Saturday, September 29, 2012

The Last Express [DotEmu] - $4.99

The AppStore is full of ports, and with all the older retro gamers that have gotten back into gaming because of the iDevice, it’s considered fantastic by many. Being able to play Final Fantasy or War of the Lions, Blazing Star and ESPGaluda, Metal Slug and Myst all on one device that fits in your pocket is something gamers have been dreaming about for quite some time. It’s also given old-school gamers a chance to check out newer games that they wouldn’t have been exposed to otherwise, like Bastion, Eufloria, Splice and others. But it’s always great seeing an old(er) classic hit the AppStore, in this case, The Last Express. Originally released back in 1997, The Last Express, created by Jordan Mechner (who’s also the creator of Prince of Persia) has been hailed by many as one of the greatest Adventure games ever developed. Being called ‘thrilling’ and ‘exquisite’ by Newsweek and listed in the book ‘1001 Video Games You Must Play Before You Die’, it’s received quite a bit of praise and dozens of awards. 

Now, what exactly makes The Last Express so amazing? Well, alongside the story, there’s roughly 35 different endings to the game, with about 30 being ‘bad’ endings, about 4 being ‘good’ and only one being considered the ‘proper’ ending. Within the game there are about 30+ characters, all designed with their own AI and concerns, all of which changes depending on how and when you interact with them. The Last Express also takes place in real time. Kind of. It’s real time x6, with some parts where you’ll need to rush to get somewhere, and others where you’ll need to kill time before being able to talk to a certain character. 

If you’ve never played The Last Express before, chances are you’re going to run into a ‘bad’ ending a lot more than once. Figuring out what to do and what not to do, where to go, who to talk to, what to collect and who to show what items to along the way. This could be considered a horrible thing, resulting in players needing to play through the game numerous times before reaching an end that they can handle, if it weren’t for the ability to go back in time. You’re able to exit to the menu, at any time, in which case you’ll be able to turn the clock back, and sometimes forward, just in case you’ve missed something, or wound up doing something you weren’t suppose to do. 

Taking place right before the start of World War 1, July 24, 1914, the main character that you’ll be playing as, Robert Cath, who’s just boarded the Orient Express train after receiving an urgent summons from your old friend, Tyler Whitney. After boarding, you find Tyler dead in his room. With Robert already being hunted by police for being a suspect in another murder. From here, you need to figure out what to do, who killed your friend, how not to get caught and who you can and can not trust, if anyone. 

The gameplay is designed around a 3D environment in which you’re able to move around by tapping arrows on the screen, and interact with objects by tapping icons that appear over certain objects. Talking to people can be done by tapping on dialogue bubbles that appear on the character as you get near them. The graphics are very well done in an Art Nouveau styling (which was very popular in 1914), with cut-scenes moving like you do in-game, one frame at a time. The Last Express is considered by many a work of art, and they aren’t wrong in the slightest. To put the game together, Jordan Mechner hired actors to act out every action done by every character within the game. These actions were photographed and digitized. Hand picked frames were then selected and de-colorized, with a computer then creating line drawings of the photos which were then colored by hand. 40,000 frames in total are included in The Last Express. After 5 years of work, the game was completed.

GameCenter has been added to the iOS version, with 15 achievements added which will take most gamers quite a bit of gameplay in order to unlock. Priced at $4.99, and being Universal, this iOS version of The Last Express is a must own for anyone even slightly interested in experiencing one of the best Adventure/Thriller games ever created. DotEmu, the studio who has handled the ports of R-Type, Metal Slug 3, King Of Fighters, Blazing Star and others, has done a fantastic job with the user interface, and keeping the gameplay true to the original on the touch screen. The menus are great, and easy to navigate, and really, the whole gameplay experience is just fantastic. The art style, background music, multiple endings and large cast of characters all make The Last Express a game that you will never forget. 


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