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The Last Door: Season 1

Score: 85%
ESRB: Not Rated
Publisher: Phoenix Online Publishing
Developer: The Game Kitchen
Media: Download/1
Players: 1
Genre: Puzzle/ Classic/Retro/ Miscellaneous

Graphics & Sound:

Most of what I can tell you about the look of The Last Door: Season 1, you can already see. Itís a retro, pixelated style of art. It may seem strange if you look at screenshots, but the art can really can paint a scene. Itís perhaps the reason that retro art gets a comeback after all these years. The power of your imagination can fill in the blanks - sometimes better than the most detailed art. Still, Iím not going to kid you and say that this game looks incredible. You really have to get into the gameplay and story before it starts to pull you in.

Thatís not to say youíre not going to need some help now and then to figure out what youíre looking at. Thereís only so much you can do with large pixels, and so sometimes youíll have to rely on the narration of the main character. For example, youíre not going to be able to tell a shattered pile of red glass from a blood splatter unless the narration tells you so.

The sound is a place where The Last Door also shines. Moody piano and violin scores play in the background, giving an extra boost to the atmosphere of the mansions, mausoleums, and city streets you find yourself exploring. Sound effects like people murmuring and footsteps clicking on cobblestone fill in the rest of the mood and detail. There are some spoken words, but for the most part, human voices are kept to murmurs, screams, or mysterious incantations. Again, this is another good way the game allows you to fill in the blanks. Youíll have to imagine the voices for the most part.

Together, the sound and the graphics can actually work together to give some pretty big scares. Some of them, admittedly, are jump scares. But some of it is imagery that is just so dark and disturbing that you canít help but want to look away. Then youíll think to yourself, how is a game that looks like this doing this to me?


Gameplay:

In The Last Door: Season 1, you play as Jeremiah Devitt, who has just received a letter from your childhood friend, Anthony Beechworth. The cryptic letter prompts Devitt to take a trip to visit Beechworthís manor. There he discovers that Beechworth was keeping some rather horrible secrets, but by the end of Episode 1, they are still very much secret. All you know is that it has something to do with the secret society you and your friends were members of back in boarding school. You start to uncover more in Episodes 2, 3, and 4. You find out that this all has something to do with a thing, or perhaps a place called the Veil. It seems that the members of that school club all discovered some part of the mystery, and you are retracing their steps. All the while, you seem to be followed by crows and ravens, and you are haunted by nightmares. And itís not just the members of the club that you need to worry about. It seems that they may have released something into this world, and the danger may be real to everyone.

Itís hard to give a summary without giving away too many secrets, but hereís generally where the episodes of this season will bring you. In Episode 2, you leave the Beechworth manor, having discovered the fate of its owner. You explore the boarding school you attended as a youth, except now itís been converted into a hospital run by a sparse staff of nuns. I canít say that itís not somewhat predictable who the villain here is, but letís just say that itís a common theme among horror movies. You leave Episode 2 and enter a dilapidated neighborhood in London in Episode 3. There are dreamlike elements to the entire game, but hereís where it gets pretty dicey as to what is real and what is not.

Finally, in Episode 4, you find yourself investigating the house of Alexandre Du Pre, another member of the society that you now refer to as The Four Witnesses. The birds, the veil, and many details are finally connected here. This is also the episode where we start seeing the story arc of two doctors, apparently following Devittís footsteps. Devitt is unaware of anyone following him, but the doctors are apparently very concerned by Devittís disappearance and may know a bit about the secret society as well. The doctorsí story continues in the next season, but Devittís is at least paused by the end of Season 1.

If thereís anything that stopped me from enjoying the creepy atmosphere, it was the feeling of not knowing what was specifically important, and what was just another, generic, creepy thing. For example, in Episode 3, thereís a man playing violin, pining for a girl who is buried steps from his room. Is the girl important? Is the man important? Is the violin a key? Or are all three things just elements that are sprinkled in to give you more of that feeling of unease? At the same time, I realize there are people who just enjoy this sort of macabre thing for the atmosphere, so Iím not going to say itís a huge drawback to the game. Then there are times when I just laugh and go along with it. There is a certain point in the game where Devitt digs up a grave, pretty much solely for the reason that there is nothing else left to do. I pretty much just said, "Fine, letís do this, you sick, sick man."

As for what does keep me playing The Last Door, there is a compelling mystery to the visions, the birds, and the dark atmosphere. Youíre given clues bit by bit, and I really did want to keep going in order to find out what the Veil actually is. It makes you wonder just how much will be revealed and how a world beyond this one might look and sound. And, of course, this is all morbid curiousity, since the story also appears to be a warning to those like Devitt who would seek to know the truth.

Each episode is fairly short. You could probably finish each one in about an hour if you hurry and happen to speed through all the puzzles. Itís a good thing too, as much more would likely be confusing and introduce too many things to keep track of. Spending about an hour and getting a nice recap of the story in the next episode is good pacing, as far as Iím concerned.

There are extras available, which give you a little more to look forward to after beating all the episodes in the season. These are short scenes you can play to get a little extra insight into some of the story and character motivations.


Difficulty:

Hereís the difficulty factor in The Last Door: Season 1: when you get stuck, you get stuck. Youíll be combining every item with every other item until you canít click any more. When things start happening, itís exciting. Youíll be on a roll and following clues for a while, but then bam, cold trail. There are no hints or a sort of "narrator summary" of your current situation as you find in other puzzle games. Youíre just left to your own devices.

I will say that in Episode 3, the clues seemed to pick up a better "letís make you think about this" feel, if I can put it that way. Whereas I was completely stumped in places in Episode 2 in the old school, in Episode 3, when I got stumped, I could at least look at my items and analyze them as logical clues. Thereís a poem, in particular, that you need to read pretty literally to get where you need to go. My problem was that I was probably thinking a little too metaphorically, and therefore got set back for a little while.

Another detail that makes the game slightly harder than it needs to be is the screen layout. Iím not sure why some rooms go from right to left, even though you entered said room from the left side of the screen. This makes the game needlessly disorienting when youíre trying to keep a mental map of where youíve been. Again, itís just a small detail, and hardly prevents you from solving any puzzles.


Game Mechanics:

Thereís not much to say about game mechanics. The Last Door: Season 1 is a solid point and click game. When thereís something you can look at or take, an appropriate icon will appear. And because of the pixelated nature of the graphics, the interactive places on the screen are quite large. In other words, you wonít be stuck hovering over every tiny little detail on the screen, hunting for some small item you can interact with. A sweep of the screen will usually reveal anything you might need to touch.

Also, Iíd like to say a bit about the captioning in this game. Captioning in a text-based game, you ask? The thing is, sound is actually important in several areas of the game. There is one in particular that you cannot get through unless you hear the sounds of wind or crows or ocean and then act appropriately. The captioning is clever here, and actually shows you where the sound is coming from. With this and the Dyslexia friendly fonts options, the developers show a special attention to accessibility that they should be commended for. And letís face it, there are many households that turn captions on because of any number of reasons (people with kids will understand), so good captioning is something everyone can appreciate.

Is The Last Door for everyone? I certainly canít say itís going to impress anyone expecting the very best in puzzle or (modern takes on) retro games. But it has such a charm, and it really pulls you in when you give it a chance. With influences like Edgar Allen Poe, you know this is a game where not all is as it seems, and darkness is always at the fringes. Give it a chance, and The Last Door will give you just the right chills.


-Fights with Fire, GameVortex Communications
AKA Christin Deville

Minimum System Requirements:



OS: Microsoft Windows XP, Vista, 7, 8, Processor: Intel Atom 1.6 GHz, Memory: 1 GB RAM, Graphics: Integrated with 64 MB RAM, Storage: 400 MB available space, Additional Notes: Requires Adobe AIR
 

Test System:



Win 10 64bit, 16 GB, Intel Core i7-4720HQ CPU 2.6 GHz, NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980 M

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