The Last Express Review
Jordan Mechner's highly praised mystery The Last Express is finally available for iOS enthusiasts, and this rotoscope driven project proves that it still is relevant and effective years afters its 1997 release. Praise obviously goes to The Last Express mastermind Jordan Mechner, the video game designer best known for his Prince of Persia franchise.
The Last Express takes place in 1914, and you are Robert Cath, a bon vivant and bold American doctor summoned to the Orient Express at the behest of your dear friend, Tyler Whitney. Unfortunately, Tyler is always caught in a web of intrigue, and it's your job to bail him out once again. Saving the day, however, is not your main mission aboard the train, as you discover Tyler's bloodied corpse in his cabin. With a handful of strangers to deal with, you must sift through the lies and deception to uncover the killer.
To fully appreciate the mystery, one needs to put away any residue of attention deficit disorder and fully luxuriate in Robert Cath's journey. Whether he's stealthily climbing out a window to avoid detection, surviving a deadly knife fight, or even getting his advances rejected by an elusive passenger, Cath refuses to break a sweat. Throwing a one liner or two, even amidst a world of stress, is one of our protagonist's many strengths. As Cath, you must examine every nook and cranny of the train, as every little clue helps you towards your path. Controlling the game is easy enough, as you simply touch the screen to walk and check out your surroundings.
On a visual level, The Last Express has a breathtaking, cinematic feel, and so many panels from the game are a total feast for the eyes. It's true eye candy for animation aficionados, and if you appreciated director Richard Linklater's forays into rotoscope with Waking Life and A Scanner Darkly, then the nuanced look of the game should be right up your alley. The mystery is divided into chapters, and appreciating the game is akin to sitting down and reading a good book or even appreciating a fine wine. It takes time to fully enjoy the experience. But until then, you can bask in the pretty, noirish pictures.
Remembering every little detail is impossible with this mystery, and a new feature for this iOS version contains character biographies, which you unlock throughout the game. This refreshes every single character you've met on the train in a streamlined manner. If you want to replay a certain sequence of the game before continuing, you can actually rewind to an earlier moment in the game. Under the bonus section you can also play various scenes that have transpired, and this feature, while also serving as a refresher course, is just plain fun to watch. The best in-game element exists in the lower left hand section of the screen. By clicking onto the thought bubble, you will be given various hints on what to do. This feature will save you oodles of time, even if it smacks of cheating.
The Last Express is a vivid and compelling mixture of an Agatha Christie novel and an Alfred Hitchcock thriller. It's one of the more atmospheric iOS titles out there, and if you're in the mood for a little mystery in your life, buying an Orient Express ticket, even at $4.99, is a great idea.