While there’s no Mulder or Scully, the first chapters of each of Last Stop’s three interweaving playable plotlines certainly give off an X-Files-like vibe. There’s Stranger Danger, a seemingly innocent story of three teenage friends who stumble upon someone that’s definitely not normal. And in Domestic Affairs, you play a woman at some kind of secretive agency who you learn, through your interactions with her coworkers, is also clearly not normal herself (nor, as you quickly find out, faithful to her husband either). Finally, in Paper Dolls, a middle-aged single dad and a young coworker meet a stranger who very abnormally switches their bodies. And the whole thing kicks off with a flashback to 1982 in London, where a couple of mischievous high-schoolers discover a portal buried deep in a subway that leads to…you guessed it, somewhere that’s almost certainly not normal. If you’ve missed Telltale’s adventure games in the years since the company’s implosion, you’re likely to feel right at home in Last Stop.
If you’ve played developer Variable State’s 2016 classic Virginia, the first major difference you’re likely to notice in Last Stop is that the new game not only has dialogue, it’s chock-full of it. For its part, the team is embracing the 180 in approach from the beloved Virginia: “We didn’t feel like we could do that again and become ‘the people that made the games with no talking’. “We felt like [the dialogue] was a challenge we wanted to take on.”
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Though I’ve only played the first chapter of each of Last Stop’s three stories, I like the way it’s structured. You can play each story in any order you want, but only one chapter at a time; no matter how intrigued you are by what’s on the other side of that subway access tunnel door, you can’t power through just one of the plots without playing the other two as well. You’re afforded some choice, but the story depends on slowly layering all three arcs on top of each other, and I’m curious to see what it all builds to.
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The Telltale comparison, by the way, also means that anyone who’s looking for more gameplay in their narrative adventure games might not cut Last Stop much slack. Your interactions here – at least in the first chapter of each story that I played – are limited to walking around the environment, the occasional minigame, and of plenty of dialogue choices (which, it should be noted, are on a much shorter timer than they are in the typical Telltale game, so decide quickly!). As such, and combined with its simplistic art style, Last Stop is likely to succeed or fail solely on the back of its story. My one minor annoyance with it thus far is that, while playing on PC with keyboard and mouse, getting characters across a scene requires you to zigzag them where they need to go with the WASD keys; you cannot point and click where you want them to walk, as you can in traditional adventure games. Last Stop seems to be encouraging you to use a gamepad.
That said, I’m still very intrigued thus far. As something of an interactive choose-your-own-adventure novel, Last Stop is very much my kind of game, and I’m eager to see how these stories thread together and where the mystery goes.