Last Stop: Brilliant TV Forced to be a Game – PC Review

Last Stop - Feature Image

Films from the 60s and 70s have one major flaw: pacing. As our culture has evolved, so too has our desire for fast-paced media. With apps such as the now-defunct Vine, and the more contemporary TikTok making quick, ten-second videos the norm, our patience for long, drawn-out content has dwindled significantly. Back in the 60s, it wouldn’t be uncommon to get a scene that follows every single movement of a character from one end of the corridor to the other. Nowadays in movies, you’re more likely to see a character enter a building and then cut to them being exactly where they’re supposed to be. Last Stop mimics a lot of the poor pacing from the ’60s, only it really didn’t need to. As a result, it, unfortunately, bungles what would have otherwise been three phenomenal sci-fi romps.

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“The writing and characters in each story are top-notch too, with every character feeling genuinely believable.”

In Last Stop, you play through three individual narratives that then come together for one explosive finale. Each of the narratives alone is pretty fantastic, with solid writing, direction and character development throughout. They all feel entirely distinct from one another, with each one being completely tonally different. Paper Dolls for example is more of a comedy. Meanwhile, the Stranger Danger story plays out more like a solid Doctor Who episode. This tonal distinction allows each of the experiences to feel completely unique, and more like an individual mini-series. It’s a fun approach to interactive fiction and makes it feel as if you’re getting more bang for your buck, so to speak.

The writing and characters in each are top-notch too, with every character feeling genuinely believable. The dynamics between the characters in Stranger Danger felt particularly well done, with each intertwining relationship feeling plausibly realistic. In the initially more grounded, yet nevertheless tense, Domestic Affairs, the writers do a phenomenal job of establishing character and motivation in such a succinct, yet genius way. It’s also great to see how each of these stories is connected, even before the finale brings them all together.

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Additionally, the voice acting is brilliant across the board. Even the children’s performances match the same quality as that of the adults. I never felt as if any of the performances were in any way terrible. They each matched up perfectly with the way the characters had been both visually and characteristically established. Furthermore, the visual style of Last Stop truly brings to life not only the sci-fi narratives but also London itself. As a fellow Brit myself, it was great to see London fully realised in the game’s unique visual aesthetic.

“Going from the lighthearted banter in Paper Dolls to an intense story about marital issues feels discombobulating at the best of times.”

Unfortunately, that’s where my praise ends. It may seem that everything is in order, especially considering that these are interactive pieces of fiction. Therefore having wonderfully written and acted narratives seems key. Alas, if only that were true. For whatever reason, the developers decided that in order to progress to the next chapter of a particular story, you must play through the other story’s chapters too. So, to get to Paper Dolls chapter 2, you have to play through Domestic Affairs’ and Stranger Danger’s first chapters as well.

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What this ultimately means for your overall experience is that you’re constantly shifting between vastly tonally conflicting narratives, as well as dramatically different stories. Going from the lighthearted banter in Paper Dolls to an intense story about marital issues feels discombobulating at the best of times. I can understand the decision behind choosing this non-linear narrative structure, but it is incredibly detrimental to the overall experience. It’s also hard to keep track of each story, despite the “previously on” segment at the beginning of each chapter.

Last Stop suffers from severe tank controls. I’d always find myself crashing into walls or stumbling around tables trying to get into the right position to trigger a cutscene.”

Even if the structure were to be corrected, it wouldn’t fix Last Stop’s biggest issue. Pacing. As I mentioned previously, Last Stop suffers from the same slow pacing as movies from the 60s do. For whatever reason, in certain sections of the game, Last Stop will suddenly relinquish control to the player. It’s rarely for anything important, usually to walk down a corridor. But it baffles me that it even bothered to include segments like this. All it does is slow the game down. It’s a jolting experience too, as you never know when the game has handed control over. So there’s usually a few seconds in which you’re waiting to see if it’s simply that the character has stopped in a cutscene, or if the game is waiting for you to arbitrarily walk the character to the next room.

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This too would be fine, if the controls were any good. But unfortunately, they’re not. Last Stop suffers from severe tank controls. I’d always find myself crashing into walls or stumbling around tables trying to get into the right position to trigger a cutscene. It doesn’t help too that whenever you enter a new location, the game continues heading forward regardless of what keys you’re holding down. It meant that despite telling my character to head downwards, they’d just carry on into a wall. It’s confusing at the best of time, and just adds an additional layer of frustration to the overall experience.

“It just made it abundantly clear that Last Stop would be much better off as a TV mini-series than a video game.”

Unfortunately, it doesn’t end there. Player input, as previously established, is already pretty pointless. But even when you’re not being forced to walk two seconds down a corridor for no reason, the other times you get to have control just feel completely and utterly redundant. Occasionally you have to press a few keys to pour milk. Sometimes you have to rapidly press A and D to run. Oooooh. Exciting stuff. It all just feels like a complete waste of time, and completely removes you from the narrative. There’s no real integration of gameplay within the story, just forced segments of pressing keys for the sake of it.

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The only time I felt that the player input was justified was during the Domestic Affairs’ chapters, in which you must hover over certain aspects of a character to identify their potential threat to your reputation. It’s a nice touch that enhances a certain narrative aspect. Outside of that, however, I genuinely felt that there was little need to include any of these elements. It just made it abundantly clear that Last Stop would be much better off as a TV mini-series than a video game.

“It got to the point where I questioned why they’d even bothered to make it a game in the first place.”

Another facet of the game that makes it clear this deserves to be made for another medium is the animation quality. Whenever you’re walking, the characters keep the same gormless expression plastered across their face. In cutscenes, the characters are a little more expressive, but there were constant bugs and inconsistencies in the quality. So much so that it completely ruined my immersion. Characters’ cheeks would clip into their eyes; any movement felt like it came out of a low budget Asylum animated film; the lip-synching would only work half the time and would often speed up for no reason.

It got to the point where I questioned why they’d even bothered to make it a game in the first place. It’s frustrating too as the character designs are fantastic. There’s even a seriously impressive amount of locations to explore. It’s just a shame that they’re never put to good use and that the overall animation quality severely lets it down.

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Ultimately, what you have here are three great stories told in the poorest way possible. No amount of great writing, character development, visual style or locations could save this game. While it was never a chore to get through, it was an unfortunately frustrating experience overall. The slow pacing, inconsistent tonal shifts throughout, poor animation quality and needless player input reduced brilliant narratives to less than stellar sci-fi romps. I’d still recommend checking out Last Stop if you love narrative games as much as I do. However, do so at a discount, as I don’t think it warrants its current price tag. In closing, if you’re looking for some great sci-fi adventures you’re better off watching the David Tenant (or Matt Smith) era Doctor Who episodes instead.

*Disclaimer: Reviewed on PC, code was provided by the publisher.

Last Stop - Feature Image
Last Stop Review
Summary
Last Stop features three tonally different narratives that, on their own, excel, but together, make for an inconsistently paced game. The fact that the three stories are played interchangeably makes for a discombobulating experience. Additionally, the player input does little but slow down the stories and makes it blatantly abundant that Last Stop would have been better as a TV mini-series.
Pros
Beautiful visuals
Interesting narratives
Solid voice acting
Cons
Slow and inconsistent pacing
Non-linear narrative doesn't work
Pointless player input
Buggy animations
6
Exit mobile version