Longtime readers of Geeky Hobbies will know that one of if not my favorite genre of video games are puzzle games. Puzzle games may be one of the least action packed genres in video games but I have always liked the genre as a good puzzle game can be just as satisfying as a tense action game. The best puzzle games do a good job utilizing unique mechanics to create fun and challenging puzzles that you feel a sense of accomplishment when you solve them. When I first saw The Long Return I was intrigued. In addition to being an interesting looking puzzle game, I thought the story and atmosphere looked quite interesting. The Long Return is a relaxing romp through the wilderness that is filled with fun puzzles that are unfortunately a little on the easy side.
We at Geeky Hobbies would like to thank Max Nielsen for the review copy of The Long Return used for this review. Other than receiving a free copy of the game to review, we at Geeky Hobbies received no other compensation for this review. Receiving the review copy for free had no impact on the content of this review or the final score.
In The Long Return you play as a cub that has been orphaned. Throughout the game you retrace the last journey that the cub took with his mother. Along the journey as he explores the wilderness you will relive moments the cub shared with its mother on their last journey. You will solve a set of puzzles which will open up the path to continue on your journey.
While The Long Return has some exploration and platforming mechanics, The Long Return is at its heart a puzzle game. A couple of the puzzles are optional but most of them serve as obstacles that you have to solve in order to continue your journey. Unlike most puzzle games that only feature one type of puzzle, The Long Return includes several different types of puzzles. I would say that at least half of the puzzles are variations on the slide puzzle. Basically each puzzle board has some blocks on it that you can push. The objective is to push the blocks out of the way and onto the paw prints in order to open up the portal that you need to reach to complete the puzzle. As you progress through the game these puzzles get progressively more difficult as new mechanics and ways to manipulate the blocks come into play.
Other than the slide puzzles there are a few other types of puzzles. The game includes a couple puzzles where you have to redirect a set of mirrors in order to light up all of the mirrors and the end platform. The game also features puzzles involving pattern recognition, giant mazes, and a few other types of puzzles. The puzzles may be on the easy side (more on this later), but I generally liked the puzzle design in the game. The different types of puzzles bring variety to the game instead of relying on the same mechanics over and over again. The puzzles are also well designed and clever where you have to think outside the box to solve them. Fans of puzzle games should have fun solving the puzzles in The Long Return.
Outside of the puzzles the other thing that I really liked about The Long Return was the atmosphere and story. As there is no dialog the story is told through the environment itself as well as some flashbacks. The story itself is kind of basic but I still liked it. The story is cute/touching as you see a cub relive the last journey he took with his mother as he grows up. The cub in particular is quite cute which leads to cute moments as he explores the wilderness.
What I really liked about this aspect of the game though was the atmosphere itself. It is hard to find a word to perfectly describe the game’s art style but I really liked it. I would say that it is kind of a combination of a polygonal style mixed with a more realistic style. What I do know is that it creates an environment you want to explore. The little touches really make the difference. For example in one area you will encounter several animal families just wondering through the wilderness. These animals serve no gameplay purpose (outside of giving you crystals when you run by them) but they really add to the atmosphere. The atmosphere is topped off with a soundtrack by Dale North which does a great job setting the mood for the game.
The atmosphere combines perfectly with the puzzle elements to ultimately create the laid back experience that drives The Long Return. The Long Return is far from a stressful game. The game has no time limits and doesn’t rush you in any way. You are encouraged to take as much time as you want. If you want to just spend some time frolicking through the wilderness you can. Outside of finding additional crystals (which are used for hints and achievements) there is no reward for exploring but it is sometimes just fun to explore. When you do get to the puzzles the game does a good job keeping them from becoming overwhelming. You can take as much time as you want to solve them and if you need a hint the game will provide one in exchange for some of the crystals that you have picked up along your journey. Basically The Long Return is the type of game that you can just sit back and play when you want to take your mind off of everything else going on in your life.
I enjoyed my time with The Long Return as it is a good game. There are a few things that I think could have been better though.
I would say that the biggest problem with The Long Return is that it is definitely on the easier side. I have to say that I honestly didn’t find any of the puzzles in the game to be particularly difficult. This could be because I play a lot of puzzle games and thus are generally pretty good at these type of games. I am guessing that it was more of a strategic decision though as the game is meant to be easier to fit in with the laid back feeling. If this was the goal The Long Return succeeds as the puzzle solving aspects of the game are quite laid back. If you are terrible at slide puzzles you may have some troubles with some of the puzzles. I was able to solve almost all of the puzzles in the game within a couple minutes though. On the positive side this means that the game is not stressful. I didn’t encounter any of the type of puzzles that frustrate you to the point that you want to tear your hair out. This does a good job reinforcing the game’s more laid back tone.
On the negative side it means that The Long Return is not all that challenging. As I mentioned I don’t think any puzzles in the game took me more than a couple minutes to solve. Quite a few of the puzzles I solved almost immediately. If you struggle with slide puzzles you may have more troubles with the game, but you should still be able to solve them pretty easily. If you don’t mind when games are easy this shouldn’t be an issue for you at all. While I would prefer an easier puzzle game over one that is frustratingly difficult, I do prefer puzzle games to be a little more challenging. The puzzles are fun to solve but they don’t feel particularly challenging. I solved most of the puzzles quick enough where I never really had that “aha!” moment and never got the sense of accomplishment you get by solving more difficult puzzles. If you want a challenging puzzle game The Long Return won’t be it.
The easy difficulty leads to one of the other issues I had with The Long Return. The Long Return is not a particularly long game. Going in I knew The Long Return was going to be pretty short as the Steam page says that it is only supposed to take around 2-3 hours. I ended up beating the game in around two and a half hours so that estimate is pretty accurate. I ended up spending some time searching for as many crystals as I could find which did add to the time it took me to beat the game. If you are good at the puzzles and don’t waste your time trying to find as many crystals as possible I think you could beat the game in about two hours or possibly even a little less time. If you spend the time looking for every last crystal though and try to get all of the achievements it could add some time to the game. As the story/experience is linear there isn’t a lot of replay value in The Long Return outside of just playing through the entire game again. The biggest problem with the short length is that I just wish the game was a little longer as I was really enjoying it and then it just ended.
The final more minor issue I had with The Long Return is that the platforming mechanics could have been a little tighter. To this point I haven’t really talked about the platforming mechanics mostly because they don’t play a big role in the game. Mostly they are just used to get you between the puzzles. The problem with the jumping mechanics is that it is hard to time your jumps correctly. I think this has to do with how the cub moves. The cub movement feels pretty realistic which is good when you are just moving around on the ground. When you are forced to jump though it leads to some issues. Most jumps you can make from just a walk or standing still, and the game is generous when determining if you made it onto a platform. This does lead to some quirky graphical glitches where the cub can float at times. You most likely will end up dying a few times when you try to make a jump with a running start though as it is hard to time the jumps correctly. The good news is death is not a big punishment because you only lose a crystal , miss out on the achievement for beating the game without dying, and are sent back a short ways to before the jump. Mostly the deaths caused by the jumping mechanics are more of an annoyance than a serious problem. As they aren’t a big mechanic in the game the fact that the jumping isn’t always perfect is not that big of issue.
The Long Return is not a perfect game but there are a lot of things that I enjoyed about it. At its core the game is a puzzle game which is one of my favorite genres. There are a couple different types of puzzles in the game but I would say that a majority of them rely on slide puzzle mechanics. The puzzles are pretty varied leading to a fun experience. The game also has a great atmosphere which is supported by a cute/touching story and an interesting environment that you want to explore. The puzzles and atmosphere work well together to create a really good laid back atmosphere. This laid back atmosphere does lead to most of the puzzles being pretty easy though. Most of the puzzles I solved within a couple minutes leading to the game only taking 2-3 hours to finish. The platforming mechanics are a little hit or miss as well. Despite these issues I still enjoyed my time with The Long Return.
My recommendation for The Long Return comes down to your feelings of the game’s premise as well as puzzle games in general. If the premise doesn’t really interest you, you don’t like slide puzzles, or generally prefer more challenging puzzle games; The Long Return may not be for you. If you think the premise sounds interesting though and like more laid back puzzle games I think you will really enjoy your time with The Long Return. For this reason I would recommend picking up The Long Return.