On the pulse of crowdfunded gaming

Review: The Last Door delivers quality horror but closes shut on gameplay

Posted by Olivia Cottrell on February 28, 2014 | Jump to 1 comments

I write this as a warning. The things I have witnessed — the horrors from the beyond — they must not claim another soul. Already I feel the terrible tendrils of the dark clawing at my being, and I must hasten to set down my thoughts before they consume me completely.

My friends. The Bird Watches Us All.

Oh, how innocent of this I was when I downloaded The Last Door, which released the final chapter in season one this month. Developed by The Game Kitchen, The Last Door received funding to produce the pilot chapter back in November 2012, while subsequent installments have been funded by payments for the previous episodes, with each one costing around €10,000 ($13,708) to make. After a short while, each episode becomes free to play — a cunning device to ensnare the unaware.

The following episode becomes available as it is funded by revenue from the last one, and there’s usually about a month in between episodes. It’s a model that has allowed them to complete an entire season, and they’re currently gathering funds to start a second season.

And back to the game…

With breath halting and fingers trembling I followed the narrative of poor, doomed Jeremiah Devitt, who, like myself, is an investigator into the strange. But oh, what purer motives he had. He but followed the letter of a friend calling him to Sussex! I- I had a job.

Darkness. All is darkness.

Darkness. All is darkness.

A job I had rather not fulfilled.

Blindly I stumbled through houses, mental hospitals, the streets of my own beloved London becoming unfamiliar, blocky. Rendered in the 8-bit style, (eight like the burning eyes that watch me in the dark) the ambiguity of what unfolds is underlined by this deliberate simplicity. Jeremiah’s face remained blank throughout, as did those of his enemies, his compatriots. The dead he met along the way. I can but imagine the horror etched therein and yet it compelled me to press forward. The story in this game is addictive, the horror beats superb. You will want to finish.

This is let down badly, however, by the actual gameplay mechanics. Several times, however, I drew back on the cusp of solving a problem, fatally undone by the unraveling of my own mind, the unwillingness to click again — again! — on some cursed object. It was never really clear which of these objects I could pick up, and which I could let lie. There were also other, more fundamental problems. At one point the fabric of reality unwound itself (delicately, like a spider descending from her thread) and I left Jeremiah near the climax of Chapter Three, unenlightened, unmoved by any guiding hand. The game had glitched, rendering it unplayable. Mercy from some hidden spirit of the machine? Or a far more sinister intervention? My mind shrinks from the possibilities.

Gaze not too long, lest you descend to madness yourself

Gaze not too long, lest you descend to madness yourself

What will not drive itself from my brain, however, is the music. That haunting, maddening music — the eerie breath of a violin twisting around the corners of my brain, enticing me to madness. I fancy it calls to me still.

I wind my narrative to a close – but not for long. I still look forward to what it may become if it’s funded for a second season. The Last Door remains shut, and who knows what lies behind it? Few horror games tell their story so well. One hopes that, in future, execution will match up with ambition.

Here the submitted copy ends.

The BitPulse Perspective

This is a fantastically written game that’s a fitting tribute to the mythos of H.P. Lovecraft, however it’s badly let down by some aspects of gameplay. This shouldn’t put you off playing it, however, as when The Last Door delivers, it really shines. It’s worth funding simply because of what The Game Kitchen might deliver with a bit more money and experience under their belts, as well as the fact that they’re willing to offer all but the most recent episode for free.

Ultimately, and perhaps fittingly for a game based around the dread of the unknown, The Last Door hints at what’s to come far more effectively than it delivers what it is right now.

You can download The Last Door at its website or play it in your browser, and, as already mentioned, the first three installments are free.  It’s also been successfully greenlit by Steam, so look out for it there later this year.

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