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The First Express: Mechner’s Last Express Prequel

I picked up this snippet from Richard Cobbett's twitter last week. Oddly, as one of his touchstone games, Cobbett's got nothing extended written about it I can find, so let's go with his twitter barrage to explain it: "In case you never played it - and you didn't - TLE was a really cool real-time adventure set on the Orient Express just before WW1. It had about six actual puzzles, but phenomenal attention to detail, and some really nice bits of design. For instance, if you had to avoid someone, you could just lock yourself in your room and wait for them to leave. It sold about four copies." He's right. I've never played it. However, as one of the more interesting lost-works from a major designer (Mechner=Prince of Persia), it lingers. And lingers with Mechner too, as he made an attempt at a screenplay for a prequel in 2002.

As he says...

Entitled Red Serpent, and set in 1904 Paris, ten years before the events of The Last Express, it would have been an early adventure of Robert Cath (still in medical school) and his best/worst friend Tyler Whitney (upgraded in this version to Cath’s half-brother — a change I don’t think I’d make today).

The plot bears a more-than-slight resemblance to The Da Vinci Code, which would be published the following year. No plagiarism was involved. I’d guess that Dan Brown and I had been reading the same pseudo-historical “research,” including Holy Blood, Holy Grail by Baigent and Leigh (who did, in fact, sue Brown for plagiarism, and lost). Whereas Brown treated their theory seriously, my approach was more tongue-in-cheek.

More here, including notes why he abandoned the project. And, of course, the script itself.

Dracko's been harrying me into posting this, and he reminds me of the other thing which may be of interest to people intrigued by the Last Express. Mechner captured a mass of footage of the game and edited into a single 75minute linear narrative. It's not playing the game, but I suspect it may be as close as many of us will ever get. Here's the first part...

The Last Express - Part 1 from jordan mechner on Vimeo.

And you can find the rest here.

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