The Last Stop game sounds intriguing on paper and literally sounds great… with outstanding voice acting and a masterfully composed and performed score.
This makes the uneven narratives and unsatisfying ending all the more disappointing.
NOTE: This game is available on PC, Playstation, Switch, and Xbox
To quote the publisher: “[Last Stop is] a video game about secret lives, the ties that bind and how magic can be found in the mundane […] a single-player third-person adventure set in present day London.”
I actually recommend against watching the trailers unless you don’t mind being exposed to some spoilers.
This part’s straightforward. There just isn’t much “gameplay,” at least in the traditional sense. I’ll explain more in a moment, but in the meantime, have a listen to the marvelous score while you read; you can select amongst the 71 (!!!) music tracks by clicking the three-line icon on the top right of the embed below (but see Spoilers warning below!)
WARNING: Song titles may be spoilers; consider listening to the songs without looking at the titles 🙂
So what’s “game play” like? Well, you stir tea. Reassemble broken china. Play an orchestral piano (!) duet in one of the more actually delightful ‘mini-games.’ And you walk a lot! But mostly you just choose dialog options which — until the last 10 minutes of the game — generally don’t affect anything other than the immediate verbal responses. Again, until the end, “Choose Your Own Adventure” this ain’t.
I love games where you get to explore and experience at leisure, generally without worrying about ‘dying’ or even really getting stuck. But — unfortunately in Last Stop — the game is so ‘on the rails’ that there’s barely any free exploring to be enjoyed.
At first I was a bit annoyed by the lack of interactivity and near-total lack of agency… feeling that the performative actions required to move the game forward were both unnecessary and unhelpful. But then I oddly grew to appreciate the forced engagement. While the game’s three (eventually) intertwining stories could have almost certainly fit into a short TV mini-series, even the limited interactivity here still at least slightly increases the immersion and connection.
The voice acting in Last Stop is simply stellar! The spoken dialogue is clear (though subtitles are on by default — helpful for non-Brits given the British accents!), and the intonation is heartfelt but not campy. And while some might find the voice of the young kid (I think age 9?) to be grating in its effusiveness, I appreciated the cheerfully sassy and playful tone as a bit of comic relief :).
As for the music, oh wow! Especially the tracks associated with John, Jack & Molly theme… such a wonderful combination of joy & whimsy & regret and more. And the balance is perfect; the music never crowds out the dialogue; it’s noticeable and emotionally powerful without being obtrusive.
Oh, and the score is really brought to life by the Prague Philharmonic Orchestra; what a pleasant surprise in professionalism and depth for what I perceive to be a not-huge-budgeted indie production!
Didn’t listen via the YouTube embed above? Well, below you can listen to at least snippets on Spotify 🙂
The graphics and animation
I appreciate when game artists eschew the look-de-jour — photo-realism — and instead go with nearly any other style.
With Last Stop, the artists have indeed crafted characters and an environment that help keep one immersed and feeling connected, effectively telegraphing character emotions and a delightful sense of London (or at least London’ness). This pleasantly avoids the “uncanny valley” effect of photo-realism in other games that encourages scrutiny but lacks enough realism to achieve believability. Colors pop, shading is nicely done, and transitions often feel sweepingly cinematic.
The animation style is… a bit more of a mixed bag. For instance, when you’re controlling a character’s walking or running, direction transitions can be Sims-like jarring. And the animation choice to have characters walk in place if they hit a ‘wall’… well, that feels simply awkward and annoying :(. In other situations, though, particularly in cut-scenes, characters’ motions seem more fluid and realistic. And facial expressions and overall movements tend to be pleasantly expressive and overall fairly decent.
This is where things start to get a bit more… mixed :-(. All of the main characters are well-fleshed out… for better or worse, since one of them in particular is just an awful person (albeit with some backstory ‘justification’), and some others make choices of the sorts that teens are wont to do in horror films (e.g., “There’s a killer on the loose, there are strange noises in the basement, let me go investigate… alone and unarmed!”). But on the other hand, teens \_(ツ)_/¯ amiright?
The Jerkface and impulsive teenness aside, the characters (at least the main ones) are relatable and reasonably nuanced. As with many other reviewers, apparently, I particularly took to the trio of John, Jack, and Molly (and their friend Shaz), who collectively appear in about one-third the game’s running time. Despite some warts and such, they turn out to be pretty decent, likeable, and growing-over-time characters. Often rather funny, too! Other character arcs (or lack thereof) were, unfortunately, often less… rewarding.
One other positive note, though: there’s a darn good amount of diversity. This London has plenty of folks — both starring and supporting — of Indian and African descent, with a laudable array of skin tones. There’s also diversity in relationship types, with a sister of one of the characters in a loving relationship with another woman.
But the story, dear readers, is regrettably the part that has me hovering right between “lightly recommend” and “lightly dis-recommend” when it comes to this game, and I’ll start with the elephant in the room… the ending.
The last 5-10% of the game, frankly, maintains the visual and aural delights of the first 90% but is otherwise jarring, amateur’ish, and, well, kind of head-scratching. There are just too many times I was grumbling, “Oh, come on, that just doesn’t make any sense!” or “Really? All the possible creative options, and you chose such a safe, pedestrian one?” and also “WAIT! You never explained…” 🙁
But perhaps most painfully, of the six possible endings… three are bittersweet, and the other half are just downright depressing.
So after spending about 6 hours playing this game, I was left with disappointment, confusion, and quite a bit of sadness… not only about the endings themselves, but about the lost potential, about what this game could have been.
Okay, enough about how I felt about (and at) the end. What about the middle, the journey?
In a nutshell… one of the stories was delightful if a bit predictable, another was thematically uncomfortable and featuring a character whose motivations & origin were never explained, and a third just felt implausible in too many ways, particularly from the perspective of character motivations.
Towards the last 30 minutes or so of the story, the characters and — to a lesser extent — the plots become intertwined. But I found the environment and narrative turn to be deeply disappointing. At least loosely (if not thematically) it reminded me a bit of how I felt at the conclusion of the TV show Lost. “All that investment, all those intriguing threads… for this?! Really?!!”
Note that Last Stop is one of the games included free with an Xbox Game Pass membership. Reviews seem frankly fairly consistent — engaging journey, disappointing ending — so if you’re okay with that as your likely experience, you have little to lose but a few hours of your time.
For the rest of y’all, well, I suppose the decision is a bit tougher. If you’re up for an oft-nailbiting and roller-coaster journey and are less concerned about the destination, then for you this may be money and time well-spent :).
Score: 6 out of 10
- Great voice-acting
- Compelling, lovely soundtrack
- Exciting journey
- Pleasant graphics
- No “getting stuck” frustration
- Disappointing ending
- Especially uncomfortable theme in one story (may trigger some)
- Dialogue choices affect very little until the choices at the end
- Some character motivations remain unknown or quite questionable
Looking forward to your comments & questions below!
Re SPOILERS… I’m gonna go with allowing spoilers in the comments; just please put “SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS” at the top of your comment so people can skip it if they want.
And people reading the comments… do so with the understanding that you might encounter spoilers, so proceed cautiously below if that’s a concern!
Want to play Last Stop?
Visit the publisher’s site for more info
and links to buy the game on PC, console, etc.