Point-and-click adventure games don’t quite have the mass appeal they once did, but fans of the genre still have a lot to be happy about. Just a few short years ago LucasArts (RIP) released a slick special edition version of The Secret of Monkey Island, widely considered one of the best games the genre has to offer. Telltale Games, a developer that almost exclusively creates point and click style adventure games, has become a household name. Tim Schafer’s company, Double Fine, is deep into the creation of their crowdfunded point-and-click Broken Age. Smaller developers have jumped aboard the modestly-sized adventure game bandwagon, including The Game Kitchen, developer of the crowdfunded web browser-based horror game The Last Door.
The ongoing development of this game is unique, even when compared to other crowdfunded point-and-clicks. The episodic adventure began with a Kickstarter campaign that raised about $7,400 from 285 backers. This funded the first episode of the game which can be enjoyed free of charge on the game’s official website. The second episode then began its crowdfunding initiative, this time straight from the game’s web page as opposed to somewhere like Kickstarter or Indiegogo. Once an episode is fully funded, developed, and becomes playable, the episode before it transitions to free to play. Assuming this intriguing model continues to find success for The Game Kitchen, the process will repeat until at least four episodes complete development.
But enough talk of funding and development, what about the game itself? We start with a simple and very disturbing prologue that instantly draws you in and forces you to wonder what in the hell is going on. Without ruining too much, I will say that things begin masterfully. I knew immediately that The Last Door would be a cut above the average web browser-based game and closer to the type of storytelling found in horror adventures like Amnesia: The Dark Descent. The unnerving tone is heightened by an impressive fully orchestrated soundtrack, something I did not expect from such a low budget title. Like Amnesia, the strange story unfolds slowly by exploring and finding letters and clues left in the mysterious house you find yourself in.
The mechanics of the game don’t break any new ground for the genre, but they do their job. Just as you might expect, the player uses the mouse to click around and explore the game’s surroundings. When the cursor hovers over something of interest, it turns into a magnifying glass. Whenever an item can be picked up for use later, the cursor turns into a hand. To use these items, simply click on the one from the inventory you want to use, and then click on the part of the game world you wish to use it on. Again, no surprises here, not that everything in the game needs to surprise its audience. One point of minor annoyance, though, is that whenever an item can be picked up you must first examine it (magnifying glass), and then pick it up (hand). When I first began playing I quickly got stuck because I had examined everything I could find, but didn’t know that I could click certain items again to pick them up. Since there doesn’t appear to be a reason to not nab anything you can, examining and picking up collectable items could be completed in one click, but they aren’t. Again, a very minor problem, but it did cause some headaches for me early on.
The game sports a low-res style that some will find endearing and others off-putting. Personally, I enjoy the sharp contrast of the spooky tone, haunting music, and flat, blurry, blocky visuals. It feels endearingly nostalgic while not feeling overly retro. I imagine the simple look of the game was a necessary choice given the limited budget and small number of developers, but the game does a wonderful job of flourishing within the confines of the style. At first glance things seem primitive, but after spending just a few minutes with the game it becomes apparent that the game’s sensibilities are much more modern than one might expect. I suppose the look of the game might detract from the creepiness for some, but it didn’t for me. I enjoyed more than my fair share of genuinely chilling moments while playing through the released episodes.
In some ways, the appeal of The Last Door is incredibly niche. After all, it’s an old school style point-and-click adventure horror game that you play in a web browser. However, if you hear that string of descriptive words and aren’t immediately turned off, I highly recommend giving it a shot. It’s a brilliantly-crafted, disturbing mystery that deserves to be experienced. The first chapter is free to play, so why not try it out? You won’t regret it.
Chapters one and two of The Last Door are available from the game’s official website, and chapter three is currently in development. That’s something you can help along, if you’re interested in that kind of thing.
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