Developer: Variable State
Publisher: Annapurna Interactive
Genre(s): Mystery, Narrative, Story,
Platform: Nintendo Switch (Also available on PC, Xbox and PlayStation)
Age Rating: PEGI 16
Release Date: 22.07.2021
A code was provided for review purposes.
Annapurna Interactive has quickly become one of my favourite publishers with the wide variety of inventive titles on offer. So when Annapurna’s latest title promised a mystery narrative title set in present-day London, I was eager to uncover the secrets of Last Stop.
A Very British Adventure
There aren’t many games that immediately attract my interest from the menu screen alone but Last Stop’s medley of phone boxes, diversion signs and orange traffic cones instantly captured the spirit of London. In fact, Last Stop’s London is the most authentic presentation of the city I’ve seen in gaming. That’s good because, during my six-hour experience, England’s capital city is where the majority of the action takes place.
From the perfectly-sized barrier gates of the London underground to the humorously named local ‘Cod-Father’ fish and chip shop, the slightly abstract colourful art style instantly reminded me of my recent visit to the capital. Minor details also perfectly capture British life: there are references to the forename-only “Boris”, a wonderful tea-making section, an Edgar-Wright inspired heist sequence and a perfectly replicated driving license. It may sound trivial, but these elements provide one of the most authentic and relatable locations in gaming. A fantastic voice cast brings further life to this authentic London, providing expression through vocals rather than the rigid animation.
It’s the Little Things
It’s the everyday moments of Last Stop which I found to be the most meaningful. It’s the pills from the pillbox that the young carer daughter needs to provide her father with, the unexpected sway of the tube carriage or the corner shop truancy from school. Never mind the conspiracies or supernatural, Last Stop’s worldbuilding is seriously impressive. The game sees its narrative split across seven chapters, each with their own episodes of three different characters. There’s John Smith: the father stuck in the trivialities of the 9-5, Meena Hughes: the wife managing her work/life balance and Donna Adeleke: a high school student experiencing her own coming-of-age.
This all sounds pretty standard, but Last Stop balances the soap with the supernatural; Smith has had a bodyswap with the neighbour, Hughes’ work concerns a top-secret facility and Adeleke might have secrets with the supernatural. To avoid spoilers, I will not detail any more plot points, but I played Last Stop without watching many trailers or synopsis’ and I suggest that you do the same. It’s a journey that uncovers mystery until the end, culminating in the intertwining of the characters story arcs in chapter seven. Whilst there were no mind-bending final twists or reveals, the final story resolved many of my questions whilst also leaving some narrative threads untied.
Do Choices Matter?
It is best to treat Last Stop as an interactive movie rather than a Telltale-like choices matter game as my in-game decisions proved uninfluential, both in the short and long-term. That’s not to say the narrative isn’t strong, there’s still a good mystery story to be found but my choices never seemed to impact future events. For example, when attempting to purchase a knife that my character was underage to buy, even though my dialogue failed to convince the shop owner to let me purchase the item, upon exiting the shop, my friend had conveniently stolen the blade and the story could progress as normal. It’s similar to the dialogue in how though three options are presented for each response, they don’t tend to deviate from another, allowing the other character to respond similarly no matter the choice.
One feature I did enjoy about dialogue was that the choices suggested a thought process or feeling rather than what exactly my character was about to say. To ask a character to move out the way politely, I picked the “with cherries on top” box. This created a sense of anticipation in dialogue, and I always enjoyed listening to the outcome. Gameplay-wise, conversations flow well with few awkward pauses and I was asked to perform passive actions with the thumbstick whilst completing tasks. For example, I stirred a cup of tea, sorted books into the correct category and swung a playground spinner all whilst listening to the dialogue around me. It’s a way of involving the player, whilst not overwhelming them with too many instructions so I enjoyed partaking in these simple actions from time to time.
Whilst I longed for more impactful dialogue and narrative choices, the authentic recreation of London as well as the expressive voice acting ultimately provided a fulfilling experience. Now, what’s that mysterious green light in the neighbour’s window?
Rapid Reviews Rating
3.5 out of 5
You can purchase Last Stop for £19.49 on the Nintendo eShop
You can find and read our reviews on OpenCritic.