The 1999 game The Longest Journey joined the canon of great adventure games thanks to its fiendish puzzles and a rich, mature plot that left behind as many questions as it answered. Fans of April Ryan, the adrift but spunky art student who saves the world, demanded a sequel, and seven years later, Dreamfall finally brings her back—although this time the featured hero is a different ennui-stricken teen, Zoë Castillo. Once again you'll split your time between two settings, a futuristic, cosmopolitan Earth where teenagers still live and die by their cell phones, and a medieval fantasy world where, cough cough, a band of scruffy insurgents fights a right-wing, fundamentalist occupation. Like its predecessor, Dreamfall tells a gripping story through stellar acting and lush 3D environments. At turns witty, wondrous, and suspenseful, it ends with a sequence of breathtakingly perfect scenes that, unfortunately, leave the big finish for the next sequel.
The developers made just one mistake: They forgot the game. Instead of going the out-of-fashion route of stumping players at every turn, they scaled back the difficulty—and came up with something that has the interactivity of a pop-up book. Aside from a handful of trivial puzzles and awkward fight scenes, you'll spend hours just walking from one dialogue and plot point to the next. Given that Dreamfall tells such an engrossing story, does it matter that it isn't a "game"? In this case, yes. The best adventures challenge us as a way of making us bond with the heroes: Their struggles become our own.
Beyond the game: It took guts for designer Ragnar Tørnquist to end the game on a cliffhanger after taking seven years to make this sequel. Hopes already run high for the finale, due out as a neural implant around 2012.
Worth playing for: As you switch between three different characters, the script deftly handles their perspectives on the same story—and on each other.
Frustration sets in when: Not only are the puzzles simple, but they're generally picky and unsatisfying.
Final judgment: The year's best animated storybook.