The existence of sequels are a fun sort of perspective game. Two years ago, I reviewed The Last Door – Collector’s Edition: a stylistic, low-res, Lovecraft-inspired adventure game. One set in Victorian England, no less! The first season played well with atmosphere and confined spaces, trapping players in with all the moody smog of the supernatural in each episode. The Last Door: Season 2 – Collector’s Edition picks up where the first season left off; a point which seemed earth-shattering at the time. Actual shatteredness of earth may not immediately be what it first seemed, though, because The Last Door: Season 2 – Collector’s Edition drags its feet on its way to the apocalypse.
The Last Door‘s second season opens with a brief recap of the game’s first act, which left protagonist Devitt in an uncertain and precarious situation as the door to the great lovecraftian feathered menace of The Bird was pulled forcefully ajar. In season 2, players leave Devitt in whatever his situation may be stuck, and instead take on the role of John Wakefield, Devitt’s former psychiatrist. Wakefield is not an unfamiliar face, as he and a friend were shown in moments of their search in-between episodes throughout season 1, but learning that he would be taking the lead was a bit of a jarring change.
Also new to season 2 is a change to the scale of its world. In season 1, each episode was isolated to an area, which began to feel like a puzzle in itself. Here, players are given a map of a general area, which suffers greatly from the game’s low-res style, and ends up looking like a rotten vegetable. Each episode spans multiple locations in an area, a decision that does a lot to change the puzzle design across everything; and not, very often, for the better.
One of the reasons the first season of The Last Door was as impressive as it was has a lot to do with that very management of space. By restraining each episode to a single location – a house, a mental institution, a foggy London suburb – the folks at the Game Kitchen created a series of episodic locations that maximized the space they had. Here, it would seem that the developers felt less push to do as much with each area as possible, and some environments suffer as a result. Sometimes this suffering comes through level design, but at other times it just leads to areas that are strangely boring.
The puzzles themselves also suffer from the change in world structure, in a fashion. By giving players so much space to explore in each episode, the game begins to feel like a scavenger hunt more than anything built of intelligent design. Some puzzles have very clear resolutions, but others just feel asinine and, frankly, random. Outside of these gripes, the game is mechanically a point-and-click adventure game which, as with a saddening number of the things, doesn’t really try anything new on a mechanical level.
The Last Door: Season 2 – Collector’s Edition has one main saving grace, as even its weakest moments did back in season 1; presentation. Season 2 is every bit as effective as what came before it at creating an unsettling atmosphere in unusual and surprising ways. It’s one thing to toss around a bunch of crows (which the game also does regularly of course), but it’s another thing entirely to create unease through a strange play put on by people in animal masks being suddenly put on in the middle of an opium den. The game also continues the trend of superb episode openings, giving players a glimpse of what is to come and creating a sense of dread akin to a dagger being slowly driven into ones stomach, an inch deeper every episode. The soundtrack is full of simple, haunting melodies.
Visuals work in favor of the game’s atmosphere, but also hinder it. The Last Door was intentionally made with extremely low-res pixel art. In theory, this works really well for a horror game; sometimes the scariest things are the things that are visually obscure, that can’t quite be accurately perceived. At the same time, though, the game’s style begins to grate on the eyes after a while. Sometimes It’s hard to tell what objects are meant to be. In addition, it actually seems like a little less attention to detail has gone into some backgrounds and interior designs this season; not constantly, but enough to be notable and disappointing.
Season 2 also suffers from pacing issues, but actually manages to find steadier footing by its end than the first season did when it came to its final episode. The momentum behaves a little awkwardly, but the game eventually reaches a peak that feels very much like the end of the first season should have. There are questions left unanswered, but it doesn’t particularly seem as though answers are what players are meant to be focusing on.
The one big downside of the plot end of things is the main character. In season 1, players took on the role of a character who had been directly involved with people who were connected to The Bird, and who were trying to screw around with all the old god-type stuff one should probably not be screwing around with. His direct connection to what was slowly unfolding in the world around him made him a compelling protagonist, even when things got rough with the season’s finale. Devitt’s therapist fails to be as interesting, simply because it feels as though he is trying to force his way into the plot. His obsession with finding his former patient feels forced for a good portion of the game, making it all the more difficult to care about Wakefield as a character. Devitt was a character who was remembering and discovering more about the truth as he went along, while Wakefield just sort of feels like…some guy. Some Victorian guy.
The birds have come home to roost. If there’s one last thing I can say about The Last Door, it’s that it’s done; at least, I think it is. It’s just sad that it ends with so much less of the charm that made it’s first season stand out so well from the flock.
Available on: PC (Reviewed) ; Publisher: Phoenix Online Interactive ; Developer: The Game Kitchen ; Release Date: March 29, 2016; ESRB: N/A; MSRP: $9.99
Full disclosure: This review is based on a review copy of The Last Door: Season 2 – Collector’s Edition, provided by the game’s publisher, Phoenix Online Interactive.