The Last Door review

The Good:

Retro pixel art and sound work great together to create a spooky Victorian era atmosphere and plenty of chills; interesting supernatural horror story; good variety of locations to explore.

The Bad:

Not much difficulty or variety in puzzles; characters are forgettable.

Our Verdict:

The Last Door is a great retro atmospheric horror game that will make you want to keep opening up its mysteries until you reach the end.

There seem to be two approaches to horror, whether in movies or video games. The first relies on cheap scares – something popping out to frighten, a short but intense start that goes away as fast as it came. The second is slower, building up tension with spooky atmosphere in such a way that it feels anything could happen at any time. The second type captures the imagination more, and The Last Door is a brilliant example. A Lovecraft-inspired horror taking place in Victorian England, the game uses extremely low-res graphics and wonderful sound direction to create an unsettling atmosphere that is well worth seeing through to the end.

In late December 2012, The Last Door was funded on Kickstarter, and the first episode was released the following March, with three more to follow. The Game Kitchen, the small development team from Spain behind its creation, released each previous episode for free as soon as a newer episode was launched. Each new episode could be unlocked by a donation of any size, creating a successful ongoing financial model that allowed them to complete the series. Now as the team looks ahead to making a second season, the first four episodes have been compiled and released by Phoenix Online as a full commercial set.

Players take the role of Jeremiah Devitt, a gentleman from London in 1891. His childhood friend, Anthony Beechworth, sends him a mysterious letter containing only the motto of the secret group they formed at boarding school when they were children. Devitt initially goes to the Beechworth Manor to investigate, but his questions eventually lead him from Sussex to the coast of Scotland and onto the streets of London. Plenty of people populate the different episodes, some of them recurring characters such as Jeremiah’s therapist, Doctor Wakefield. There is also Father Ernest, who locks himself away and refuses to see anyone, a nun who has lost her faith, and an unnamed gypsy woman who will read your fortune. These characters all fit well into the time period, from their dress to the way they speak, yet none are very memorable. Even the main character doesn’t seem to care much about most of them. What little is revealed about Devitt makes him a sympathetic lead, but his character remains so much a mystery that it is hard to feel particularly attached to him. 

The atmosphere is very unsettling, thanks to its blend of story, graphics, and sound effects. The story contains very dark elements, from murder to suicide, neglect, and self-flagellation, setting the tone for the series from the very first scene. There are a few problems with dialogue syntax, but it doesn’t detract from the experience too much. One scenario forces players to make a hard decision, but the outcome is the same either way, which takes away the momentary feeling of influence. I won’t go into too many details about the plot, since uncovering the mystery about what’s going on is a big part of the game, but its suspenseful horror is reminiscent of the charm of Lovecraft stories. Devitt stumbles upon a rash of killings that intertwine with his own backstory, and all paths seem to lead to a supernatural entity just beyond the veil. From a murderer that intends to make Devitt the next victim to crows suddenly appearing and never taking their beady little eyes off you, The Last Door will definitely keep you on the edge of your seat. Episode 4 ends on a cliffhanger, paving the way for the next season.

The graphics are distinctly retro, and the blocky textures and low resolution will probably turn off gamers who demand only the newest graphic technology. However, the pixel art works well for this type of game. As with Lovecraft, this game is all about suggestion, not showing what frightens us but rather letting hints stimulate the imagination. In one of the tensest scenes of the game, the screen fades to black and only sounds are heard, and what our fears conjure up is just as scary as if we were seeing it, if not more so. Even the opening credits are nicely atmospheric, with crows watching from atop rooftops and gravestones. In dark places Devitt must use a lantern, and only being able to see within the lantern’s glow radius makes the shadows that much more disturbing. Most screens are static, besides Devitt and any other characters moving about. The occasional animation is used to great effect, however. The sudden swinging of the grandfather clock pendulum out of the corner of your eye, for example, ratchets up the fear factor.

Even with such old-school graphics, there are a lot of details included, and the visuals are just crisp enough to differentiate between objects. Vines crawl up the side of a house, and the wallpaper is faded where a rosary hung. Fog envelops the London streets, and snow drifts by in the country. Sometimes the perspective peers in through windows at the protagonist, almost like the player is a creature hiding in the shadows, and it makes you wonder what else is looking at Devitt like you are.

The sound really complements the art design, from the stirring music to the authentic effects. The musical score includes a moody violin to accompany the opening credits, and a suspenseful piano piece when exploring an abandoned house. But what really sticks out is the way the game strategically uses silence. When going into the basement, the sudden lack of music is deeply unsettling. The sound of water dripping is eerie in the darkness, and a small scuttling noise makes you wonder if you are truly alone. The sound effects really shine, including the footfall difference between sand, grass, and pavement. Floorboards creak when Devitt moves across a room, and birds chirp in the distance. During scary scenes, you hear a heartbeat begin to race, along with heavy breathing. (If you can hear them over your own.)

In terms of interface, The Last Door is a fairly typical third-person point-and-click adventure. A smart cursor shows hotspots that can be looked at, picked up or interacted with. It also shows exits from the current screen; double-clicking one instantly moves you to the next. The inventory is shown at the bottom of the screen where you can combine items occasionally, and there is a magnifying glass that gives descriptions of each item you’ve acquired. There are lots of doors in the game, as the title suggests, and doors stay open to signify unlocked areas. There is no manual saving as you progress, but the game is automatically saved when you quit. At the beginning of each chapter are postcard snaps summarizing what happened in the last episode.

The puzzles are mostly all inventory-based, with the exception of one clock puzzle. All of the puzzles make intuitive sense, but none are very memorable or difficult. The most challenging part is finding the items you need, since hotspots can be hard to distinguish from their low-res backgrounds. Handily, the smart cursor to pick up items is large and will come up if you’re in even the general vicinity of the object.

If you’re not sure whether you want to buy The Last Door Collector’s Edition, you can always try the original releases for free to see if you like it. Each chapter should last a nice little chunk of time, up to five hours each. This release includes all four episodes of the first season, along with achievements and extra scenes like deleted scenes from movies. For those who like slow-burning horrors and are up for a different kind of experience, give The Last Door a try. It’s a refreshing spin on horror that shines through its retro graphics and sound, along with an interesting supernatural plot to tie it all together, earning this game an oak solid recommendation.
 



Editor's Note: The review originally indicated that there was no inventory combination possible, and has since been corrected.



AD The Last Door: Season One can be purchased at:
Adventure Gamers StoreGOG   • Amazon  

Game Info

The Last Door: Season One

Platform:
Android, iPad, iPhone/iPod Touch, Mac, PC, Linux

Genre:
Horror

Developer:
The Game Kitchen


Game Page »

Digital May 20 2014 Phoenix Online Studios

Where To Buy

The Last Door: Collector’s Edition

DRM-Free at Adventure Gamers Store

€9.99

Or get it from: GOG   Amazon  

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Comments

AlbertX
Jul 28, 2014

Well I Don’t Know to me this is getting ridiculous, I understand the retro feel and everything, but I feel like they are abusing the the retro feel.

Next game will be what? Pong graphics?

I appreciate every kind of style, but sometimes it feel to me like an easy way out of making decent graphics.

El Manny El Manny
Jul 28, 2014

I don´t see any problem with the graphics, it looks nice.  I have played the game and it was ok, but i wouldn´t give it 4 stars, maybe 3.

Lambonius Lambonius
Jul 28, 2014

That all depends on how you define “decent graphics.”  If your standard is simply based on sharpness of resolution, then yeah, I guess they suck pretty hard.  In terms of color, style, art direction, etc, they are pretty darn atmospheric and beautiful, in my opinion.

crabapple crabapple
Jul 28, 2014

I really enjoyed this game. I was immediately drawn to the intense colors in the screenshots. They manage to convey an ominous mood for a horror story without being limited tol shades of gray and black. Details are obscured by the pixellation, and not by being too dark to see.

The art style is not typical of games from any time period. The resolution is actually lower than in the early Sierra AGI games—but the color depth is much greater. I’ll be interested to see what happens in Season Two.

Kelop Kelop
Jul 28, 2014

I agree with AlbertX.

Why not a retro style adventure looking like Broken Sword or Monkey Island 3? In other words I would prefer an adventure looking like those from the second half of 1990s rather than the first half.

Gurok
Jul 29, 2014

The problem with this “retro” style is that it has no authenticity. The game’s resolution is arbitrary and it mixes pixel sizes throughout. Nothing at similar ultra-low resolutions ever had this sort of colour depth. Just which era of computing is it supposed to be a callback to? It makes the whole game feel cheap and/or the developers seem bombastic. Did they think that the majority of low-res games settling on 320x200 was just a coincidence? Are they honestly that conceited? Not to mention the resolution is so prohibitively low that there are problems identifying items in the game. Maybe it would have been better presented as a text adventure or with basic line art.

Zifnab Zifnab
Jul 29, 2014

Whatever your taste, you must agree that it’s good that we’ve finally stopped relating higher definition game visuals with “better”. As painters discovered in the 19th century, higher detail does not always reveal better composition. For a long time digital artists were constrained to use only the highest technology visuals, but are now free to reject them if they feel they do not suit the game.

Nor Treblig
Jul 29, 2014

@AlbertX: When I first saw it I also thought it’s much too blocky. But of course this doesn’t necessarily make a bad game, I will give it a try.

@Kelop: Because hand drawn graphics and animations cost a fortune! The budget for Monkey Island 3 was huge.

Lambonius Lambonius
Jul 29, 2014

I long for the day when visible pixels aren’t considered a throwback to anything, but are just recognized as another artistic tool to fit the developer’s particular intentions.

Peter254 Peter254
Jul 29, 2014

It…was a good game. I enjoyed it. The graphics are perfectly functional. A solid four stars. Reminds me of the Black Mirror series; obviously both games are cut from the same cloth.

incometrader
Jul 29, 2014

I agree with AlbertX, I’m tired of this retro graphics garbage

Fine, you didn’t have the money or want to put the effort into decent graphics so you released this instead but don’t sugar coat it

So many companies are jumping on this bandwagon because it’s cheap and easy yet the reviewer will laughingly praise it…

I refuse to pay up or even spend the time for any of these games

Lambonius Lambonius
Jul 29, 2014

Can anyone point me to ANY adventure game with “cutting edge” 2014 graphics?  Honest question.

Lambonius Lambonius
Jul 29, 2014

I can’t believe we’re still having this “discussion” in 2014.  It was more than a century ago when the art world accepted the fact that the quality of a painting is not measured by the size and visibility of the brush-strokes.  This is the exact same thing, only in the video game age.

chucklas
Jul 29, 2014

What I like about what they did in the game is that they left the details to the players imagination.  The first scene in the game may be one of the most memorable scenes in any game I have ever played.  It was that good. 

Also, I am no artist, but I do know that to make something look believable in low res is extremely difficult and is truly an amazing accomplishment.

Also, you don’t have to pay to play the game.  It is available free on their website.  If you want it on steam, pay the money.  Try it our for yourself before you write it off due to the graphics.  The game may just surprise you and pull you in.

Jackal Jackal
Jul 29, 2014

Actually, let’s get back to (or get started) discussing The Last Door instead of derailing these comments from the get-go with anti-retro agendas.

It’s a ridiculous argument anyway. Not only is pixel art a perfectly legitimate form of artistic expression, if developers are choosing it because of budget or artistic limitations, where’s the logic in griping about it? Should they NOT make a game that’s really well designed and fun to play at all because some people don’t like the look of it? Because when you follow these complaints to their logical conclusion, that’s the only end result.

Claiming that using pixel art is a lack of effort is completely ignorant. Every developer I’ve ever spoken to wants to make the best game they possibly can, and they work way harder at it than most gamers will ever know. Doesn’t mean you have to like the result, but at least respect the effort.

By all means, debate these things all you want on the forums if it means that much to you. But time to let this thread be about The Last Door.

Lambonius Lambonius
Jul 29, 2014

Thank you, Jackal.  Well said.

This is the kind of game that reminds me why I fell in love with adventure games in the first place.  It’s just so damn atmospheric.  The sound design is just superb.  Combined with the graphics that leave details to the imagination, it seems a very fitting way to put a Lovecraft-inspired story into adventure game form.

AlbertX
Jul 29, 2014

Is not about anti retro agenda, I have no problem with that, but the main problem to me is that is used as a gimmick, as a way to appeal to the nostalgic side.

Years ago, many adventures game kept coming, and all of them tried to push the graphics in a good way, not talking about 3D or hyper real stuff.

I never said is not a good game, but in this case in particular they lost a possible buyer based sorely on this.

But I won’t comment on the subject anymore, but I think this is just a cheap gimmick to me.

Kelop Kelop
Jul 29, 2014

Ultimately people will vote for or against this game with their money. The fact that this game already received its funding through Kickstarter suggests that there is a large enough group that likes it. As of now I haven’t played this game so I cannot speak for how good it is.

What I wanted to do with my post is to give a feedback to game authors (The Game Kitchen as well as others that are reading this) that my personal preference of adventure graphics is less pixelated like that from later 1990s. I think that it’s a valuable information for game developers to know what their potential audience wants.

Lambonius Lambonius
Jul 29, 2014

You guys are aware that a graphical style that doesn’t explicitly spell out the details and leaves aspects to the players imagination is EXACTLY in keeping with the way H. P. Lovecraft wrote about his “unspeakable horrors,” right?  It’s a perfect stylistic choice that absolutely fits the material here.

Zifnab Zifnab
Jul 30, 2014

Kelop - I don’t want game developers to tailor their games to their audience. That would mean a much less diverse range of adventure games to choose from. Fine, you prefer Curse of Monkey Island graphics, but can you honestly imagine COMI graphics would suit a dark and Lovecraftian story like this? That would be quite ridiculous.

I dislike cel-shaded graphics but I accept the new Telltale games wholeheartedly - why? Because they suit the style the developers are going for. I would not ask Telltale to change their style simply because I prefer a different style of graphics. Instead, I just don’t play them. You should do the same with The Last Door.

Lambonius Lambonius
Jul 30, 2014

A few inaccurate points in this review, unfortunately:

For one, you CAN combine inventory items, and need to do so at several points in order to solve puzzles.  Why the reviewer said you couldn’t is a mystery to me as it happens not just once, but several times throughout the game, usually at least 2 or 3 times per chapter.

Secondly, it’s virtually impossible to miss objects, as there are a limited number of hotspots per screen and there is a smart cursor—every interactive object on a screen can usually be examined and or taken with just a few seconds of moving the mouse across the screen.  Some objects need to be examined before they can be taken, but that happens completely organically, as you’ll be clicking each of the limited hotspots anyway, and the cursor will change, letting you know immediately which items can and can’t be picked up.

The most glaring flaw that I’ve seen is that all the dialog was clearly written by someone for whom English is not a first language.  I found that fairly distracting, as strange word usage comes up fairly frequently.  It’s not enough to significantly detract from the game, but it’s definitely noticeable, and is a real shame, since it’s the one flaw in the otherwise perfect execution and production values.

The atmosphere, sound design, and excellent art style more than makes up for it though, and the game is genuinely creepy pretty much throughout.  It also makes effective use of jump scares—not overdone, but just right, to heighten certain moments of tension.

All in all, a great game. 

**This review could use an edit to correct the inaccuracies about item combination though.

Gabe Gabe
Jul 30, 2014

This game is heavy, heck i dont even remember seen a retro style that old before,not 90’s retro for sure but early 80’s most likely,devs sayin’try this for size kinda experience.

Jackal Jackal
Jul 30, 2014

I’ve corrected the inventory combination issue. Hotspot hunting is simply a difference in experience, not an inaccuracy.

A final reminder to people that this is a discussion about The Last Door, not a forum thread about retro-styled graphics. Opinions on the latter contribute absolutely nothing to the discussion at hand. No one wants to wade through post after off-topic post to find more views on the game itself.

slash_burns slash_burns
Aug 1, 2014

I love this game, the episodes are perfect to relax for an hour or so after work; I looked forward to getting home, getting in my sleeping bag with the lights off, hot chocolate, and headphones.
I hope the developers make many more adventure games.

Orange Brat
Aug 2, 2014

The Last Door is one of the best games I’ve ever played, and I’ve played thousands of them in 35 years of experience. It looks great and sounds even better. Short but sweet.

Lambonius Lambonius
Aug 6, 2014

It’s also worth noting that this game is a great “date” game.  My wife and I spent a few nights playing through it—the puzzles are fun and simple enough to give non-adventure-gamers some nice “Ah hah!” moments.  I thought a few of them could have been telegraphed a little better—it’s a bit too easy to stumble into a solution because of the small amount of items you carry at any given time, but overall, great stuff.  The atmosphere is perfect for night-time on the couch with the lights off.  If you have the means to connect your computer to your TV, it looks great on a bigger screen.  We love horror movies, and this game’s creepy vibe and atmosphere definitely scratched that itch.

Stella Artois
Sep 22, 2014

Seriously?  I can’t see a d@mn thing in this game - Just a bunch of dark, smudgy pixel blocks (this is on a 20” HD graphics i7).

With a little more effort (enhanced graphics), this could have been a really good game.  Maybe they’ll upgrade in some future “anniversary edition”.

Lambonius Lambonius
Sep 23, 2014

Did you neglect to look at any of the screenshots for the game prior to purchasing it?  I don’t get it.  What were you expecting?  The graphics are the one part of the game you can actually see and decide on ahead of time.  If they aren’t for you, why bother?

Stella Artois
Sep 23, 2014

Silly me, Lambonius - I was expecting to be able to see what’s on my screen, not use a brail guide to play the game.  Looking at the screenshots is NOT quite the same as wandering around in a pitch dark room - clicking aimlessly. Thanks for asking.