Review: “The Last Door: Collector’s Edition” (Computer Game)

2017 Artwork The Last Door Review Sketch

Well, it’s been a while since I played a horror game – so, I thought that I’d check out an indie game from 2014 called “The Last Door: Collector’s Edition”.

Before I go any further, I should probably point out that this game is the first half of a continuous two-part series (I haven’t got the second game yet [Edit: I write these articles/reviews quite far in advance, so the second game will be reviewed in July]), so don’t expect it to contain a complete story.

I bought a DRM-free download of this game last summer during a sale on GoG for £1.39. However, at the time of writing, the game costs £7.99 at full price. The GoG version also comes with downloadable extras (eg: a MP3 copy of the soundtrack etc..) too. For comparison, the game costs £6.99 on Steam at the time of writing, but it obviously also comes with all of Steam’s “internet connection required” DRM.

I should probably also warn you that this review might contains some SPOILERS and some (unrealistic) DISTURBING AND/OR GRUESOME IMAGES.

Anyway, let’s take a look at “The Last Door: Collector’s Edition”:

The last door - Title screen

“The Last Door: Collector’s Edition” is a four-part point-and-click horror game set in Victorian England.

You play as a man called J.Devitt who is investigating the mysterious suicide of his old friend Anthony Beechwood. This investigation takes him on (the first half of) a disturbing journey, where madness is only inches away and malevolent forces lurk just out of sight….

Yes, when the opening scene of a game looks like THIS, then it probably isn't going to be one of those "cheerful" horror games.

Yes, when the opening scene of a game looks like THIS, then it probably isn’t going to be one of those “cheerful” horror games.

The first thing that I will say about this game is that it is actually a horror game! Don’t be fooled by it’s cartoonish pixellated graphics, this game is a proper, old-school horror game!

It's Forest! He's been pecked to death by ... Ooops! Wrong game!

It’s Forest! He’s been pecked to death by … Ooops! Wrong game!

Unlike some modern “designed for ‘Let’s Play’ videos” horror games, “The Last Door” actually contains a variety of different types of horror. Yes, there are a few well-placed jump scares, but they are merely the icing on a very bloody and very disturbing cake.

As well as a gradually building atmosphere of tension and mystery, the game also includes a variety of genuinely disturbing events, creepy background details, gruesome tableaux, ominous locations and chilling in-game documents. This is how you make a horror game!

So, yes, scenes like this AREN'T the only type of horror in the game...

So, yes, scenes like this AREN’T the only type of horror in the game…

The main inspirations for this game are H.P.Lovecraft and Edgar Allen Poe, and the developers do a good job at emulating these writers (thematically, the game is closer to Lovecraft – but many of the game’s events are closer to Poe) whilst also giving the horror in the game a slightly bloodier and more modern twist too.

Although the bloody writing looks like it's been drawn in MS Paint (using a mouse), this scene is significantly creepier in-game! Especially now that I've looked at the screenshot again, remembered the backstory, connected the dots and suddenly realised that it wasn't JUST a random "shock value" scene.

Although the bloody writing looks like it’s been drawn in MS Paint (using a mouse), this scene is significantly creepier in-game! Especially now that I’ve looked at the screenshot again, remembered the backstory, connected the dots and suddenly realised that it wasn’t JUST a random “shock value” scene.

One interesting feature in the game is that each one of the game’s four episodes begins with a short interactive scene where you control another character, who performs some kind of incomprehensible and/or disturbing sequence of actions (eg: you actually play as Beechwood in the first scene of the game).

Not only does this create an ominous sense of mystery, but it also helps to show that there are events that happen outside of the main character’s knowledge or control.

Some of the horror in this game is also counterpointed with rare moments of dark humour. Although most of these are fairly subtle Poe/ Lovecraft references (as well as a cynically hilarious fable about a rabbit), one stand-out moment is an old-timey film that you’ll see during one of the cutscenes, which somehow manages to be both extremely gross and extremely hilarious at the same time (probably due to the combination of jaunty piano music with the events of the film):

Yes, this is probably the only screenshot from it that I can show without spoiling the gross hilariousness of it.

Yes, this is probably the only screenshot from it that I can show without spoiling the gross hilariousness of it.

However, as creepy as the game is – the first half of the game is probably slightly creepier than the second half. Although the latter half of the game certainly has it’s fair share of creepy, disturbing and/or shocking events, they lack of some of the ominous sense of mystery that the first two episodes have.

The fact that the game’s Lovecraftian elements also get slightly more convoluted and “mysterious for the sake of mysterious” in the later parts of the game doesn’t exactly help either.

 Yes, when words like "zha'ilathal " start appearing, some of the horror turns into silliness!

Yes, when words like “zha’ilathal ” start appearing, some of the horror turns into silliness!

As for the gameplay, it’s fairly standard “point and click” gameplay. You talk to people, read documents, find items and solve puzzles. Nothing out of the ordinary here.

In the first episode, the puzzles are reasonably straightforward and logical. As someone who is terrible at adventure game puzzles, I took this as a good sign. However, by about halfway through episode two, I found that I had to consult a walkthrough on a regular basis.

Yes, some of the later puzzles can be solved without a walkthrough (and some of them made me think “duh!” when I looked at the walkthrough) but there are at least a couple of puzzles that border on moon logic:

Fun fact: To get this tree to grow to this size, you have to use a musical instrument in an unusual way in another part of the level.

Fun fact: To get this tree to grow to this size, you have to use a musical instrument in an unusual way in another part of the level.

However, THIS puzzle is the kind of annoyingly cryptic thing that used to turn up in the original "Silent Hill". Seriously, you'll probably need a walkthrough here...

However, THIS puzzle is the kind of annoyingly cryptic thing that used to turn up in the original “Silent Hill”. Seriously, you’ll probably need a walkthrough here…

The visual style of this game is fairly interesting though. Although the ultra-large pixels make the game’s occasional moments of “pixel hunting” significantly easier, they were initially one of the things that made me mildly wary about this game. Although I really love cartoonish 1990s-style pixel art, I vastly prefer this art style when it contains lots of visual detail (eg: with slightly smaller pixels). So, ironically, I was mildly reluctant to play this game because of it’s ultra-primitive graphics.

However, thanks to the game’s compelling and chilling story, I soon ended up ignoring the super-blocky graphics because I was too immersed in the story. In addition to this, I have to admire how the game’s designers can create the impression of some fairly detailed landscapes using only a relatively small number of pixels:

Yes, this somehow manages to look both extremely blocky AND extremely detailed!

Yes, this somehow manages to look both extremely blocky AND extremely detailed!

Wow! Just wow! Art made with gigantic pixels should NOT look THIS detailed!

Wow! Just wow! Art made with gigantic pixels should NOT look THIS detailed!

In terms of length, this game is certainly on the shorter side of things. Each of the game’s four episodes can be completed in an hour or less (possibly slightly longer if you don’t use a walkthrough).

Although the “Collector’s Edition” of the game also includes four additional semi-playable, non-playable and/or fully-playable vignettes in the “extras” menu, which help to flesh out some of the backstory, they are all extremely short too (each one is three minutes long at most). So, for length reasons, I’d recommend waiting until this game goes on special offer if you’re buying games on a budget.

For example, this bonus scene is literally nothing more than one medium-sized dialogue tree.

For example, this bonus scene is literally nothing more than one medium-sized dialogue tree.

I should probably also mention the game’s soundtrack too, which is the kind of wonderfully ominous and opulent classical soundtrack that you would expect to see in a game like this (despite the game’s visual style, the music is high-quality recorded music, rather than MIDI/ Chiptune music). It really helps to add a lot to the creepy atmosphere of the game. Plus, if you get the game on GoG, then it comes with a MP3 copy of the soundtrack too.

All in all, this is a much better game than I expected! Yes, it is only the first half of a larger story, but it is probably one of the creepiest horror games that I’ve played in a long time. Even though some of the puzzles are a bit too convoluted and/or tricky for my liking, it’s still an extremely compelling and disturbing game. It’s proof that you don’t need a large budget, lots of jump scares and/or flashy graphics to make a genuinely chilling horror game.

If I had to give it a rating out of five, it would get four and a half.

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