Taking another peek behind THE LAST DOOR
When I last wrote about The Last Door, the episodic point-and-click adventure/horror game from The Game Kitchen, the series was in mid-swing, entering it's second "season" of episodes. Nearly a year later, I'm sad to say the series has ended, probably for good. Sad because the main reason the series ended was due to financial difficulties, and sad as well because the creators of this little indie project had weaved quite the little world and mythos, and there is fertile ground left behind for more stories.
The door, to deliberately pun, is still open, so future instalments are a remote possibility, however in my experience when something ends because the money isn't there, it's pretty hard to justify going back, especially in today's insanely paced, attention limited society. As it is, though, the ending to the series is still very, very, good, and the thirst I have to know more is thematically in keeping with the events of Season 2.
Season 2 of The Last Door picks up straight where Season 1 left off, placing you in the new role of Dr. John Wakefield, a Dr. Seward-esque psychiatrist who has been seeing Jeremiah Devitt, the protagonist of Season 1. Wakefield, having become embroiled in the strange happenings of Devitt's life, takes it upon himself to continue his own investigation, aided by his close friend, scholar Johann Kaufmann, who embodies the spirit of Abraham Van Helsing. The similarities of Wakefield and Kaufmann to Seward and Van Helsing are also found in how they react to the disturbing events around them. Wakefield is at first a reluctant believer, while Kaufmann wholly embraces the spirit of the void. Together they travel to several locations in the UK, on the heels of Devitt and members of the mysterious cult known as "The Playwright," including at least one of Devitt's ex classmates, Alexandre du Pré.
The Last Door Season 2 does what any good sequel does: builds on a solid game formula and plot, while adding to it in modest ways that enhance without alienating. The main draw here is "more," in every sense. The individual episodes of Season 2 now take place in multiple locations that you wander between via a map, in the spirit of adventure games like Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis. There are also far more NPC characters, with more detailed conversation trees than in Season 1. This has the effect of altering the tone a fair amount, from the previous iteration's isolated, tense horror to a more sombre, melancholy kind of horror. The game still plays the jump-scare "orchestral sting accompanied by creepy image" card - perhaps a few too many times - but things are now more dire in a world-affecting way.
It's a wise move story-wise. The progression from the small, intimate conflict of the first Season to a wider battle makes sense, and has the added value of raising the stakes. The only issue is that much of those stakes are left hidden until the very end. In the final act, you are presented with an abrupt moral choice that doesn't make much sense given what we've found out about the characters. Still, it's a decent slow-build to a climax that pays off in pretty exciting ways.
What really struck me with Season 2, however, are the visuals. The game retains its blocky, pixel-esque retro style, but finds ways to utilize them in new, dynamic images. There were several times that I was genuinely taken aback at how honestly beautiful the game could be.
The game also continues its excellent use of sound design. There are more than a few moments that take place in total darkness, and you're left relying on sound alone to understand what's happening. One especially gripping moment for me came in the exploration of a basement with only a box of matches. Each time my feeble light went out, I found myself frantically clicking the matchbox, and each time it took more scratching against the score pad, more fumbling, with seconds of darkness stretching into a tense eternity.
The bottom line is this: if you liked Season 1, you will love Season 2, and no nitpicking over endings will sully that. The Last Door leaves you wanting more, which is probably about as perfect an ending you can expect.