You should recall that it wasn’t all that long ago that we set foot into the interactive teaser for The Last Door, and how wonderfully atmospheric that was, eh? Well, I’m bringing the game up again because now the first Chapter has been released, and you can gain access for a tiny fee. Or you can wait until May when it’s released for free, but what else are you going to buy with that one Euro / 89p / $1.34 – buy a crappy lunch with it? For that price, it’s worth the gamble, and if you’re felling particularly generous, then you can even donate more and receive the soundtrack, pre-order the other chapters or get yourself in the hall of fame.
“In Pilot Chapter, our lead character receives a mysterious letter and is compelled to embark on a journey in search of his childhood friend. “
So I’ve headed into this episodic browser horror game (oh, the modern age) and fumbled about for a good while – may have even been an hour, actually. Being set in 1891, I’m playing a rather prim Vicotorian gentleman who gets a mysterious letter from an old pal of his, and acting on whim, he goes to his mansion to find out what’s up with him and why he’s suddenly got in contact after all these years. But that’s not how the game opens. You start off as said friend as he collects rope, ties it to the rafters of his attic and hangs himself. It’s quite a cheerful beginning to the game, and sets the tone that the game was set to follow. That being quite well-spoken people dying around a stately home and writing letters about weird happenings that have clearly driven them slightly insane. Yay!
No, really, I love this stuff. Being the clever dick that I am, I decided to not head in through the front door to start off with, because everyone knows if you’re in a horror game, you don’t just head in the most obvious direction – that only leads to death. But around the side of the house I saw many crows gathered around a pool of blood pecking at something. Turns out crows play a fairly big part as an ominous symbol for death throughout this pilot chapter. Best to turn around and head on in through the front door, take our coats off and look around this eerie oak mansion then. Turns out that sometimes you do have to go through the front door.
Inside, it doesn’t take long before you’re reading messages written by loons, cadavers and and a lantern so you can head through the darker areas. Throughout your wanderings you’ll be accompanied by a beautiful score supplied by someone who’s clearly a very talented pianist. The music really helps to up the atmosphere, both tension and curiosity, as well as seeming pretty authentic alongside the era the game is set in, and the location too. The sounds overall are probably The Last Door’s strongest suit, especially when the game blacks out and you hear the sound of an action being performed rather than seeing it – cheap way to avoid animations, but it’s effective. Due to the big blocky pixel art, there’s plenty of room for your mind to flesh out the gaps too. So while you can’t see the terror-stricken face of a dead body, you can imagine it, and I always find that to be much more horrifying.
While there’s decent flow at the very beginning of the chapter, it gradually descends into the usual trappings of point-and-click adventures, which is a little bit of a shame. The travelling from one side of the mansion to the other to get keys and other ways of unlocking doors and accessing areas isn’t too much of a pain to start off with – at least it’s fairly obvious what items in your inventory match up with. It’s when you start getting solutions to progression with no clue as to what to do. For instance, I had a full inventory bar one item, no idea what to do with any of it, and I had traipsed over this mansion in and out many times. Nothing. Eventually, I found the solution. I had to put the dying crow into a bowl, and then hitch the window above said bowl up with a wooden crucifix. I only did this as a completely last resort, and ideally, the game should give you some direction towards an odd action like this. How are you supposed to know to do that?! Now I’m stuck on the bit after that with a cat miaowing from behind a wall. Once again, I’m not sure what to do, and there seems to be no clues that I’ve picked up on. I’ll get back to it later, of course, but too many adventure games end up resorting to these almost nonsensical solutions to puzzles that only mar the experience. With that said, everything else about The Last Door is great, and there’s no reason other than hating these types of games for not playing it. My cat it now staring at my monitor due to this shrieking miaow emitting from my speakers…