The Last Door is a strange game. It’s a deliberate throwback in lots of ways, from its exaggeratedly primitive pixel graphics to a point-and-click adventure that focuses more on story than on puzzles. However the designers turn what could be a funny retro adventure on its head with a subtle supernatural horror story that has genuine shocks and an atmosphere designed to unease. To wit: the game opens on a prologue where the character you control hangs himself.
From there it’s the Lovecraftian tale of a long-lost friend who gets a mysterious letter urging him to rush to a deserted mansion. From there you have to click your way around the darkened hallways, collecting and combining items to unlock new areas as you attempt to untangle the mystery of your friend’s suicide.
The Last Door plays it very low key. There are no monsters to kill, only obstacles to overcome and a sense that bigger things are moving just below the surface. It is, nonetheless, disturbing. The first episode (available to play for free on the game’s website) is full of scenes of cruelty, and you then find notes left by the victims that will make it even worse once you realize what happened. You’ll also have to discover a very nasty way to attract a cat.
The developers for The Last Door are using an inventive development model. After funding the first episode on Kickstarter, they’re asking for donations for each subsequent episode. Donating to episode 3 gets you access to Episode 2, and once Episode 3 is funded and released, the second one becomes free-to-play as well. Donating above the average amount gets you bonuses like digital downloads of the soundtrack (which is wonderfully evocative and greatly contributes to the scary mood of the game).
I hope they make it, because after two episodes, I’m hooked. The second chapter, “Memories,” expands on the gameplay (giving you NPCs to interact with) and the storytelling, as the protagonist returns to his childhood boarding school, hoping to overcome his amnesia about the events of his youth. There, he finds that the school was closed years ago, quickly and mysteriously, and that it’s now run by nuns as a home for invalids…one with a large and haphazard graveyard just out back.
The game makes extensive use of flashbacks, dream sequences, and strong writing to take these pixelated characters and invest them with enough character that the horror of the situation (once revealed) really lands. One drawback, though, is that because the game is so dark (in terms of color pallet) as well as primitive, it can be easy to miss important objects. If you get stuck, it’s probably because you missed something in a room you already visited, or because a dialogue option changed unexpectedly.
Still, this is part and parcel of the point and click adventure. The Last Door is well-written and spooky, and fans of retro games and Lovecraftian horror are advised to check it out.
Category: Point and click adventure
Developer: The Game Kitchen
System Requirements: Flash-compatible browser
Review Computer: 2.2GHz 13″ Macbook Pro, 8GB RAM, NVIDIA GeForce 9400M with 256MB of DDR3 SDRAM, Google Chrome
Network Feature: No
Price: Free to play unlocked episodes, donations required for current episode
Availability: Out now