A few months after its release on Steam, The Long Reach by Painted Black has made its way to the Playstation Store. Available on PS4 as well (as a cross-buy bundle), we played the Vita version of this horror adventure for this review.
When I was thinking of horror games on the Playstation Vita (as I was playing The Long Reach), I was surprised at how many of them have a similar approach. Sure, Resident Evil eventually made it to the Vita with Resident Evil: Revelations 2 – but a ton of horror games for the Vita have been of the 2D side-scrolling pixel art variety. Home, Lone Survivor, Uncanny Valley and Claire all come to mind, and we’ve got STAY on the way as well. If you enjoyed those titles, then The Long Reach is probably right up your alley as well.
The developers themselves state that The Long Reach was inspired by Lone Survivor, so perhaps the similarity is no great surprise. I also felt similarities to Uncanny Valley, although The Long Reach plays much more like a traditional adventure game. Much of the scary ambiance in the game comes from a dark and unnerving tone, rather than action-fueled sequences and jump scares – which again fits with the titles listed above.
The Long Reach is set against the backdrop of present-day New Hampshire, but in a fictional town. The story’s not incredibly long so going into details would risk me heading into spoiler-territory here, but it’s safe to say that not everything is as it seems – and the mystery slowly unravels as you switch between different perspectives and engage with some of the locals about the research and experiments that are going on all around you.
The setting’s wonderfully realized through some excellent pixel art which includes tons of little details, although the dark visuals can obscure some of them as well. The soundtrack also definitely helps in setting up the right mood, with a good musical score that underlines the psychological nature of the horror that’s unfolding.
As convincing as the setting is, the writing and gameplay design aren’t as consistently good. It’s possible to get a little stuck and lose your immersion with the story, and some of the dialogue in conversations can feel a bit out of place when it comes to the overall tone. One moment you think you’re descending into a dark kind of madness, and then a few lighthearted jokes get served up. Maybe it’s intentional (as part of the psychological madness), but it felt odd to me. The Long Reach also allows you to make choices during conversations, but the writing falls short of the kind of impactful stuff we’ve seen in games like Life is Strange of The Wolf Among Us.
Much like you did in the adventure games of old, you’ll have to pick up objects and use them somewhere else to progress through the story – and most of these little puzzles and subplots are well designed. As mentioned, however, it’s also possible to get stuck without a clue as to what you need to do – the narrative definitely doesn’t flow as well as it should, at times.
Nevertheless, despite its shortcomings The Long Reach is an interesting title for players who enjoyed some of the similar games I mentioned earlier. There’s an interesting setting here, an intriguing plot and a decent audiovisual presentation – enough to compensate for the little flaws in its narrative and conversational design.