Too often in life, we’re preoccupied with all the clutter surrounding us every single day. Whether it’s that meeting we’re rushing to or second-guessing if we left the kettle on that morning, we always find endless ways to keep both our minds and our hands busy.
In The Longest Road on Earth, you’re forced to experience (or suffer through) the minutia of daily life in minimalist black and white. From waiting in line at a factory to gazing at the lush scenery out the window as the train you’re on breezes past the countryside, you’re left with no choice but to stop and smell the roses, so to speak.
There are no distractions, no mobile phone to keep you busy, and no way to make small talk with the people around you. It’s just your very being in a singular, profound, and incredibly rare moment – and, you’ll find, that being alone with your thoughts isn’t actually that bad.
What’s the gameplay of The Longest Road on Earth?
More a musical experience or a prolonged music video than an actual game, The Longest Road on Earth lets you play through the lives of four characters in four short chapters with the total gameplay clocking in at just around two hours. There are no branching narratives, no dialogue choices, and no obstacles you have to overcome to achieve anything. You simply progress through the story by sliding your character left or right to move, and by tapping when the screen prompts you to.
There’s no need to be in a great big hurry either, as the game absolutely doesn’t pressure you to get things right. There are no fail states – it’s just you playing through the lives of these anthropomorphic protagonists like a completely uninvolved observer.
Because of the lack of anything else on the screen, it can be a bit of a challenge to know what to do next, or if you even have to do anything at all. For instance, you’ll sometimes have to hold down your finger instead of tapping, or you’ll have to tap a number of times for actions to repeat themselves before the story will progress.
In one particularly frustrating scene, I needed to hold down my finger on one corner as the ceiling rolled up and down a bunch of times. I thought I was stuck or something, but it turned out that my character was actually doing sit-ups repetitively, and you had to keep holding down until he finished a certain number of reps.
Other times, I was just staring at the screen thinking I needed to wait it out until the scene ended on its own, but it turned out I had to actually do something to get on with the story. Sometimes, I had to resort to tapping, dragging, or holding down my finger in a trial-and-error fashion just to see which one would work.
What are the graphics and aesthetics like?
Still, perhaps that vagueness adds to the aesthetic of the game as well. The lovely pixel art is accompanied by the breathtaking music in the background, which is really what steals the show. It is, after all, a story told through sound and having the breathy, ethereal tones of the vocalist serenade you as you celebrate the mundane is an experience like no other.
And the music really does immerse you in the monotony of life, as you’ll have to brew coffee, mop up grimy floors, and wait for your turn at the elevator just because. Some of the tasks can get too realistic as it really is a pain to move forward in a long line as the people ahead of you shuffle along the side of the street. Still, all these things become more bearable thanks to the enchanting melodies playing throughout the whole game – I could honestly listen to the soundtrack on loop forever.
More importantly, the often magical and sometimes melancholy tones have the power to transform the most boring snapshot into the most memorable moment of your day. I particularly appreciated how, while walking through the park, you can stop and look up to marvel at the sunlight filtering through the trees or just spend your whole train ride looking out the window at the greenery. The music is also sure to evoke all sorts of stirrings inside you especially since the wordless story is open to all kinds of personal interpretations.
What’s the appeal of The Longest Road on Earth?
I personally enjoyed the first and the last chapter the most, mainly because the first one celebrated my introverted nature and the last one summarized the cycle of life in under twenty minutes. I like how you never have the option to interact with the people around you, which can be particularly refreshing for someone like me who values “introverting” like it’s the Holy Grail.
There are times, of course, when this solitude can become a tad too overwhelming – my character would walk by a group of people chatting animatedly and I’d wish I could join in on the conversation. All these are intentional, of course, to make you feel all the feels – and frankly, it’s executed brilliantly. Who would have thought that a single close-up shot of an empty mailbox, the open sea, or your last dollar can be so moving?
Overall, The Longest Road on Earth is a unique experience that made me wish I could just listen to the music and watch the gameplay out on its own like a music video. The cover art and app icon freaked me out, to be honest – I’ve never been a fan of that kind of art for the character design. Thankfully, you don’t really see the character art much in the game itself because of the pixelated graphics. Apart from that, the game is a definite visual and auditory treat that guarantees a short but meaningful experience.
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