The Last Express article by Al Giovetti

The Last Express
by Al Giovetti
Preview, 02/15/97
Release: Spring 1997
Genre: real time graphic animated adventure
Producer: Jordan Mechner
Developer: Smoking Car Productions
Publisher: Broderbund
Web site:
Requirements: Windows 95, Macintosh, DOS

History: Jordan Mechner, the same guy that brought us Karateka and Prince of Persia, has turned his attention to the world of cinematic adventures or inteactive movies. The Last Express is one adventure game that is based in the history of the animated feature film.

Company line: Paris, 1914. The world is on the brink of war and your life is about to change forever. You are Robert Cath, a young American who is urgently summoned by his friend Tyler Whitney to join him on the train departing the Gare de l'Est, Paris, 24 July for Constantinople.

Arriving late, you are overcome with the heavy feeling of danger. Something has gone terribly wrong. Before you can grab hold of your senses, the adventure overtakes you and you are plunged into a world of suspense, romance, international intrigue and murder.

The Last Express allows you to move freely through the rich and detailed 3D environment of the world's most luxurious train, circa 1914, during its final European crossing prior to the outbreak of WWI.

Gameplay involves interacting with characters, exploring objects, engaging in action sequences and uncovering multiple story threads--with your perspective shifting from 1st person to 3rd person for maximum dramatic effect.

The fluid, constantly-changing way the other characters react to you--and the fact that the train moves relentlessly onward--creates a sense of real-time suspense and unpredictability beyond that of a traditional adventure game.

Information gained is used to piece together a series of interrelated puzzles which advance you through the story. If you are clever enough, you ultimately discover the shocking secrets of The Last Express ... before it's too late!

Plot: Multiple plot pathways lead to multiple outcomes. You must unravel the mystery of who killed your friend as the American, Robert Cath. Just as the game starts in the 1914 backdrop to war, you are summoned on a train ride to Istanbul with a friend who is subsequently murdered.

Game play: Over 30 major characters speak twice the dialogue of a full-length motion picture. The game play is exploration and communication with the others on the train. The game promises over 40 hours of game play and dramatic action sequences.

The majority of the puzzles do not center around the traditional treaure hunt type where you find an object and use it at the proper place or combine it with other objects to form something else. These puzzles involve doing the correct thing at the correct time. Trains run on a rigid time schedule and if you do not react, like hiding after the murder to avoid arrest, your game will end abruptly.

Should you make an error causing your death, an interesting game feature, returns you to the point just before you made the fatal mistake and allows you to correct matters. You may find yourself repeating events over and over again until you get it right. This type of repetitive game play is not generally appreciated by players and probably results for the less than perfect reviews this otherwise excellent game is getting.

Graphics: Historically accurate 3D rendered environments rendered faithfully in the art nouveau style of characters is the look of the historical period of the game.

Animation: Actors and train set were filmed from eight different angles in live action using a blue screen. The technique of using live actors as models for animated film was pioneered by Walt Disney in his first feature animated film, Snow White. You film the animated feature just like a movie and then draw the pictures either on top of the film, Ralph Backshe style or using traditional hand drawn animation, Walt Disney style.

Voice actors: The game uses twice the dialogue of a major motion picture.

Music score: Listen to your own music by clicking the sountracks 1, 2, or 3.

Sound effects: Movie sound effects were used to get the correct effects.

Utilities: Rather than a traditional save the game interface allow players to turn back the hands of time to replay events.

Multi-player: This is a single player game.

Future: We look for more of this type of excellent product.

Cheats, Cheats, and Walkthroughs: Last Express Walkthrough

Journalists: Doug's comments are interesting

Publish your own review right here, just email us your text.

Cindy Yans, Computer Games, issue 74, March, 1997, pg. 28.
Doug Radcliffe, Online Gaming Review, June 2, 1997, 80%.

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