Scary games aren’t usually my genre. Jump scares, horrifying visuals and general creepiness don’t appeal to me in any form. I do appreciate them, as they serve as different type of gameplay style to get your heart rate up. I haven’t totally discounted them either; two of my more recent entries have been the Chzo Mythos collection created by Ben “Yahtzee” Croshaw, and the Resident Evil series before that (nothing past the second one, when the series turned into the over-the-top action genre, save for the fourth but that can be its own title apart from the RE series). My earliest memory is one of being absolutely terrified of the shrieking freak from Space Quest IV (but didn’t stop me from playing).
That being said, with the third chapter of The Last Door now available, I decided to jump in. I knew it’d be a bit moody and spooky, but the classic pixelated graphics will help keep the scares at bay, right?
So let’s get into it. This review is covering Chapters One through Three, as the fourth is still in development and asking for funding at this time. The Game Kitchen is expecting to release that one in January of 2014. It doesn’t sound like a faraway date but with the way the third chapter ended, waiting will be torture.
The Last Door is primarily a point-and-click adventure that is set in the late 19th century, with pixelated yet nostalgic graphics. The setting is a rather prime choice, as you’ll be traveling about in rustic and classical areas that aren’t well-lit, brightly-colored or, from a modern view, particularly pleasant to be in, period. This makes the game as much a new experience for the player as it is for the main character, Jeremiah Devitt. The settings offer nothing to directly relate to in time period or experience.
The first chapter, The Letter, centers on Devitt receiving a letter from Anthony Beechcraft, an old friend from boarding school. You make it to the Beechcraft mansion and upon immediate exploration, realize that you’re alone...but not entirely. There are various rooms to explore, each detailed in a pixelated manner but with varying degrees of darkness and brightness to bring the scenery out. There are also clues scattered about that indicate Devitt’s friend was slowly descending into madness, as well as leaving the mansion unkempt.
Everything is done via the mouse; there are no secondary commands to “look” or “feel” or “talk,” and using objects is as simple as selecting them from your inventory and clicking them on points of interest. This streamlines the game to a very playable degree and allows you the time to be sucked into the atmosphere, which should be known as its own character or perhaps even a villain, with how well-entrenched it can get into and play tricks on your mind.
Yes, despite the classic pixel graphics, The Last Door amps up the sound department to a degree that is borderline terrifying, and creates an atmosphere that has made me not at all interested to venture into rooms unless all the lights are on in my office. It is extremely well-done and fans of the horror adventure game genre will surely be pleased by the experience.
By the end of the first chapter, my heart was ready to pound its way out of my chest, but my interest was piqued and realized that I couldn’t quit now, not when the story is just getting started.
The second chapter, Memories, expands on the story quite a bit and adds additional gameplay elements to help further the experience. This chapter’s setting is the boarding school-turned hospital for the sick. The first chapter saw Devitt walking too slow for most adventure gamer’s tastes, so in the second chapter we see his walking speed up to a much more tolerable degree. The next addition is new characters to talk to, each with conversation topics that contain hints concerning where to find clues or items. This chapter is a bit longer and has some interesting puzzles to overcome that require a decent amount of head-scratching, but they’re not littered about to hold up the story or game. Overall the second chapter is my favorite for the fact that there are less shock scares, but it doesn’t hold back on the unnerving and incredibly increased sense of dread as you explore the building. There are a few bugs, but nothing that can't be solved with a re-load of the game, which luckily immediately picks up where you left off.
The second chapter brings flashbacks into the mix, as we discover that Devitt’s past isn’t all that good and clear. By the time the second chapter is at its end, you’ll definitely be loading up the third chapter.
This latest chapter, The Four Witnesses, follows in the same gameplay vein as the second chapter. The puzzles get a bit more “ah-ha!” and the atmosphere gets downright chilly. This time Devitt, after his rather tight fit of a trip, comes to in Old Nichol, a shady and dangerous place in London. The muted and cold colors definitely don’t make the player feel at home at all, and this time audio is a big key to solving puzzles. Some of the puzzles are a bit convoluted and I found myself more stuck than usual. Unfortunately, there’s a return of Devitt’s slow walking speed, but only while you’re inside buildings. This just made me anxiously click the mouse in hopes of making Devitt move across the screen before some imaginary phantom leaped from the darkness.
The best and worst part about the third chapter is definitely the ending. The build-up and lead-in felt as if we’d see something that’d help get us through the next few months until the Chapter Four, but sadly, it was nothing but an excellent cliffhanger. The whole experience has left me wanting more and all I can do is sit and watch the calendar slowly make its way to January.
Overall, The Last Door is a perfect game for horror adventure game adventurers. It isn’t taxing on a computer, and the relative shortness of the chapters allow for easy time management. The story is definitely intriguing and almost feels as if it's a novel at first. The best aspects are definitely the sound design and the scenery – never before have I ever wanted to make sure lights were on in every room when I was home alone. There are some bugs, but not ones to ruin a game. A majority of the puzzles are logical and there is fun to be had trying to solve them, but there might be one or two that will drive some players nuts. Don’t let it get you down, The Last Door is definitely a must-play, and if a scaredy-cat like me can make it through, anyone can.
Now excuse me while I plug in this nightlight.