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The Last Door: Episode One

Score: 88%
ESRB: Not Rated
Publisher: The Game Kitchen
Developer: The Game Kitchen
Media: Download/1
Players: 1
Genre: Classic/Retro/ Puzzle/ Miscellaneous

Graphics & Sound:

The Last Door is a low resolution, pixelated style game. It’s an adventure game where you basically click on objects in the background, searching for items you might need for a later puzzle. Even with the low resolution graphics (our hero doesn’t even have eyes, the detail is that low), there’s a very strong sense of atmosphere. There are long shadows drawn across rooms. There are low-lit places just getting a touch of dusk light. There are very creepy hallways and cellars. And then, of course, there’s the horror aspects of the game, which are so wonderfully good because your imagination is forced to make up the details.

I have to give the developers of The Last Door kudos for going the extra mile on disability options. You can enable a dyslexia friendly font and there’s also full closed captioning with descriptions of sounds included. Sometimes the closed captioning timing is a bit off, but hey, it’s still great to have it.

The background music is also quite nice. It’s not chiptunes, if that’s what you’re thinking, but rather, full instrumental audio. It’s haunting, moody horror music, which fits perfectly into The Last Door’s mood. The sound effects are also quite good. The floors creak when you walk over them, or you might hear a muffled sound under your feet when you walk over a rug. These are all full audio too, so things like a crow cawing are taken from real audio samples. The only little problem I have with this is that it’s not synced to your character’s movement. So his footsteps might continue for a second after he’s stopped moving, which takes you out of the immersion of the game.


Gameplay:

If you’ve never played one of these types of adventure games like Monkey Island or Maniac Mansion, you might take a look at the graphics and wonder what would pull a person in to play it for so long? The secret is, the lack of resolution forces your mind to fill in the details. You start picking up tools like matches and rope, so in your mind, you know the background is filled with things that could be useful. The paintings in the background have to be described in text, but once you read the description, you have a clearer picture of what that painting and the room it hangs in look like. And because the graphics are simple, when things change, the change stands out a bit more. Take the grandfather clock in the main room of Beechworth’s home, for example. Its pendulum swings, and it’s the only movement in that room. If you came back later and noticed it was still, you’d know immediately that something was different. You might even feel a bit of dread, since you know the house has been empty, and you know that clock should not have changed on its own.

I don’t want to spoil any of the game’s later surprises. I can tell you that the intro is very morbid, and you are basically forced to play out your old friend Beechworth’s suicide. Unless your grandpa is into macabre murder mysteries, this is not the game to start him out on, if you know what I mean. Those elements of horror and gore set the tone for the events that will take place later in the game. The mystery begins to unravel with clues left in diaries of servants and in Beechworth’s old home. The master appeared to start losing himself and acting out of character. He orders the servants of the house to get rid of all religious icons, he frightens his wife, he even starts to despise the family cat and orders that it be forbidden from the house, though one servant secretly kept feeding it. Then there are the crows, which keep coming back in some very creepy ways. And like a good horror novel, it keeps going downhill from there.

It’s pretty amazing just how jumpy this game can make you. There are some genuinely creepy moments, and moments that might actually make you jump. It’s done very well, with the horror "reveals" and the classic horror "fingers across the piano" sound effects.

There’s an addictiveness to these classic point and click adventure games, and The Last Door captures that feeling perfectly. You get to pat yourself on the back when you figure out things like say, that you’d need to use a hammer on that suspicious wall you saw a while back or when you figure out how to use the paint thinner you found.

The Last Door is not just an inventory puzzle game. You’ll have to make some dialogue choices that can affect how the game plays out. This doesn’t really start happening until Chapter 2, but it does introduce some replayability if you’d like to see what other choices happen to do.


Difficulty:

You can breeze through each chapter of The Last Door in about an hour when you know where to find and what to do with each object. That’s actually one of the game’s biggest shortcomings. Each chapter is very short, and you’re left wanting more.

On your first playthrough, however, you might be stuck on some puzzles for a very long time. The Last Door doesn’t pop up with any clues or hints, so if you forget about something you need to do in a remote corner of the house, you might just end up clicking on everything, with everything until something happens. At times, it’s simple and the puzzles make sense, and at other times, this game is like a sequel to Myst. You’re left with utterly no direction, and no clue as to what to do next. Part of that is the charm of it, though, as it’s often fun to see just how crazy the solution to a puzzle is. But it can be a source of frustration as well.


Game Mechanics:

In The Last Door, you probably won’t miss anything if you spend enough time scrolling across the screen. There are no real "hidden" things. You can pretty much tell if something is interactive if you put the crosshairs over it and it changes to a hand, or the tool you’re using starts to glow. This could be a good or a bad thing, depending on how you like to play these games.

You can fast forward to the next room by clicking again when two double arrows show next to your hand icon. It’s useful when you don’t want to wait for the character to slowly walk across the room that you’ve explored for the 10th time.

I do wish the start and saving menu was a little more robust, or at least there was a warning before you started a new game. I unfortunately lost all my progress when I accidentally hit New Game instead of Continue once.

The Last Door is an enjoyable adventure game with strong horror elements running through it. Playing it feels a bit like reading a horror mystery novel. The novel fills in the general details of the background and the character, then you’re left to fill in the rest. Another great thing about this game is that you can decide what you’d like to pay. Currently Chapter 3 is in development, so you can donate to help the developers finish that. Depending on how much you donate, you can get perks as well. It looks like all chapters will be free to play eventually, but with such a fair payment request, it’s easy to just pay what you can and enjoy directly supporting The Last Door even more.


-Fights with Fire, GameVortex Communications
AKA Christin Deville

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