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!