Note: iOS 9 + Facebook users w/ trouble scrolling: #super sorry# we hope to fix it asap. In the meantime Chrome Mobile is a reach around
hot  /  reviews  /  videos  /  cblogs  /  qposts

The Last Express
 BLOG ABOUT THIS

Review: The Last Express (iOS)

1:00 PM on 10.20.2012 // Casey B
  @CaseyDtoid

Amazing game, touchy port

When The Last Express was first released in 1997, it was considered an incredibly engaging mystery set on the Orient Express as it traveled from Paris to Constantinople on the eve of World War I.

In many ways the game was far ahead of its time, but what really pushed it ahead of its peers (and even some current-day titles) was the way it progressed through real time as you tried to solve a murder mystery among a diverse set of characters with varying nationalities and motives. However, The Last Express was also a commercial flop when it actually released and was soon forgotten by the gaming culture at large despite its brilliance.

Last month, an iOS port was released, and I finally had a chance to play through this endearing game for myself and truly understand why it was such a critical darling. I just wish the finicky touch controls didn't keep impeding my immersion and enjoyment.

The Last Express (iOS)
Developer: DotEmu
Publisher: DotEmu
Released: September 27, 2012
MSRP: $4.99

In The Last Express, you take on the role of Robert Cath, an American adventurer who is dashingly handsome, fluent in various languages, and burdened with a questionable criminal past. In many ways, Cath fits into the Indiana Jones archetype -- even to the point that in one very Indiana Jones-ish combat scenario I could've sworn I heard the Wilhelm scream as an enemy died.

Cath boards the Orient Express as an unknown, sneaking onto the train via motorcycle and quickly discovering that the friend he was expecting to rendezvous with has instead met his own mysterious demise. The game quickly sets you off onto a sort of choose-your-own-adventure, where you find yourself wandering the various corridors of the train and becoming either a passive or active participant of the events taking place around you.

Even when playing casually on an iOS device, The Last Express will easily draw you into its immersive and self-contained universe. Characters pass by in narrow hallways, giving you a look and their pardon as they pass. People mill about in their rooms or in the restaurant car. And at various times you can eavesdrop on their conversations or actively become part of them.

Of course, you don't actually have options as to what you will say -- Cath as a character is pretty self-assured and needs no help from our fourth-wall prodding -- though your choice to engage in conversations or ignore key characters will have a direct effect on your playthrough.

The graphics are incredibly simplistic and the animations aren't even full-frame at times. Somehow, this simplicity is actually to the game's benefit. As you move about the train and watch characters interact, movements and gestures seem incredibly lifelike because of their familiarity -- it sort of feels like watching a simplified Renoir come to life. I know this sounds a bit pretentious, but I was honestly surprised by how such basic palettes and colors could tell such a deep and at times even emotional narrative.

Normally, games that contain a murder mystery plot with overarching political intrigue really bore the shit out of me, but where The Last Express succeeds is in truly putting you in the moment. Every minute that passes is another minute towards your last destination, after all, and that final stopping place may change with your decisions from moment to moment. I can honestly say I have never felt the immediacy of my surroundings and actions in the same way as I did while playing through The Last Express. In one playthrough you may develop a love interest, help to defuse conflicts both petty and political, and develop alliances and enemies with various key players onboard.

Granted, even though there are multiple ways to end the game, it seems that there is only one true sequence of events that leads to the "good" ending. Honestly, though, I'd be hard pressed to call any of the endings "happy."

I've spent a lot of time gushing about the game itself -- I admittedly missed this gem the first time around, so it was exciting to play it in whatever format was available. However, the particular platform it's been released on has some incredibly frustrating issues, and I can't brand the game with a glowing review without considering the worthiness of it as a port.

Touch sensitivity is a tricky beast for games ported to iOS, though successfully ported point-and-click adventure games have certainly come to mobile devices before. In complete honesty, I simply can't consider The Last Express among them. This may change with an update down the line, but as of now the game has an incredibly finicky touch control system.

I played The Last Express on a 3rd generation iPad and found myself practically fighting with the controls at nearly every juncture. Icons on the screeen represent directions for your character to turn, though they could have been wingdings for all of the worth they had in actually getting my character to move properly. If I pressed on the button signifying "right," half the time the game would do the exact opposite. Pressing the button to move forward one frame would often send my character into a sprint, bypassing everything until the next traincar.

These controls were especially frustratung during combat sequences, which play as proto-QTEs where you have to press the right direction with proper timing to survive dangerous fights. I nearly gave up in frustration during one of the late game battles because of this system. It took not only proper timing but bashing on the on-screen directional arrows and hoping they registered with the intended move.

People often generally complain about touchscreen control and how awful it is for most mobile games. I argue stongly against this contention, as I have played so many awesome games with incredibly responsive controls that run the gamut from simple puzzle games (Ichi) to more complex adventure games like Swords & Sworcery that have the same familiar point-and-click interface. The Last Express falls on its face with the port's touch implementation, and this is really a shame. While I certainly accepted a certain amount of archaic control scheme frustration, I was surprised at how little work it seemed was actually put into making sure the game worked -- at least on an iPad. This was especially surprising given I was playing through on a device with ample screen space.

Fortunately, The Last Express does have a good checkpoint system that even allows you to rewind time and play from an earlier train stop if you failed or missed something along the way. I suppose this and the newly implemented hint system are the major saving graces of this frustrating port. In every other way, it remains faithful to the original -- at least as far as I could surmise.

I'm torn on this game, as I would normally give a game of this scope and brilliance a perfect 10, but my constant fight with the controls really did mar my enjoyment. Perhaps it's because the game is supposed to be playable on both iPad and iPhone, though from others' responses I've noticed it really only works on a smaller device.

At the end of the day, I'd highly recommend picking up this relatively inexpensive version of The Last Express regardless, even if that means biting the bulllet with the control scheme and dealing with those frustrations. It's a piece of videogame history and a shining example of what can be done to create an experience so much more immersive than the Heavy Rains of today. I just can't rate the port as highly as I'd rate the core experience itself.



THE VERDICT

8

The Last Express - Reviewed by Casey B.
Charming - Not perfect, but it's easy to ignore the rough spots when faced with so many engaging design decisions and entertaining moments. A memorable game that's hard not to like and recommend to others.

See more reviews or the Destructoid score guide.

Casey B, Contributor
 Follow Blog + disclosure CaseyDtoid Tips
Casey Baker is passionate about all things video game, and has been this way since very young. His earliest memories involve trying to get E.T. out of a hole. Casey plays nearly all genres of g... more   |   staff directory





 Setup email comments

Unsavory comments? Please report harassment, spam, and hate speech to our community fisters, and flag the user (we will ban users dishing bad karma). Can't see comments? Apps like Avast or browser extensions can cause it. You can fix it by adding *.disqus.com to your whitelists.

destructoid's previous coverage:
The Last Express


  Nov 23

The Last Express Gold Edition launches on Steam

Includes cloud storage and bonus content


View all:powered by:  MM.Elephant

Ads on destructoid may be purchased from:



Please contact Crave Online, thanks!


Modern face of survival horror

Discussion Discussion on Games

PStoid Episode 38: Doomed from the Box Art

Cblogs of 2/9/16 - Only Slightly Late Edition

Narrative Mistakes: Mass Effect's Reapers As Primary Villains

Journey to Become a Jedi Knight - Jedi Outcast

Waifu Wars - The End

Hindsight Part II: Unreleased Games of the Past

Robbing Kirby of his Greatest Asset

The meaning of The Witness (Part 3 of 3)

 Add your impressions

 Quickposts
Status updates from C-bloggers

gajknight avatargajknight
I want to listen to classical music. But I'm in a funky mood right now. The solution?
SeymourDuncan17 avatarSeymourDuncan17
Been watching Better Call Saul, being a pretty big fan of Breaking Bad, and it's been pretty decent. Like a b-side to BB. But, this scene with Trevor (GTAV)-famous Steven Ogg has been my highlight. There's more to it before this, but it's the best part.
Parismio avatarParismio
Whens the racist Wakka animation?:
SeymourDuncan17 avatarSeymourDuncan17
Well, wherever you are, Human...
jak2364 avatarjak2364
...Well, nice to know I could improve a game I didn't take a survey on!
SeymourDuncan17 avatarSeymourDuncan17
jak2364 avatarjak2364
...Does Ubisoft let their employees do drugs before they write surveys? It really seems like it. "The progression of the main character (skills) in the game should be adapted" Can anyone tell me what the hell that's supposed to mean?
FakePlasticTree avatarFakePlasticTree
I always thought the anime Baccano felt like something out of Guy Richie or Tarantino--then someone made the intro of Snatch with the opening theme from Baccano playing over it. Two of my favorite things together and it fits beautifully. I love it <3
Dr Mel avatarDr Mel
I just need something to do for 5 minutes before I got to leave. *checks Dtoid Quickposts* .... SHIT, 15 mintues!
Dreamweaver avatarDreamweaver
Weird nerdy confession: I actually wrote, and got HEAVILY invested in, Pokemon fan fiction. It was based on a RP Story I did on The Escapist forums, and featured a love story between a Squirtle and a Miltank. To this day, Miltank still gets me aroused. :P
SayWord avatarSayWord
Spending time with your significant other, or playing with Nep Nep? I choose you Neptune! =P
SpaghettiOReilly avatarSpaghettiOReilly
And when I said "as" I meant "this." The funk has ruined my mind.
SpaghettiOReilly avatarSpaghettiOReilly
It's been ages since I've been as addicted to a game. That changed yesterday. I can't stop playing Crypt of the Necrodancer. Send help. My hands hurt.
JPF720 avatarJPF720
As I'm back to studying, I can't help but recall that while it took me a week to read 10 pages of psychology theory I managed to read an analysis on Killer7's plot, that was 100 pages long, in a day. Good times.
WryGuy avatarWryGuy
"I don't trust you, pal." "Well I don't trust YOU, guy." "I don't trust ANY of you, friend." This has basically been the Marvel themed Werewolf game we're having in the forums right now. Real popcorn material.
JohnSmith123 avatarJohnSmith123
"I don't have time to explain why I don't have time to explain." Then she explains anyway.
Rad Party God avatarRad Party God
id Tech 5 is a damn fine engine, but it's way ahead of its time. If The New Order and The Old Blood together need almost 70 GB of space, I cringe just to think what an open world game would need using that engine.
CoilWhine avatarCoilWhine
I'm definitely snatching Quantum Break on Xbox One so I can get dat crossbuy. Screw the haters, I'm excited for it and it's exactly what I hoped for when it comes to W10 exclusive gaming and crossbuy.
VIRGO avatarVIRGO
I've done nothing but read Pointandclickbait.com articles and now that's all I want to write like...
Ckarasu avatarCkarasu
People who think that Smash 4 balance patches aren't coming because Sakurai said development has ended don't know anything. I doubt he'd just drop the characters and leave, given the potential balance issues. He's a professional, not an amateur.
more quickposts


Contest!


Seriously

Invert site colors

  Dark Theme
  Light Theme


Destructoid means family.
Living the dream, since 2006

Pssst. konami code + enter

modernmethod logo



Back to Top


We follow moms on   Facebook  and   Twitter
  Light Theme      Dark Theme
Pssst. Konami Code + Enter!
You may remix stuff our site under creative commons w/@
- Destructoid means family. Living the dream, since 2006 -