From its simple yet pleasing menu design to its bonkers and heartfelt story, ‘Last Stop’ brings a fresh feel to a video game market that has become over saturated with reboots, remakes and sequels.
What do I mean by this I hear you asking?
There have been plenty episodic games in the past. ‘Telltales The Walking Dead series’, ‘Alan Wake’ and the ‘Life is strange’ series to name a few. Yet while each of these games tried to make you feel like you were sitting back and investing in a new tv show, they never quite captured the authentic feel of a television series.
Now that’s not to say these games are bad. Far from it. ‘Telltales The Walking Dead’ is a masterpiece in storytelling along with ‘Life Is Strange’. And ‘Alan Wake’ has done more for the psychological genre than I’ve seen in most recent years. (Here’s still hoping for the sequel). ‘Last Stop’ on the other hand captures that magic of a BBC television show like ‘Doctor Who’ and incorporates it into the narrative and the pacing of the game.
The game is played out in episodes like the ones mentioned above. However, what makes it different is that it has 3 branching storylines that weave together by the end. By using this method of storytelling, it makes you feel like your tuning into a actual television series. You follow the separate stories of each character and by the end where it all intersects into one story, it pays off like the final of a season.
Now what is the story about?
Without giving too much away you follow the lives of 3 people. John, Meena and Donna.
John’s story follows a body swap situation with his neighbour as they try to figure out how to adapt to this new way of life while still trying to find a way to swap back. Meena’s story is more a one of espionage and deceit as she works for a top secret organisation while keeping the truth hidden from her family. Donna’s story follows that of a young teenager trying to find her place in the world while trying to hide an accidental kidnap.
So in brief each characters episodes have a unique and interesting story to follow. There are 6 chapters for each character with the final 7th chapter being the joint ‘Season Final’.
Gameplay wise ‘Last Stop’ plays very similar to that of ‘Telltale’ games, where you move your character to interact with story elements and choose dialogue that effects the story. While this could be interpreted as copying the style of gameplay from ‘Telltale’, ‘Variable State’ puts their own swing on things to keep it fresh. Walking segments (for example) aren’t your typical walking sim style feature. Going from your flat to school to drop off your daughter doesn’t mean you are stuck having to walk and follow the character all the way from A to B, when you approach an area that will take your character out of frame it immediately cuts to a different location that sometimes doesn’t follow on from the last location. It’s like an editing cut in a film or television piece. It keeps both the action and the narrative flowing. I’ve only ever seen this method done once before in the game ‘Virginia’, which is in fact ‘Variable States’ previous game before ‘Last Stop’. This is one of these key gameplay dynamics that hearkens back to what I was saying at the start that ‘Last Stop’ has that television episodic feel more prominent than any other game before it.
Like their previous game ‘Virginia’ ‘Variable State’ have opted for a very unique art style for ‘Last Stop’. It fits well with the games aesthetic and flows nicely with its narrative and story.
Presentation wise the graphics hold up well throughout the game without a lot of visual glitches.
While there are a few audio glitches here and there, the sound design flows throughout the entire game. Each bit of voice acting is both presented and acted well. The music on the other hand is what shines through the most in this game (apart from the story). Lyndon Holland (who previously worked on Virginia) brings an emotion to each piece of music that uplifts and emphasises the story and narrative. I’ve enjoyed his work on both Virginia and Last Stop and can’t wait to see where he goes to next.
Overall ‘Last Stop’ was a joy to play. I can’t stress how fun the story was to see played out, with a nice pay off at the end.
If this is the way that Variable State is going with their games, then I am along for the entire ride.
I can’t wait to see what’s next!
Last Stop receives a well earned 10 out of 10 from me.
Last Stop is available on Xbox One, Xbox series s/x, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Nintendo Switch and Microsoft windows.
Last Stop was reviewed on xBox which can be purchased here for £20.99
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