The Let's Play Archive

The Last Express

by Olive Branch

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Original Thread: A clue in every car. A stranger in every seat. Danger at every destination.



The Last Express? What's this?

The Last Express is one of the best interactive mystery-adventure games I've ever played. It's a video game created by Jordan Mechner and Smoking Car Productions, published in 1997 by Interplay and Broderbund. If that last one sounds familiar, it's because it should: Broderbund also published the original Myst, Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?, and Prince of Persia. Jordan Mechner should also be a name you recognize, as he's the brains behind the entire Prince of Persia franchise.

It's one of the few video games that attempted to simulate real time realistically, but despite very positive reviews and critical response, the game sold poorly due to the entire marketing department quitting weeks before the game was released.

What's this game's story?

The game is set on the Orient Express in 1914, days before the start of World War I. The game begins in medias res as our avatar, Robert Cath, boards the Orient Express to meet a friend. Once on the train, we quickly discover that the Orient Express is a hotbed of intrigue, danger, treachery, and lies, and we must do all we can to survive and discover the truth behind unfolding events.

How does it play?

It's a point-and-click adventure game, much like Myst. Everything is done with the mouse, but we do have an inventory to carry items we can check, and occasionally use on people or things. Unlike Quest for Glory or other adventure games, though, The Last Express is almost always fair and, with one exception, never throws a "use the rubber chicken on the pocket lint" situation at the player. However, there is a big difference that separates The Last Express from other first-person point-and-click adventure games, and that's time.

You see, time in this game is extremely important. From the moment you step on the train, the clock is ticking. The train proceeds regardless of your actions, and characters on the train all follow their own routines and interactions with each other without regards to you. This means that you, the player, can and will miss out on conversations, hints, events, and other such activities as the game progresses. You cannot be everywhere at once, and if you're trying to solve a puzzle, sometimes you need to be in the right place at the right time.

"No fair," you may be saying. "How can I know where to go at the right time, and how do I know I'm not missing out on plot-critical information?"

Well, the game does hold your hand a little with hints and suggestions, especially early on, but eventually it frees the reigns and lets you figure things out on your own with fewer hints. This leads to the next important part of this game: rewinding the clock. At any time, you can click on a little clock icon on the bottom of the screen to open the menu and rewind or fast forward the clock to restart events. You can rewind all the way back to the beginning of the journey if you wish. However, stay too long in the past, and you cannot fast forward again, for you'll have changed the course of the future.

As this is an adventure game, there are a lot of dead ends, game overs, and other bonuses that await the dedicated (and patient!) explorer. The rewinding clock mechanic lets you try out different strategies without consequences, other than making you have to wait for time to pass again.

What is the goal of this Let's Play? How will you play it?

I'll be gunning for a (mostly) completionist run, showing the game's full story, its endings and game overs, bonus conversations, and alternate paths when it comes down to solving puzzles. I will use in-character subtitles in the videos rather than live commentary, as this game is fully voice-acted and speaks well for itself.

I've started watching your videos and I'm confused. Firebird? Last Express?

If you've watched LordMune's Fahrenheit LP, or his Heavy Rain LP, you may recall he split his playthroughs into two parts: a "good" run, and a "bad" run, to generalize. I'll be doing the same thing. As you watch the videos, occasionally after a fade or dissolve you'll see the words "Firebird" or "Last Express" appear. This alerts you to a split in the path.

The Firebird run will be "correct" for the most part, showing a calm, collected, and dedicated Robert Cath. His in-character subtitles will be in yellow. The Last Express run will be "incorrect", but it's more accurate to say "alternative". It will show a much more unrefined, loose, and carefree Robert Cath. His in-character subtitles will be in red. Also, some game overs will appear due to this Cath's actions.

As for miscellaneous bonus conversations, deaths, and game overs, they will be put in separate videos. The game also has a lot of images and reading material, and you can read them to your heart's contents under "Images".

I wish to extend thanks to ivantod for providing translations for Serbian dialogue you'll hear in-game, and to my students and teachers at my workplace for providing translations for the Arabic dialogue. Robert Cath doesn't speak either language, so these are for the viewer's convenience.

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