There always seemed to be something sinister happening onboard the Orient Express. No, this isn't the Agatha Christie's Orient Express, but there is a murder. DotEmu teamed up with Jordan Mechner, the creator of the Prince of Persia franchise, to bring this classic game to the iPhone and iPad. The adventure game is gripping from the moment it opens and unfolds the mystery in 20 hour worth of gameplay that spans from Paris to Istanbul. The iOS version of The Last Express isn't just a clumsy translation of the old game, it has excellent graphics, intriguing music and a non-linear story-telling that brings the old tale to live on a new platform.
If Jordan Mechner is anything, he's a good storyteller. From the moment the game starts, the tension begins building. A friend is in need of your help on the Orient Express, you're late to catch the train at the station and had to jump the train from a motorcycle to only find your friend dead. Murdered. Now everyone on the train thinks you're your dead friend, from the German arms dealer to the conductors, the suspicious musician, the Persian eunuch and the Russian grandfather and granddaughter... But you can't fool the Serbians your friend was helping. So it begins the long journey through Europe and discovery of an item that everyone wants from you and you have no idea who took it from your friend's sleeping compartment.
One very interesting aspect in this adventure game is that while it keeps the gameplay convention of a point and click genre, it adds quite a lot of RPG elements in a sense that you can hear NPCs talking and watch them go about their own business, which may or may not provide clues to solving the mystery. There are some points in the game where you have to make a choice and a correct one, or the game will end, but most of the gameplay is non-linear where you can choose to chat with people or explore the train or read newspaper or listen to NPC's conversation. This style of gameplay gives you a sense of real time where things happening on a timer and when the times comes, the events get triggered whether you take action or not. However the game gives player the freedom to choose their path of the game once you've made the correct choice and avoided your own death.
The Last Express also has two useful features that help you get solve the mystery. One is the inventory. Through your journey you'll come across different items you can store in your inventory including a live beetle, and when appropriate you can use the items in the inventory to help you through the journey. Another useful thing is the 3-layer hint. When you're stock in the story or you don't know what to do next, the hint will give you prompt for the next possible action. So check both often when you're plotting your next move.
Graphics & Sound
The art style in the original version of The Last Express translated well onto the iPad. The art nouveau graphics and animation fit the 1914 time when the events take place. The illustrations of characters, scenes and items fit the era and each character has their distinctive look. The animation runs smoothly in the game and menu, UI and control work flawlessly.
The music and sound FX match the art and graphics with high quality sound tracks and sound effects. The audio plays as big part in the story as the visual, providing hints, warnings and prompts that are equally critical. There is also the concert scene where the beautiful Sonata for Violin and Piano in A Major played. The best part of the audio pack is however the voice acting. Each character speaks in their own language or with accented English. When character speaks in anything other than the game's main languages (English, French, German, Italian and Spanish), the game displays subtitles, even when your character is eavesdropping.
Not all ports of old games translate well on a new mobile platform, but The Last Express came through exceptional well. The beautiful art illustration and excellent audio package make this adventure game unlike any other. The gameplay keeps the story compelling and the non-linear story line gives you more replay value as you take different actions the game offers different paths. The AI and animation run smoothly, and the game offers hint to help you along if you ever get stuck. If you're a fan of adventure genre, The Last Express is a journey worth taking.
Ratings (scale of 1 to 5):
Graphics: -5- Stylish, smooth animation, very nice illustration. Sound: -5- Well composed sound tracks, nice sound FX and excellent voice acting. Controls: -4- Simple touch control, works well. Gameplay: -4.5- Very intriguing story, non-linear gameplay, deep and varied story path.
Playing Hints and Tips:
- Check the hint often. - When there is the option, always look around you, you might find items that are useful. Always read the newspapers. It helps you understand what's going on. - Once you unlocked the characters you can read their bios.