Screenshot: Variable state / Kotaku
For its 50th anniversary in 2017, New York magazine published a special issue called “My New York”. The intention, spelled out over 200 pages, was to highlight the surprisingly complex ways New Yorkers are connected to each other. On page 86 you will see a reference to a musical written by Sting. A footnote told you to skip to page 142, where you had read an account from designer Donna Karan, who was related to Sting’s Ashtanga teacher. A footnote on this page told you to turn to page 148 and read about Odeon, which featured tablecloths scribbled by one of Karan’s high school mates. And so on.
Living in or near a big city, whether it’s electrifying midtown Manhattan or the quietly bustling outskirts of London, is often an isolated paradoxical exercise. You are surrounded by more people than your simple human brain can calculate. And yet it’s easy, even natural, to shut yourself off from the tidal wave of stimuli, turning off the sea of voices and faces as instinctively as you would with an inept AM radio station.
But the New York anniversary issue basically said, “Shit that. This illustrates how much more connected we are all than you might think, how finding a meaningful connection is no more difficult than turning the page.
Last Stop, an adventure game released earlier this summer for most market platforms, achieves the same trick.
Yes, Last Stop is technically a video game, but it’s structured and functions much more like an interactive TV show. Developed by Variable State (Virginia) and published by Annapurna Interactive (a whole group of Zeitgeist-defining India Games), Last Stop is, on paper, an adventure game set in a fictionalized version of the London suburbs. You do things typical of adventure games: walk around fixed-camera 3D environments, talk to non-player characters, choose dialogue options, rarely interact with objects, let alone complete quick events, including few pose a challenge.
Press “Y” to get blackout drunk.Screenshot: Variable State / Kotaku
If you’re on the hunt for a mechanically complex adventure game, Last Stop probably isn’t for you. But if you’re down for a great story that’s told over 18 episodes, each lasting around 20 to 25 minutes a piece—plus a 40-minute-long finale—you’re in for a treat. Over the past month, I consumed Last Stop as I would a compelling TV show, knocking out an episode or two each night (when I could). I recently finished the game, and have not been able to get it out of my head since.
It’s clear from the start that Last Stop features supernatural events. A prologue set in the 1980s sees two teenagers play a prank and then run away from the police. Fleeing in a subway tunnel, they quickly stop in a dead end. A guy in a tanned suit (thank you obama) holds an open door. Beyond the threshold: a green gate. He asks if they are coming. One is leaving. We don’t.
From there, Last Stop presents you as three unaffiliated London suburbs, whose stories take place across three separate storylines. Complete one chapter for one storyline, and you’ll have to complete it for the other two, so you don’t have to rush through one storyline at a time.
There’s Donna, an exuberant high school student who seems to care little about high school. Its plot, “Stranger Danger”, is by far the most supernatural of the three. Donna and her two best friends, Vivek and Becky, surreptitiously follow their enigmatic neighbor into an abandoned community pool. It displays apparent magical powers, oozing the same vivid green that emanated from the portal in the prologue. They accidentally knocked him out. Whoops.Meena, the “Home Affairs” star, works in some sort of key intelligence agency. She has a small family: a husband and a school-aged son. She has neither the time nor the patience for either, but has plenty of time to cheat on the first. Meena is a total jerk, but I found “Domestic Affairs” to be the most compelling script of the trio. Finally, there’s John, a grassroots government paper pusher. He is the main character of “Paper dollsBut shares a lot of screen time with her young daughter, Molly, and her richer, younger neighbor, Jack. Oh, yeah, and he swaps his bodies with Jack at the end of the first episode. Think Freaky Friday, but British-er.
John unlocks Daddy’s level 100. Screenshot: Variable state / Kotaku
Although their lives are functionally unconnected, these characters are thematically related; each, in its own way, sequesters itself from the others and struggles to form meaningful bonds. Yes, John has a daughter he would walk to the moon for, but he doesn’t have any friends (as Molly so bluntly points out). Donna quarrels fiercely with her sister and mother, the latter suffering from an undefined illness. And Meena, of course, only focuses on advancing her career, to the detriment of all of her personal connections.
This course of action is essential in helping Last Stop’s disparate plots to freeze, as they are admittedly tonal mismatches. “Paper Dolls” is billed as a family comedy, “Domestic Affairs” is akin to a spy thriller, while “Stranger Danger” has unmistakable connotations of British teen drama, Misfits (well, best, previous seasons) or Skins. On this point, a tip of the hat to composer Lyndon Holland, who sets the tone musically for everyone.
Bouncing between the three can feel like a cognitive boost – come on, pick one, Last Stop! – but it ultimately works in the game’s favor. Since you have to play out one storyline to advance the other two, you’re never stuck in the same themes. And if you play the game the way I did, like it’s a TV show to participate in in intermittent sessions, you’ll always come back to something fresh. Hold on, that means laughing at the semi-slapstick humor in “Paper Dolls”. Next, it’s about decoding the mystery that drives “domestic affairs” … before the game tells you what’s going on. Variety of spices Last Stop up.
“Who knew the suburbs had so much to do? “
Clean writing, compelling characters, tonal variety, great music
Choices tackled at the end, lacks a lot of interactivity
PC, Xbox One, Xbox Series X / S, PS4, PS5, Switch (played)
July 22, 2021
Worth mentioning: Last Stop is very, very British, to the point where I sometimes had to stop for a second just to understand what the characters were saying. I don’t even want to tell you how many times I’ve almost bothered Kotaku’s fearless UK editor John Walker to help decode some of the more esoteric phrases. In the end, I never did, because even though I don’t understand time zones, I respect them and I would never wake a man in the middle of the night just to find out what a “ladle” is. Chicken “. (It’s a chicken finger, apparently.)
In the great tradition of British multi-plot threads like Love, Actually, the plot trio are initially largely independent. As you play, however, your three protagonists will intersect, but only superficially. (For example, during a scene, while you are sitting at a bus stop, patiently suffering from a sudden breakthrough, one of the other protagonists passes in the background. When you play that character’s chapter, you pass in front of the bus stop and see your first character waiting. There is no in-game option to make them interact.) Then, at the end of the game, these story threads come together.
It’s no spoiler to say that the protagonists of Last Stop finally meet. Back in Spring, Variable State said that plots were originally written as isolated concepts, but even then it seemed wrong to keep them separate. There is a palpable energy connecting John, Meena, and Donna, even though they don’t physically share the same space. Obviously, the three intertwine.
Their meeting ends with a bombastic finale that takes you from one character to another. Plus, he ties back all the details that came up during Last Stop’s three mysterious plots. Note that not all of the answers are satisfactory, but at least you don’t come away amazed at what happened a few hours earlier.
In Last Stop you have to tap into the subway, which should delight all advocates of public transport. Screenshot: Variable state / Kotaku
This chapter is also the first and last time Last Stop gives you some sort of agency over the narrative outcome. While you are in control of what Meena, Donna, and John say in conversations throughout the game, those choices don’t really affect the plot. Then, over the last ten minutes, you have a careful A / B choice as to how each character should conclude their story. The six endings (two for each of the three characters) make thematic and logical sense. But it’s hard not to feel like the last minute choice comes out of nowhere.
Last Stop spends its entirety on a set straight back to the goal posts, detailing exactly who these characters are and what they do and how they live their lives. Just before the buzzer, he sends the ball to the player. I almost wish Last Stop didn’t even give us the option. The rest of the game hardly offers the illusion of choice. Why do it just at the end?
But the message wins out nonetheless. The three protagonists of Last Stop spend much of their respective lives in various states of loneliness, from John’s lack of friendship to Donna’s teenage angst to Meena’s “Screw Everyone” career blinders. . As the credits roll, whatever ending you choose, it’s clear that these three people – who otherwise wouldn’t have anything in common and had no reason to interact – have cemented an inextricable bond. You too may have felt lonely once, twice or three times. You might feel that right now. You don’t need it. Just turn the page.
Article source https://kotaku.com/last-stop-the-kotaku-review-1847526540