The Long Journey Home
The Long Journey Home (TLJH) offers a boldly drawn universe filled with strange and kooky alien races. The setup is essentially a Lost in Space scenario. You control Earth’s first faster-than-light craft on its maiden voyage to Alpha Centauri, but something goes wrong when you jump to light speed and you end up stranded on the far side of the galaxy. You must then scavenge supplies and seek help from aliens in order to return to Earth.
The weird alien races play a central role, and they range from sentient plants to infectious, gift-giving molluscs, with each race having its own culture, personality and linguistic syntax. Conversing with these aliens can be genuinely challenging, as you try to decipher their meaning and respond without offending them.
The game offers a balance of survivalist mechanics and traditional RPG quests. You can descend into a planet’s atmosphere to collect resources, and repair and upgrade your ship, or earn money by assisting other races with problems. These eclectic missions include staging a false kidnapping so that a love-struck warrior can woo a princess, and taking an alien on a guided tour of a system. Almost any in-game event can be the source of a story. Opening a cache of supplies could unleash a deadly infestation that slowly spreads through your crew.
All the above works splendidly, unlike the controls. TLJH mimics actual space flight, so thrust and inertia must be considered when moving, which makes basic tasks such as orbiting planets unnecessarily difficult. Planetary movement is even worse, as you only have up and down thrusters, and must rotate the lander to move sideways. Couple these controls with each planet’s varying gravity, and just landing in the right spot becomes a massive chore.
Each overshot orbit and missed landing costs you vital fuel and causes damage, turning what’s initially an inconvenience into a potentially game-ending factor that must be constantly considered. Yet because the game is 2D, controlling the ship isn’t that interesting anyway; the controls only obscure what interesting about the game – its quests, adventures and personable universe. With standard controls, TLJH would be a decent game, but it’s currently a frustrating missed opportunity.