As the AAA horror game continues its suicide-march into irrelevance, Kickstarted episodic horror The Last Door looks to join the heady roster of quality, indie psychological horrors that have taken its place. Lone Survivor, Home, Year Walk and Amnesia have breathed life into the genre, does The Game Kitchen’s title have what it takes to join the gang?
Limitations have driven the renaissance in horror games – a resurgence that’s occured almost exclusively within the indie space. The Last Door is the latest in a line of low-fi scarers, sharing a stable with Lone Survivor, Year Walk and Home to name a few. And like those games, it owes its success as a psychological horror to its humble beginnings.
An adventure game in the mould of the classics, The Last Door opens dramatically before introducing the player to Jeremiah Devitt. The story follows Devitt as he unravels the cirumstances surrounding the death of his old-friend Anthony Beechworth. You guide Beechworth through his suicide as a precursor to the main event, with his death acting as the starting gun for the mystery wagon’s embarkment down Whatthefuckisgoingonherethen Avenue.
The opening episode – the stronger of the two – takes place exclusively in Beechworth’s stately-home-cum-graveyard (a seemly location: eldritch, isolated geographically and without tennants) while the second transports Devitt to the remote boarding school the two attended as teenagers (a slightly more problematic setting owing to the inclusion of other, breathing characters). Episode are mocked up like a TV show, with dramatic preludes followed by a story that explains the earlier events. It’s very effective.
The guts of the game have you wandering back and forth between rooms, tinkering with Devitt’s inventory, solving paradigatic adventure game puzzles and taking onboard Devitt’s feelings. Much of the horror is wrought through the familiar and near-toneless chronicling of grizzly events, as seen in Resident Evil and so many other classics, feeding the enduring sense of unease that only swells as Devitt himself begins a descent into madness. Eye-catching pixel art does a first-rate job of allowing your imagination freedom to roam, while a smart soundtrack darts between mournful and imposing to good effect. Certainly, the overarching tone is the game’s greatest strength and at its best the atmosphere evokes grand memories of Lone Survivor.
It’s certainly not without its problems; puzzles can fall foul of backwards-ass videogame logic (the glass shard that couldn’t possibly be used to cut the tapestry), you’ll likely resort to pixel hunting and some dodgy translation threatens to to scupper the atmosphere on more than one ocassion. The second episode also suffers from the inclusion of additional living characters; the atmosphere dulled by their presence, the pace interupted by a little too much dialogue.
But there’s more than enough intrigue woven into The Game Kitchen’s episodic scarer – enough to take away with you and ponder post-play – to have you clamouring for more. And that’s the key, as it was with Lone Survivor, as it was with Home. This isn’t a story set on a global scale, it’s a personal tragedy to unravel, a true psychological horror with the racking and persistent sense of unease that has been at the heart of all the great horror games of late.
This review was originally published on BeefJack