The Last Express Review
- Real-time events breathes life in to the murder-come-mystery thriller story.
- Little to no loss of quality on the audio track and visuals; as detailed and stylish as ever.
- Helpers nudge players in the right direction without ruining the intrigue.
- Navigation retains its quirkiness; highlighted areas only moderately help.
The Last Express may still be burdened by the click-through navigation that defined much of the genre in the past, but the marriage of gameplay and storyline remains pitch-perfect in this iOS adaption.
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In the world of Adventure titles, The Last Express is a sort of right-of-passage, especially as it puts a spin on the usual tropes of the genre by packing them in to a mystery-thriller that plays out in real-time. It should be no surprise that such a concept sprang from the mind of Prince of Persia creator Jordan Mechner, and despite its relative age it remains a shining example of how deeply gameplay and storytelling can be intertwined.
You play as Robert Cath, a young doctor thrown in to an intriguing plot of murder and mystery on the Orient Express. Once on board the train comes to life; its passengers move about in real-time and you’ll need to work out just why Tyler Whitney decided to bring his long-time friend Cath on board.
A lot can happen in the space of a few hours of gameplay and you won’t want to miss any of it, which is unfortunate as each decision you make will spiral out and affect how the game plays out - miss something critical and you’ll need to backtrack to work out what happened (or rather, is going to happen). This is easy enough thanks to the ability to rewind and fast-forward time, replaying events if you believe it will help. Alternatively, multiple game slots are available as well.
Despite DotEmu’s hand in re-releasing the title last year (2011), the iOS version still relies on the basic hot-spot system (albeit with handy highlights that you can turn on or off) that can make navigation a chore. While it may not take too long to mentally map most of the game’s locations, a genuine map indicating your orientation and relative location would have been extremely helpful, especially given the available screen-space on the iPad version.
Nevertheless, exploring the Orient Express, talking to its many passengers and staff, and becoming entangled in the plots weaved within makes for a fascinating playthrough that will keep you coming back for more. The stylized rotoscoped artwork retains its appeal despite the game’s relative age, making it hard to see any downside to picking up this Adventuring classic.
pros: Real-time events breathes life in to the murder-come-mystery thriller story. Little to no loss of quality on the audio track and visuals; as detailed and stylish as ever. Helpers nudge players in the right direction without ruining the intrigue.