It’s that time of year when scary games get all kinds of discounts and legions of gamers sit up at night in darkened rooms with their headphones on, ready to be scared out of their minds, and you know how much I love point-and-click adventure games with a retro pixel art style, especially when they’re inspired by the works of Poe and Lovecraft. This one is from The Game Kitchen and Phoenix Online Studios (who are also responsible for Cognition: An Erica Reed Thriller).
In The Last Door you play as Jeremiah Devitt, who receives a mysterious letter from his friend Anthony Beechworth. Concerned for the well-being of his friend, Jeremiah heads to his house to investigate, and what unfolds is a tale of murder and madness as his quest for answers takes him to his old boarding school off the coast of Scotland, to the streets of London, and even his own nightmares.
Gameplay is very simple. You look around with your lens. If the cursor changes to a hand, you can interact with that object, and you can use items you’ve collected on other items or on objects in the environment by simply clicking on one and then the other (no need to click and drag). It’s nice to go back to adventure games with such simple mechanics after playing something like Gemini Rue.
You might think that a game with a goofy pixelated art style couldn’t possibly be scary, and while it’s true that the human figures in particular seem a little silly, the game absolutely oozes atmosphere and knows when and where to shift from mournful piano and violin music to eerie silence. Although, if you like jump scares, this game loves, absolutely loves, its scare chords.
As I always say when reviewing point-and-clicks, a point-and-click lives or dies by its puzzles, and I’m happy to report that, for the most part, the puzzles (which are almost entirely inventory-based) are fairly intuitive. In the last chapter in particular, the solutions are a bit….strange….but when compared to the kind of games where a wad of gum and a plastic bottle makes an impromptu floatation device, The Last Door‘s puzzles aren’t that bad.
The Last Door is an odd game in that while there are characters and their actions drive the plot, the focus seems to be on the atmosphere and just tossing Devitt into creepy situation after creepy situation. The malevolent force at the center of the tale definitely has a presence, I would say. Although, maybe that’s just because I’ve played a lot of horror games, a few of them Lovecraftian, and the “obviously unhinged guy locking himself away” is an extremely common trope that it’s unremarkable. In any case, I find myself wanting to know what the hell is going on with these characters, but I don’t really empathize with them.
The game also doesn’t shy away from some really dark subject matter. It opens with a suicide and from there delves into murder, madness, animal cruelty, neglect, necrophilia, and being buried alive. Even when the game isn’t bombarding you with creepy journal entries it’s unsettling, and this is, in my opinion, what makes it such a great game, that feeling of dread, that sense that there’s something terrifying waiting for you around the corner. It helps that the sound effects are genuinely unnerving (in my case, the sound of a man laughing just made me not want to open a door, at all).
If I had one particular problem with The Last Door, it’s that I felt it ended way too abruptly. The episodes are short (and the bonus episodes are probably less than a minute long each) and I feel like much of this game was build-up for an as-yet-unreleased season two. so if you think this might be something you’d enjoy, just be aware of that. That doesn’t mean it’s not worth your time and money, I just felt like the plot threads were purposefully left dangling when they didn’t have to be.
If you’re a fan of H.P. Lovecraft or you just like atmospheric horror games, The Last Door will keep you up at night. The game is free to play from the official site (it used to be just the first three episodes but now I think the whole thing might be free) although you can also buy it off Steam and GOG, and if any of you happen to have dyslexia, the game offers the option to switch to a dyslexia-friendly font in the options menu (not sure if this is true for the website version but it is in the version I bought from GOG.com).