The Long Gate Review
The Long Gate is an enigmatic puzzle game shrouded in a deep mystery. Without any explanation and fanfare, you’re thrown into an empty planet filled with unexplained technology quite similar to humanity’s tech, but with an alien civilization that has the same appreciation for a botanical arrangement that inspires optimal Zen.
Most of the explanation comes from the description by the developer, David Shaw, stating “The Long Gate is a challenging and elaborate puzzle game. Solve the analog, digital, and quantum levels while uncovering secrets about their ancient creators.” From the get-go, it is an apt description where most of the discovery depends on the player progressing through the cryptic game.
I’ve grown to appreciate quite a diverse range of games as a reviewer, tackling more obscure genres with games like Maquette. However, appreciation really doesn’t translate to enjoyment and from the onset, The Long Gate has been a challenging one to get into, yet there’s definitely an audience for this game. Is it a game for you, though?
Trial and Error gets you nowhere
From the onset, The Long Gate actually makes you choose between three difficulties – Engineer, Normal, and A Bit of a Nudge. The Engineer difficulty is straightforward, no explanations or hints are given. You’re thrown in with obscure symbols and it’s up to you to solve it.
Normal and Bit of a Nudge really doesn’t change the challenges the game throws at you, but what you choose would depend on how much handholding you will need. I’ve chosen the default Normal and right away I was thrown into a puzzle game with no guide, but some hints that made no sense.
After some exploration at the initial gate, you’re tasked with finding keys to open the main gate where the mystery of the planet will be solved. Entering your first puzzle room, things get real right away and on Normal Mode, I’ve deduced that the room I’ve first settled on is to keep the electrical circuit running until I’ve opened the main gate to find a key.
Dropping the difficulty a little bit more, The Long Gate reminds me of the final exam of an electrical engineering class that allowed me to bring my textbook, but having no guidance from an instructor. You’re supposed to get into the fray right away and really all the tools I had at my disposal were trial and error. Some of the hints made sense and others really went over my head.
After solving the first puzzle key, I felt a certain level of catharsis, which became short-lived after encountering the next set of circuit puzzles that became even more obscure and baffled my brain that had no previous training. There were many instances of putting the game down and taking the puzzles out of the game to ponder on and then coming back to solve them.
Requires an engineering background
I feel that a prerequisite to check if The Long Gate would be for you is if you were able to appreciate The Witness without going through long bouts of frustration. The Long Gate is the opposite of the abstract art pieces from Manifold Garden, where there is definitely logic involved in solving the puzzles.
Sadly, if you don’t get it, you really won’t. There’s a reason why there’s an Engineer difficulty available and the developer has gone through lengths to make the game have real-world engineering applications, which sadly would fly over the regular gamer.
I really would advocate some accessibility options for The Long Gate the same way The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles has a Story Mode, where visual novel newbies could appreciate the visual novel story format without getting frustrated by some of the bizarre clues that the game throws at you, hindering progress.
While there are a few ways to die in the game (usually dying from a long fall), most of the gameplay interactions revolve around the puzzles with some areas where you can jump or crawl through. It’s not very action-oriented, with the only motivation moving you forward is solving the central mystery.
I feel The Long Gate would be best played on the PC, and while I appreciate the Switch port for its portability (until the eventual arrival of the Steam Deck), portability really is the only advantage you have with the Switch. The beautiful visuals the game regales you with have been lost in the porting process and they don’t stand out as they should. Because besides the meditative quality of the puzzle-solving and the overarching mystery, there’s nothing else really going on for me in this title.
What We Liked:
- Meditative puzzle solving that has its own way of relaxing and achieving catharsis.
- Intriguing central mystery as you progress in the game.
- Beautiful visuals that are best viewed on the PC.
What We Didn’t Like:
- Difficult puzzles that are inaccessible to most gamers.
- Nintendo Switch port’s visuals look washed out.
- Not enough story motivators to keep you playing.
Verdict: Wait for it…
There is an audience for The Long Gate and unfortunately, I’m not it, and unless you have an engineering background or enjoy this specific type of puzzle game, it’s a hard sell for the mainstream audience.
It’s not a bad game and there’s a lot to appreciate in this puzzler, but appreciation doesn’t necessarily lead to enjoyment. It can become frustrating and I’d even suggest playing The Witness first before moving on to a game like this.
I commend David Shaw for sticking to his guns and creating a game true to his vision. I’m more for accessibility in the long run, so if there’s another mode available where players could learn and appreciate the puzzles without falling into frustration, it would definitely pique my interest a bit more. Right now, however, I feel that your $14.99 would be better spent elsewhere.
If The Long Gate does appeal to you, I’d really recommend the PC version over the Nintendo Switch as the graphics for the Switch really don’t impress and with the upcoming Steam Deck, portability won’t be an issue as you could opt for that. And I wish you luck with the puzzle-solving, you’ll need it.
*The Long Gate has been reviewed on the Nintendo Switch with a code provided by the publisher.