Most horror games on Nintendo Switch (and gaming in general) tend to be of the schlocky supernatural jump-scare variety. There's nothing wrong with that, as Resident Evil Revelations Collection and Outlast: Bundle Of Terror will attest to, but there's ample space for a more subtle, psychological brand of creepiness. The Long Reach aims to fill that very gap, though it pulls up just a little short.
Yes, there's a shady research lab here, not to mention ropey lighting, oodles of blood, a sinister score and even a blade-wielding madman. But the tone The Long Reach shoots for is more unsettling than outright terrifying. We won't go into any spoilerific details here (seriously, the less you know going in the better), other than to say that the game is set in and around a secret research facility in modern day small-town America. From there, all you really need to know is that this is a game that revels in wrong-footing the player with unexpected shifts in perspective and fateful twists. It even throws the odd visual trick in to try and make you doubt your own eyes, mirroring the unravelling psyche of our protagonist.
The game plays out much like an old school point-and-click adventure. You move between 2D pixel-art scenes, picking up objects and using them in combination with your environment to solve extended chain quest puzzles. When it's flowing and you find yourself in step with or even slightly ahead of the developer's thinking, The Long Reach is a pleasure to play. Most of the puzzles have a coherent logic to them, making you feel clever for figuring them out.
The compact level layouts are generally quite memorable too - though there's perhaps one too many bland office corridor for our liking, particularly in the late-game stretch. As with many examples of the genre, though, it's possible to get irritatingly stuck here if you fall out of sync and fail to pick up on all the clues. This can feel like it's the game's fault rather than your own inattentiveness.
One early puzzle takes us the best part of an hour to overcome (the whole game should only last you a couple of hours on a clean run-through). Ultimately, we resort to running through all the available rooms tapping the interact button to try and force some progress. As it turns out, we come up with the right solution fairly quickly without executing it quite right, and had thus discarded it as a possibility. It related to the way you have to escape the clutches of the aforementioned madman from time to time, with the game's clumsy door prompts and woolly enemy response AI muddying the water.
We also find ourselves wondering if this snag was merely a game-breaking bug, given that they're in evidence elsewhere. One particularly persistent glitch would completely remove control over our character, requiring a game restart. Fortunately, The Long Reach is generous with its auto-save points, so this wasn't too much of an issue outside of some extremely lengthy loading times. We'd expect the developer to fix such glitches pretty promptly, but still.
The game's narrative is perhaps best described as entertainingly quirky, if a little discordant. It attempts some pretty ambitious stuff with regard to human psychology, while the nature of the sinister experiments isn't your usual sci-fi video game schtick. However, the script is also surprisingly heavy on snarky humour. While this works to give the characters a little more humanity, it doesn't always sit well with the whole psychological horror angle. It strays a little too far into jokey territory. The writing itself, while frequently warm and conversational, occasionally falls short in terms of basic readability and grammar. One character talks about being 'emphatic' on several occasions, when we're sure she means 'empathetic'.
There's also simply too much of the stuff, with an ill-advised multiple-choice response system that does almost nothing to change the conversation. Despite its many flaws and issues, though, The Long Reach remains a curiously compelling experience. It's not quite as scary, funny or clever as it thinks it is, yet those typically drawn to point-and-click adventures will find themselves pulled into its bizarro world regardless.
A quirky 2D adventure with hints of psychological horror and some classic puzzles. Though its gameplay is riddled with glitches and its narrative full of flaws, The Long Reach keeps tempting you to peer around the next murky corner.