The Long Return is a short puzzle game revolving around an orphaned cub who retraces his steps from the last journey he took with his mother. It features a beautiful soundtrack, scenery and wildlife, with the centre of the game focusing on puzzles and thus it is not to be confused with a walking simulator or story-rich title. Its puzzles vary in difficulty, but they succeed in making players use their brains and become immersed into the stunning, natural surroundings.
+ Variety of unique puzzles with different difficulties.
+ Beautiful scenery with different natural environments.
+ Gems can be collected and used for hints in puzzles.
+ Inspiring soundtrack.
+ Steam achievements.
– No chapter select option to replay levels and unlock missed achievements without restarting the entire game.
With the centre of the game being its puzzles, players aren’t told much of a story, except that we play as an orphaned cub who retraces his steps that he took with his mother. We see memories of her along the way and eventually, the unnamed cub will grow up once the final puzzles are ‘defeated’.
Players control the cub throughout his journey with the typical WSAD keys in a third-person view. There are plenty of puzzles along the way which must be completed to proceed to the next area. As the cub runs through the fields, there are gems to collect. The gems can be found hidden under mounds in the snow, in flowers or even other wildlife. They are automatically collected if the cub runs over the top of them or is nearby to the animals. The gems serve a useful purpose and can be used in puzzles as hints if players wish to do so. A hint is worth 10 of these gems and reveals the starting solution of a puzzle.
The games biggest downfall is its lack of a chapter select menu. Each chapter has a gem count, seemingly to encourage players to collect all of them, or to replay if some were missed. Yet, there is no option to do so and this would be exceptionally frustrating for perfectionists and achievement-hunters alike. Most of the achievements are connected with collecting all of the gems, and thus if some were missed, the associated achievements are unattainable, unless players restart the entire game to get back to the intended chapter.
The most common puzzle in the game is a cube-like setup whereby players must move the cubes around the grid to a specific area. Puzzles become increasingly difficult but are not impossible nor insanely frustrating, but some do require a bit of thinking. There are no instructions for any puzzle types but generally, it was pretty clear to deduce the rules of the game.
For me, the easiest puzzle was the mazes with move-able centres. Other puzzles include 2-4 objects that move simultaneously and alike the standard cube puzzles, they must be moved to sit on a specific square on the grid. Towards the end of the game, these took some trial and error for me, but the hints were always helpful if I was unsure.
Another notable puzzle was where players must figure out the pattern from a block of 3X3 designs, with the last block left blank. Immediately in-front of this block is an interactive light-up grid which the cub can run along to select the answer by walking over each square to enter the missing pattern.
Overall, I enjoyed this casual puzzle atmosphere being incorporated into the games natural setting, and being only 2-3 hours long, it did not become tedious or boring, but was a good calming escape for an afternoon.
Each chapter has a different natural and outdoor setting, bursting with vibrant colours with an array of wildlife from foxes, deer, rabbits and more. It has a very relaxing aura and was fun to travel and explore between puzzles.
The Long Return features an inspirational and beautiful original soundtrack that can be purchased along with the game. There is no text or voice-overs, but the soundtrack alone is quite dramatic and makes up for the lack of other in-game sounds.
Price and Content: Sale price or not?
The store page suggests it takes about 2-3 hours to complete and I clocked in within this bracket at 2.8 hours. I certainly enjoyed my playthrough and wouldn’t wish this game to drag out any longer, as constant puzzles could become quite tedious. However, with a cost of $AU14.50 I would have to recommend this only on sale due to its short playtime.
The Long Return is a nice, short puzzle game to keep casual adventure fans busy for a few hours and immerse them in its beautiful environments. There are a variety of different puzzles that are sure to please fellow puzzle enthusiasts and optional hints for those who struggle. With this combination of beautiful graphics and interesting puzzles, it is a game that I would easily recommend to all.
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