Game Review: The Last Door – Collector’s Edition

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Protagonist Jeremiah Devitt receives a letter from an old friend with whom he attended a private boarding school with in their younger days. His friend does not sound well, so Devitt books the next train out to visit him and make sure everything is alright. By the time he arrives, things have already begun to fall into place. Jeremiah doesn’t realize it when he opens that letter but a dark secret from his youth is coming back. And he’s not even aware of the Last Door for which it can enter through. Along the way he will tear through his past to find the truth behind what he and his friends had discovered and why it seemed like all of them were bound to this great danger.

The first half of the story suffers from a bit of meandering and lack of overall focus. Dialog too feels stifled and unnatural. I felt my eyes being sucked back into my skull as they rolled when it just so happened that a diary entry from a classmate of mine was sitting out in a totally obvious spot when it had been some years since that note could have been written. The second half sees a jump in quality and attention to detail which made me glad I stuck with it. The lovecraftian horrors began to slither into place, the secrets of the underground society the boys from the boarding school coming to surface.

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The simplistic visuals work as a positive and a negative. Paintings hanging on the wall and background details are evocative and the lighting giving every area an off-putting atmosphere. Whenever the horror elements come to play, be it in the form of jump scares or hallucinations and visions, they’re rather crudely constructed and end up being a little more giggle-worthy than genuinely terrifying. Like someone drew fake blood over pixel art in MS Paint. The developers tout that the crude and low res visuals should aid in being imagination fuel, a reason that I feel falls flat on its promise. There is a slight creepiness inherent in some of the visuals thanks to some of them appearing off-kilter or drawn by the hand of a man on the edge of madness. Overall though, the visuals work against the game’s message by being a bit too simplified for their own good.

Navigation is just about what anyone would expect for a point and click adventure game. If you love a light amount of pixel hunting, cryptic communication, slow movement (especially with the lantern out, a design choice I quite disliked) and puzzles that make sense but occasionally fall into the “too gamey for its own good” category, then you’ll be at peace with the guts of The Last Door. If Monkey Island makes you break out into a cold sweat however, you may run screaming for the hills.

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A benefit of the episodic format is that each chapter of the story is segmented into short bursts that can easily be finished quickly, provided you don’t get stuck by the rare item you may have somehow missed. The first half’s segments don’t give players too much to chew on but the second half leaves plenty of teases and discoveries that make the mind race with possibility. A turning point in the game’s storytelling is in the strange finale of the second act and the silent film that plays afterward called “The Impossible Love”. It’s an unusual piece that breaks out of the mold established by the first chapter and the second follows almost too closely to a T until that moment. It was then I came to realize that while there were some serious shortcomings, the developers had plans for me later on.

It should be noted that The Last Door is almost entirely free to play on the developer’s website. Why then, you ask, should I pay $9.99 to own it on Steam? While the game can be played on the official website, free users will always be a chapter behind those who have paid. The Collectors Edition also has a series of 4 shorts which contribute further to the mythos which are exclusive to paying players. How much of a value this is to you is really entirely your choice. By paying for the game you are contributing to the funds that the devs can use to make future chapters better. As it is now they are raising funds to obtain Unity licenses to make the second season better than the first on the technical level. There’s also virtual instruments and other pieces of tech they wish to invest in to keep making the overall experience cleaner and better. Seeing the growth from Chapter 1 to Chapter 4, I feel like my money was well spent if they can continue to hone themselves. If none of that interests you then you may not feel like your investment was worth it. I won’t try to convince you otherwise.

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I find it difficult to recommend The Last Door because of its many shortcomings that come from a lack of experience, dull writing and occasionally flaky atmosphere. There is a genuine spark hidden under the cruft, a truly romantic wish to hearken back to the older days of horror with a taste for the occasional creative modern jump scare. The game portion is fairly easy to progress through but at the same time the lack of challenge makes it feel too simple. It’s somewhere in the middle, not quite scary or creepy enough to be able to 100% suggest it but it is also not exactly bad. I suppose the best course of action is to check out the freely available chapters to see if it peaks your interest enough to want to support further chapters to the story.

 

Final score: 3/5

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Published in: on May 31, 2014 at 9:44 pm  Leave a Comment  
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