As a storyteller, gaming has several personalities. Sometimes we go story-game-story-game with cutscene 'movies', or we pick through branching prose with interspersed decisions, or we read out comic book narratives interrupted by puzzle breaks. Sometimes the action is the story, like Breath of the Wild’s millions of private adventures emerging from its systems – but that was paid for with a loose narrative that divided opinion. So you can go wide-open and emergent but lose authorship, or tell a tight story but weaken the interaction that makes games games. Last Stop is a story game that does the latter; in this supernatural tale of the London Underground, you’re railroaded.
After a short retro-sci-fi prologue, we see three passengers sitting along a bench seat on the Tube. Each has a story to play, their paths and fates intersecting in an urban fantasy adventure. London is well realised – not in detailed models of famous landmarks but in quiet observations of the day-to-day. You’ll skip your schoolwork and loiter on the estate, have an affair behind your husband’s back and fall short as an overworked dad with a dud boss. The scenarios feel real and get across something of London’s spirit. These are great little vignettes of the mundane in front of which the fantastical plot points can shine. Intriguing, funny, touching: good stories, well told.
But as a game, Last Stop founders. With the strength of the story and artistic presentation, all the mechanics really need to do is get out of the way. Unfortunately, they too often do the opposite.
Despite sitting squarely at the on-rails end of the storytelling spectrum, you’re asked to bring a fair sized gaming vocabulary, including running characters through 3D environments that flick between fixed cameras, first-person move-and-look, and timing-based power gauges. However, the game can’t reciprocate in the fluency of its execution. Efforts to engage you in the story include sticky obstacles, finicky aiming and obviously specious dialogue choices. The ice cool of a suave secret agent can be somewhat undermined when she doubles back on herself nonsensically five times, then walks smack into a handrail without flinching before trying to go out through the “In” turnstile and eventually walking right past her own house. It’s hard to overstate how much Last Stop would benefit from ironing out the flaky controls or just cutting or greatly simplifying those interactive elements.
What can’t be undone by these rough edges, though, is the strength of the writing, the substance of the characters, the perspicacious animations, the well directed visual design that does a lot with not much, and the engrossing musical score. Last Stop aims a bit too high – but isn’t it more interesting to have a flawed execution of something brilliant than an OK execution of an OK idea? As you would expect from publisher Annapurna Interactive (Florence, Kentucky Route Zero, Donut County, Gone Home…), Last Stop has something special in there to share over its six-or-so hours. Well worth having on the wishlist until the time and price are right for you.
Those visuals in the screenshots are so unnervingly soft that it honestly would've looked better to forgo anti-aliasing.
This isn't just a matter of it being low resolution, these screenshots look like they've been treated with Vaseline.
"Isn’t it more interesting to have a flawed execution of something brilliant than an OK execution of an OK idea?"
this sold me on it. games with gumption are admirable, and this sounds like such a game.
Yeah, “technically limited graphics” was being polite. The saving grace is the artistic direction is good – and it’s not like you’re depending on razor-sharp detail to play the game.
@Benjinat if you are genuinely asking… it’s on Gamepass
Antialiasing and vaseline lenses aside, it might look well realised but the dialogue reads like a Grange Hill script.
But then I might be off my rocker or something.
@jkhanhl Having 1980s British school kids resemble 1980s British school kids is a plus point for me. I don’t think the rest of the game fits your description. (Just my opinion!)
"Well worth having on the wishlist until the time and price are right for you."
After reading the review, that's exactly what I was intending to do. My kind of game. The Town of Light had technical flaws too, but it got its point across, and it seems this game will too.
@Arcade_Tokyo A fair point I hadn't realised it was set in the 80s.
I'd like to say something smart about certain tube stations not being open during the 80s, but I can't read the names on the board, and it wouldn't improve my credibility anyway.
@jkhanhl It's not set in the 80s. The first 5 minutes are, that's it, then it's modern day.
@jkhanhl yeah, like @biskit says, it’s just that screenshot from the prologue that’s in the eighties – “off your rocker”!
Yeah, hard to read the tube signs in the mush 😂
This whole vaseline screen thing is essentially the default problem on the Switch. Is there some technical reason why every single game which struggles performance-wise opts to smush this anti-aliasing over everything to try and hide the scary pixels? Like is there literally no way to turn it off if you're using dynamic resolutions, or something? Who in their right mind would think that gamers would be scared of a clean low-res picture and would prefer a muddy low-res picture?
@jkhanhl Hahaha, I've been watching Grange Hill on Britbox recently and could definitely see Tucker Jenkins telling someone they're "off their rocker" I am an old 80s/90s kid so prefer if the game has dated language tbh.
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