, but this time, with no lyrics. I don’t know what I was expecting, but long story short, don’t do this! Just play the game normally. That way, you get to finish it quicker!
As already established, this game did not do a great job at holding my attention. If it were not for me choosing to play through this with my girlfriend, where we bounced our interpretations of one another, I would have completely zoned out midway through. Due to the aforementioned music turning into white noise for me, this took away from the intended experience as when I was paying attention, some lyrics hit hard. In one of the narratives, a character is (I assume) lonely and missing someone who had moved away. As they slumped back in their chair after a long (and very dull) day, they had received a postcard. I assume this was from the person they are missing and as they slumped further into the chair, the lyrics “but you’re not here…” shot out, and the music and scene faded. I imagine there are many moments like this that help strike that emotional chord, but you need to be laser-focused to pick them all up.
Visually, The Longest Road on Earth is not great. The pixel art style used is not suitable for a large TV. It looked slightly better handheld, but the pixels were very muddy and thick. You can see it was initially designed to be for mobile or a smaller screen experience. Couple this with the full grayscale palette, and the visuals are bland overall. Another ingredient to make this less engaging.
I completely understand and appreciate their intent with this game, and I’m sure there are a decent bunch who will be swept up by this and adore it. For me, once you’ve played it once, there is no value in ever returning. Even if you love it. The pacing is too slow all around. Nothing about this game captures or demands your attention. It is your responsibility to stay attentive, which doesn’t feel natural.
I feel like I’m being a little too harsh on The Longest Road on Earth. Still, for the price it is currently available for, I really feel like your money is better spent somewhere else. The entire “game” can be completed at the same time it takes to watch a film – so do yourself a favour and rent a movie instead.
Review: The Longest Road on Earth (Nintendo Switch)
I completely understand and appreciate their intent with this game, and I’m sure there are a decent bunch who will be swept up by this and adore it. For me, once you’ve played it once, there is no value in ever returning.