The Longest Road On Earth is an odd experience. Often feeling more like a movie than a game, and an artsy one at that, it can be hard to fully formulate how to even review it. So much of the way you might see the game is covered in a facade that you have to witness it to really understand. I quite liked the experience of The Longest Road On Earth, but I never really felt like I was playing it.
To put it into its simplest terms, The Longest Road on Earth is a narrative-driven game, entirely scored by a soundtrack, that takes you through a sequence of short stories. They all have their own distinct theming and charm, but where they work best is how you tie them together. You are only given three buttons to use and that will get you through the entire game. These buttons move your character and allow you to interact with the environment.
In this sense, you are supposed to sit back, move forward, and take in the music and visuals around you. The Longest Road on Earth warped as I played, bending itself to fit into the nooks of my mind. I never really felt in control of what it was trying to say as it bullied its way into my mind. Its airy vocals and nostalgia-ridden lyrics set me up for one thing and gave another.
I thought I'd get something big, dark, and existential. I got something small, celebratory, and existential. Yeah, maybe it led me to analyze myself more than the material. The gameplay doesn't shape around the player’s whims, you shape around it. On more than one occasion, I found myself spamming a button and getting the same old view of flowers or a stop sign. The solution was to simply wait for it to allow you to go. You go from dreading the big things to enjoying the little things.
The Longest Road on Earth is less a story of people and more a story of actions and how those actions drive you, the player, to think. At its best, it feels like a pleasant look out the window on a train to a destination you've never been—your mind wandering through the new scenery like grass on the wind. Effortless, adventurous, calm. Feeding birds in the park, riding a bike in the sun, commuting. It holds the spectacular nothing that is life. That glory of existence. There's something so alien about acting out the mundane in games that really makes you think about what those actions mean.
It uses this minimalistic pixel art to represent what you see and that lack of clarity adds to the central purpose of the game itself. The idea behind The Longest Road on Earth is that scenes are just vague enough — visuals just esoteric enough — for you to piece together the story on your own. It never holds your hand, actively encouraging you to make your own assumptions about the story and its intent.
The same can be said for the anthropomorphized animals the story is told through. The ability to connect with someone unlike us makes that connection more human. Fundamentally, you are supposed to draw your own conclusions with everything you see. It gives you the building blocks to see what's in front of you, but it relies on you to actually understand it. Everything, from the art to the music, works toward this end goal. The music itself is lush and layered, comforting yet haunting. It’s loaded with poignant phrases, lamenting change and the lack of time.
The music is often enchanting, adding a certain atmosphere that is so hard to look away from. The pretty airy vocals serenade you as the guitars, violins, and trumpets blast through you. There’s a comforting repetition at work in the central songwriting of The Longest Road on Earth. Lyrics are often mantric in nature, like the comforting sway of your body when you fade out. You find yourself fading away as the gentle caress of music carries your thoughts forward. Where verses move the song to a new place, choruses ground you and bring you that place where your body sways. Sometimes, that spot is the most comforting.
Although The Longest Road on Earth is only a few hours long, it doesn't feel designed to play in one go. Actions are just a little too repetitive, songs are just a little too similar. It's a game you digest slowly, letting its world envelope you twenty minutes at a time. If you don’t find yourself sucked into the narrative it tries to get you to tell yourself, I could see this game being very boring for many. It lingers a little too much on some of its central scenes, occasionally overstaying its welcome.
There’s something lovely about a game making you tell your own story. That sense of expression and analysis almost makes you feel like you’re part of the experience itself. Chatting to friends about what you think it means and how they’re reading it casts an interesting light on scenes you believed to be unimportant—it promotes a certain sociability that allows you to be involved.
The Longest Road on Earth — Verdict
The Longest Road on Earth works like a video game Rorschach test. You paint a little of yourself onto the canvas of the story and that, in turn, is what you get given from it. I read into it the longing of the past and the body’s need to let go—the decay of both presence and mind, how we should celebrate moving on, and not linger in what we’ve lost. After the handful of hours it took to beat it, I too felt lost. At a loss for words, thought, the past — I just felt hollow for a little while. Sometimes we want some grand finish, a pertinent way to end it all. Sometimes, we don't get that.
TechRaptor reviewed The Longest Road on Earth on PC with a copy provided by the publisher. It is also available on iOS.
- Very atmospheric
- Lovely Idea
- Great experience
- Lush and well put together soundtrack
- Can get a little tedious
- Niche appeal