I was surprised by The Last Express. For a game released in 1997 that is probably often overlooked, it is an impressive mystery adventure game played in real-time. The characters are lively, and the plot is attention-grabbing. Right from the start, I applauded the dramatic entrance with our main character, Robert Cath, leaping from a motorcycle to the moving train. The atmosphere of this game is inviting and charming. From the music and artwork to the individual conversations being held in multiple languages – it all blends together to create a more genuine experience.
Aboard the Orient Express you are free to roam and explore most areas of the train. However, you are not able to go where you want, when you want, unless the conditions are right. For example, you cannot barge into any room at will. In fact, most of the doors are locked. You can enter some rooms later on in the game, after specific events have transpired. While roaming the Orient Express from end to end, it can get dull if you do not know what you are looking for. I spent a lot of time clicking on everything, trying to repeatedly open every door, and revisiting every inch of the train only to find that my severe OCD may have caused me to miss crucial events in the storyline. Time for a rewind!
If this is your first time playing The Last Express, you will miss things, and you will die a lot. You will rewind a lot. It can also be frustrating not knowing what you missed and what is causing a specific outcome. There are some subtle hints, like dark ominous music playing during an important event or a ticking clock letting you know that you might be missing something significant. I felt like I had to slow down and adjust to the speed of this game. Waiting for the Concert of DOOM to end was unpleasant, as tiamonster has already expressed. Even the action/fight scenes were too sluggish for my liking. I died about thirty times when Milos tried to shank me with a knife. I couldn’t get the timing right. My only defense was to click the mouse once to dodge his attacks. Sounds simple but I kept clicking just before he would lunge and get myself knifed. There was such an exaggerated delay between his lunges – I just couldn’t get it right.
The dialogue is clever with a hint of mockery.
Kronos: “You should take care when choosing a name. My name is Kronos. I would like to know if you would like to continue our discussion.”
Robert Cath: “…Is Kronos your first name or your last name?”
Kronos: “I HAVE NO TIME FOR!!…These delightful discussions.”
Milos: “Have you heard of unity or death?”
Robert Cath: “Sure, it’s Harvard’s motto or is it the post office?”
I see what they did there! If you don’t know, Cath is a Yale Medical School graduate, so obviously a knock on Harvard is in order.
I made it to Vienna before requiring some assistance from a walkthrough. Figuring out what to do next was taking a while. I can’t count how many times the train exploded on me. With a little assistance I made it through unscathed. After disabling the bomb things really started to pick up. Serbians hijacked the train!
At this point, I’m basically Bruce Willis in Die Hard – one man against insurmountable odds . Following the hijack, I wake up hogtied in the cargo car. Pffft no big deal, I’m Robert Cath. Let me work my way out of these bonds and save my lady friend Anna over there. Next, it’s time to take out some Serbs. I make my way to the top of the train to find myself unarmed, against a man with a crowbar. Of course, I beat him senseless with my bare hands, take his crowbar, and send him head first into a swan dive off the moving train. Immediately after beating the piss out of crowbar boy, some Serbian chick takes a sword to my backside. It took a few rounds to take her out but I got the job done.
My favorite part of the game is where my story comes to an end. I separated the train cars and confronted Kronos in the restaurant car. He demands that I retrieve the golden egg and open it for him. When I do, it transforms into a golden Firebird.
Then Kronos has Anna play her violin. After the Firebird responds to her song, Kronos tells me to close the egg. Instead of closing the egg, I blow the golden whistle. Now things get really interesting!
We get two close-up shots, one of me:
and one of the Firebird:
In an instant, the Firebird flies straight at Kronos to rip his face off!
Don’t worry lady servant, you’re next!
While those two are busy being dismembered by a golden Firebird, Anna and I leap from the train. Moments later the Orient Express explodes while we watch from afar. You see the Firebird fly from the train and sail off into the distance.
Anna and I say a few words – we part ways in Constantinople with a kiss and a promise to see each other again. She leaves me with her dog…