The Last Express

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Here I will write about a truly fantastic game. A game which I played many years ago and still withstands the test of time. I rank this as one of the best adventure games ever made. A creation by Jordan Mechner – of Prince of Persia fame – which sadly did not sell enough to justify the tremendous investment.

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The story is based in the early 1900s and takes place aboard a train in Europe known as the Orient Express. The main protagonist is known as Robert Cath who is a doctor by profession and wanted for murder. Robert was  invited onboard by an old friend known as Tyler Witney who wants Robert to join him to the east in hopes of evading Robert’s current troubles.

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The entire game takes place on this train – in portrait screen orientation – which will provide you with quite an interesting journey. This game encompasses a great feeling of immersion as the characters you encounter all go about their daily lives onboard the Orient that involve eating, resting in their sleeping compartments and character interactions.

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All characters in this game are full voiced and have plenty of dialogue. They will interact with certain characters at specific times of the day and it is easy to miss out on a few conversations here and there, but there is always a neat rewind feature the player can take advantage of. Yes, you have to ability to rewind time itself – quite reminiscent of Prince of Persia. It is quite an exceptional feature as there is so much going on and to explore. There are game over events that can occur, but fear not, as the rewind feature will allow you another attempt.

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The graphics are breathtaking – although it may take some getting use to as the style is quite dated now. The technique to make the game world characters come to life is known as rotoscoping. The level of immersion that this technique and ‘art nouveau’ graphical style bring to the table was quite a treat for its time of release. Essentially what you will witness throughout this adventure is slow moving static animations.

The European style of the art and the efficient replica of the Orient Express all help bring the world to life.

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There is combat sections of this game that involve no more than a simple motion and click of the mouse – usually dodging and punching. Not the most elaborate combat system but is more than suitable for an adventure game. Puzzles are pretty much non-existent in this title except for a certain occasion that I will not reveal. The game is based around exploration and reading notes and finding important items. Eavesdropping on characters is a valuable asset as it will reward you with information in order to move the plot forward.

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The train will make various stops along the way and has a day and night cycle. Similarities to Shenmue on the Sega Dreamcast are pretty noticeable as they both contain realtime day and night cycles. Not many adventure games contain a system this elaborate. There are many ways to end the game, but to get the good ending will involve collecting all the right items and doing appropriate actions at certain times of the day. A glance at a walkthrough may be in order if you feel a bit puzzled, but the good ending is more than worth the extra hassle. Replaying this title will feel different each time as new conversations can be found as well as certain items you may have missed.

ImageNot many point and click adventures really have replay value for me with the exception of a small handful of classics. This easily ranks up there with Gabriel Knight 2: The Beast WithinBroken Sword 1, and The Longest Journey. Just recently playing through Broken Sword and nowThe Last Express I personally enjoyed The Last Express substantially more than Broken Sword. The Last Express feels more like an evolutionary step in the adventure genre which was never quite replicated.

Casual gamers, experienced adventure gamers, and newcomers alike must experience this title at least once. It has all the flare for seasoned veterans and enough charm and simplicity to attract the casual gaming audience as well as people who are curious to give point and click adventures a try.

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