Long Ago: A Puzzle Tale is developed and published by GrimTalin who also worked on The Adventures of Elena Temple, though both titles are vastly different from each other. Long Ago is exactly what it claims to be; a true puzzle game at heart with a short story that unravels in ABAB poetry form over the course of 5 short chapters. It is an isometric perspective game with directional puzzles to solve. By isometric I mean that all the levels appear to look 3D, but it is seen from a 2D angle which can be rotated with the triggers. There are 80 unique levels to play, 30 of which are repeated after finishing the story. Each level is designed to be solved with limited moves, and for the 30 story levels you must collect all of the feathers before running out of moves. In the top left of the screen the number of moves allowed is shown and some can be solved with a spare move, but not every level is so easy.
The gameplay for Long Ago is all puzzles with obstacles that are thrown in to challenge the player. The player controls a small rock ball that can move in only four directions, when the ball is moved it will carry momentum until it clashes with an unmovable object such as a log or crate. However, a log also acts as a hidden path the ball could potentially move through if angled properly. There are also signs that can move the ball in another direction without stopping or losing momentum which act as quick turns, in later levels moving signs are introduced and make for an even harder puzzle to solve. The 30 story levels are broken up into 5 chapters, so after finishing the 6 story levels the player has 10 optional missions unlocked.
Having finished the story levels, all the feathers are changed to coins instead and are placed in different locations. Gems can be earned after the story levels and reward the player for using minimal moves while obtaining all coins in each level. The coins can be used to buy cosmetic skins for the ball we control and there are 15 in total to purchase with coins earned. Once the player has earned enough gems through the newly unlocked levels, the next chapter will be available. Not all gems are required to move on, so the player can choose to save some harder levels for later. Having said some levels are a little hard, many will be grateful to know that the game does have a hints and tip button, Using ‘Y’ after a certain amount of time has passed while playing a level, you will be told which direction is the correct option. This feature can be really handy to prevent any frustration someone may have while trying to figure out some of the later puzzles with rotating signs and portals. There is also statues and lights that have to be touched to spawn more feathers or coins. Buttons are introduced late game which move pedestals around when passed over or may open a gate. The game is honestly fun and the visuals and audio only build off of that.
The Audio for the game is stellar, there are five main songs the player will hear after beating each chapter and hearing the story. All are recorded in high quality and the vocalist sounds like a professional. There are other songs the player will hear more frequently, and all stick to the theme being a tale from medieval times, so the instrumental songs sound like a cheerful tune played on a lute, bongo and a flute.
The visuals for Long Ago are impressive after looking at the short list of people who helped developed this lovely game. There are some things that could have benefited from a few tweaks such as the frequency the birds flying overhead in later chapters, but the game is vivid with color and wonderful art graphics. From the get-go, the player can experience a healthy green forest and other areas as the story progresses. Later levels will have birds flying overhead and occasionally cross the screen. Perhaps the birds were introduced in later chapters to help distract the player from lack of color as those take place in more dull looking areas. The pigeons in chapter 5 love to coo often and they are in abundance, so pigeon noises can drown out the music and soft sounds of the ball thudding against different surfaces. Regardless the game was made to be a relaxing puzzle adventure and gives the player options in the settings to adjust game volume. There are also three different settings for controlling the ball.
The story is delivered only in a few lines across the 30 levels, but we hear a story of a daughter of a mad king and how she finds herself through her journey. Each level only adds a few lines of poetry, but we can access all dialogue recorded in our story book at the level select screen. There the pages will show our Princess’ story, but it can also be read aloud on command sounding like a play in theater. I wasn’t impressed with all of the voice actors’ recordings, some of the characters did a fantastic job while those who didn’t, were missing energy in their delivery. I would have loved if the developer would have added an area in the menus to select one of the tracks to play since you only hear them once which is after finishing a chapter for the first time. The rest of the time sitting in the menus I only heard the instrumental songs.
The longevity for the game is low in retrospect since the game can be finished between 4 to 8 hours being skill dependent. However, if using a guide, one could complete the game’s puzzles in less than two hours, but there’s just no fun in that. The game is very giving in its hint mechanic that one should just need patience to finish the game. The game also has an undo button which can be used as many times as needed. The game does have 110 levels, but there is nothing beyond that to collect other than the gems and cosmetic skins. All achievements will unlock through natural progression and level select is available for easy clean-up.
In conclusion, Long Ago: A Puzzle Tale was a wonderful experience. A decent length of a game for the low price as well. This game is a must play for those who are into directional puzzle games. What I’ll remember most from this project though was the music and visuals. It would be amazing if the developers added the other tracks into casual play considering how well they sounded. The developers really put love and effort into the project and it shows. An excellent Indie title, albeit simple in design. The game may appear short, but there is incentive to return.Become a Patron!
This game was reviewed based on Xbox One review code, using an Xbox One console. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version. Game provided by publisher.Want to keep up to date with the latest Xt reviews, Xt opinions and Xt content? Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.