Chuffed: The Last Express Available To Buy

By John Walker on January 14th, 2011 at 12:01 pm.

Are you shouting on the train again?

The chances are if you’ve heard of The Last Express, you’ve either played it and evangelise about it, or have always meant to get a copy. It’s one of those games. I’ve played half of it, but was then interrupted by having to save the world or something. But that was only because I borrowed the original discs from adventure aficionado Richard Cobbett. But now even people who don’t know Richard Cobbett can play this most esoteric and interesting of adventures once more, as it’s been released via DotEmu. The Jordan Mechner game (Prince Of Persia’s creator) is set on the Orient Express, pre World War One, and is packed with so many unique ideas.

The most intriguing thing about the cartoon adventure is that it carries on around you. Sit still in your carriage and the NPCs will play their stories out in your absence. There’s a twenty minute live music concert you can sit to enjoy, or walk off and carry out your murder investigations during. How you interact with the cast of thirty fellow travellers affects how they behave, but miss them doing something important and you’ll be none the wiser. And unlike so many games, you’re not being pointed to an inevitable ending. There’s thirty different failure endings, and four successful ways to end the game.

The game’s also rotoscoped, lending it a really fantastic look, and of course animations beyond anything that would have been possible with traditional methods. It also lends it that spooky mise-en-scène, blurring reality and fantasy and meddling with your brain’s uncanny valley.

It’s a shame the price is quite so high for a 14 year old game. To get the rare thing, you’ll need to fork out €7.49. With this you do get a recently created special edition, which comes with its soundtrack, a walkthrough, and a making of. There’s rumours that Verhoeven may be working on a film version of the game, so perhaps releasing it as freeware just isn’t a marketable option just now.

In case you’ve not seen it running, here’s a fan-made trailer for the game:

And there’s even a demo!

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37 Comments »

  1. Shazbut says:

    Brilliant news!! If anything, that price is lower than I’d expect.

  2. peanut- says:

    I played The Last Express on Gametap about a year ago (after they talked about it on Idle Thumbs), so it must have been available already.

    Not that it’s bad to have it elsewhere, it is an amazing game.

  3. The Hammer says:

    Man, I remember playing this game as a kid. Even then I could tell it was unique, because really, what a left-of-field setting for a game.

    I’ll probably be splashing out on this when I get a bit more cash. I’d love to play through it again (and actually beat it this time).

  4. Ian says:

    “but miss them doing something important and you’ll be none the wiser”

    I like the sound of that. I think more story/mystery-driven games need to have stuff that you later realise you not only didn’t know, but didn’t know that you didn’t know.

    If that makes sense…

  5. HeavyStorm says:

    Haven’t heard of this game in ages!

  6. Deepo says:

    Thanks for the heads up! Been dying to play this for a long time now.

  7. fuggles says:

    I found this game HARD. Man, I struggled and recalled with sadness all the people writing into PC Gamer True Players about getting stuck on the same spot and not bothering to read the answer.

    Love how it’s all a big allegory of World War 1. Is this going to be the new Deus Ex/Install thing?

  8. Gassalasca says:

    I’ve always meant to play it!

    Apparently, it’s the first PC game in which Serbian can be heard. ^_^

    • KillahMate says:

      Actually there’s like twelve different nationalities of passengers (it was the Orient Express, after all) and Mechner got native actors to play them all. So the Serbian and French and etc. is spoken by actual Serbs and etc. It makes such a difference when you hear a language you know spoken properly. They always get that stuff wrong in movies, and it pulls me out of the story so much I can’t even bear to watch the movie anymore.

  9. KillahMate says:

    Finished the demo a decade ago, wanted to play the full game ever since. This game’s mechanics are ripe to be shamelessly ripped off by an AAA studio and lavished with a massive budget, thus introducing the age of true cinematic games.

    It’ll never happen though. No Nazis, no Al-Qaeda, no aliens. No multiplayer, no achievements. Low bodycount, few weapons, no physics. Unrealistic graphics. Nobody is ‘ONE MAN… IN A WORLD…’ who ‘MUST FIGHT TO SURVIVE’ and has to ‘GO GO GO!’.

    I’m so depressed now.

    Edit: Just remembered that there never was any hope, because the game as I remember has some traces of ‘teh ghey’, and will therefore never be played by any Gamer, who as we know are all Manly Men, and only like to play with muscular soldier dudes. Bobby Kotick would never allow ripping off from games with teh ghey!

    • Eschaton says:

      The Last Express was lavished with a large budget, so the resulting flop pretty much did the cinematic gaming gene in. Definatelty a shame.

  10. Navagon says:

    I’ve heard nothing but good things about this game. I’d but that to the test but Insane Backlog tells me not to. Still, a mental note has been made.

  11. adonf says:

    Does it run natively or in a DOSBOX-like emulation system ? Just wondering…

  12. djbriandamage says:

    I tried this at a friend’s house forever ago and was a little put off by the idea that you can miss important things and have to pretty well replay the whole game. This very striking art style sure is tugging at me, though.

    Poor Jordan Mechner. His PoPular series has since doomed him to sequel grinding.

    • Richard says:

      It’s actually pretty hard to miss the important stuff. Most of it is purely there for atmosphere and ambience – you get loads of time and opportunity to do the things that need to be done, and rarely have to rewind much if… cough… anything particularly bad happens.

    • newton says:

      Poor Jordan Mechner. His PoPular series has since doomed him to sequel grinding. Correct me if I’m wrong but aside from the first two, Mechner only worked on the (utterly brilliant) Sands of Time, no?

  13. terry says:

    What a pleasant surprise for a Friday night! Goodbye weekend!

  14. MadTinkerer says:

    Aw, man… DotEmu has a lot that GoG and Steam and Impulse don’t. And I have a Battle.net account. I’m going to suffer from account bloat soon…

    • Shih Tzu says:

      Has anyone used DotEmu? Are they solid? I’ve only ever bothered so far to register with Steam and GOG, but if the service is good I don’t mind helping the competition.

  15. cjc says:

    I’ve not played this, but like djbriandamage was a bit put off by the idea of missing events, largely due to an arduous summer trying to crack Melbourne House’s Sherlock on the Spectrum in my yoof.

    I think I reverted to a walkthrough in the end and even then it took a number of goes to get through. They don’t make ‘em like that anymore, thankfully.

  16. Henke says:

    I seem to recall PC Gamer UK giving this a bad review. Somewhere in the 50-60 range.

    Yes, I remember that from the late 90s. I have an excellent memory! (unless it turns out that I’m wrong, then I don’t have such an excellent memory)

  17. CptSqweky says:

    A-hem.



    Woot.

    This makes me happy. It seems like a neat website, though as I browse the selection, it’s pretty obvious the translations were not done by a native English speaker. As a professional translator myself, I’m not sure whether or not I want to give my patronage to a business that’s so sloppy with its work. On the other hand, I’ve been wanting to buy this game since I played the demo back in my youth.

    Decisions, decisions…

  18. suibhne says:

    This is one of my all-time favorites – if not my single favorite game ever. I first played it under Mac OS 9 back in 1995 or so, and I’m happy to see it live again.

    It really isn’t that hard to make through, people. The ability to rewind to any prior point means there’s no excuse for not completing the game. I had no idea there were so many possible endings, tho…. I clearly need to replay it from the beginning.

  19. Keith Nemitz says:

    Yeah! I get to buy this game again!

  20. Frank says:

    I hope they keep Verhoeven very far away

  21. William Morris says:

    Is that Peter Sutcliffe?

  22. Shoogly says:

    Wow, this is great news.

    I didn’t play this game until 2008, and even then it became one of my favorite games of all time. It was the game that completely solidified Jordan Mechner as a game designer whose work I will always follow. He’s not especially prolific, but each game he’s done is a masterpiece. I hope he returns to game design again someday.

    The rotoscoping is wonderful, and I wish the whole game could’ve been done that way instead of with choppy slideshows the rest of the time due to memory/money limitations. One of the things that brings Mechner’s games to life is his focus on character animations and movement. Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time had many small details that really made all the difference. The Last Express, by using real actors, does this as well.

    It’s still one of the most mature games I’ve played, with interesting characters, actual history, and a really well crafted plot. Playing it made me want to play more games like it, and made me despair that in more than /ten/ years of games, there hasn’t been anything like it or even close to it. I felt the same way after finishing this game the way I did after finishing a good book or a good film. Satisfied. It stayed in my thoughts afterwards. I went to research this history of that era afterwards since it had sparked my imagination. I researched the history of the game, too, because I wanted to know more about how something like this had came to be.

    I know I’ve been effusive about this game but I won’t color it rose. It is difficult, and confusing. I got a couple negative endings when I first played through it because I couldn’t figure out what to do in time, or did the wrong thing. The movement is clunky and can get annoying. There are a couple quick-time event fights that can easily be lost if you even mess up once, which is frustrating because you don’t always know what you’re supposed to do. The protagonist and story as you start the game could be better explained.

    But all of that can easily be overlooked if, like me, you become engaged with the story, engrossed with the characters, and enamoured with what the designers were trying to do. It’s a wonderful game that more people should have played. It’s a shame that the game did as poorly as it did on release.

    One of the things I thought when I first finished the game was that I wished someone would make a Source engine remake, getting to the same amount of detail. Just being able to walk around the train in 3D and interact using a modern interface and physics would be amazing.

    Really, a modern game produced with the same goals as The Last Express could be great. Take a small environment, render it in exquisite detail, and focus on a group of well-developed, interesting characters. I sometimes wonder what they could have done if they had just waited a few years to make this, with the vast advances in technology and increases in memory. But the adventure game was already on its last legs when they released it, and who knows if they could’ve gotten the money to make it during any other time.

    If you haven’t played it and can get over some dated mechanics, please, at least give it a try. It’s a fantastic game, and it saddens me that there’s nothing in games today, or even on the horizon, that seem to be heading in the same direction.

  23. sinister agent says:

    They really should have known better than to try to use Richard Cobbett as their only distribution platform.

  24. Sic says:

    You’re all saying you don’t have the original boxed version on your shelf?

  25. The Dark One says:

    The game’s for sale on GoG for $6 now.

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