In the ever-expanding world of indie games, you can find all types of unexpected options to choose from. Annapurna Interactive’s new release Last Stop could be considered an adventure game mixed with a visual novel. But it’s really closer to a creative interactive movie, paired with a casual gamer mindset.
But is it an interactive adventure that you’ll want to click through?
Last Stop’s tale takes place in and around a London suburb. The game lays out three seemingly unconnected stories that, chapter by chapter, begin weaving their threads together into a curious, conclusive tangle. It all begins with a trio of subway passengers sitting next to each other on a fictionalized version of London’s Piccadilly line, and each represents one of the three distinctly different stories.
“Domestic Affairs” seems the most realistic of the tales and centers on a thirtysomething woman named Meena. She appears to be a working professional and mom, competing for an office promotion against a younger woman in the firm. But she’s also in the midst of an extramarital affair that’s complicating her life. Oh, and there’s something odd about the company she works for, too.
“Paper Dolls” is a bit more bizarre and focuses on a middle-aged single dad, John, who’s tending to schlump his overweight and balding way through life. He’s got a bright and loving daughter, but not much else going on. Until, that is, he wakes up one morning to find that he and a younger neighbor have somehow traded bodies. And now they have to find a way to trade back before everything in their two lives comes tumbling down.
And lastly, there’s the totally sci-fi feeling tale, “Stranger Danger.” It tells of teen schoolgirl Donna and her two friends who see what they think is a potential series of kidnappings, or maybe even murders, staged by a handsome stranger in the neighborhood. This guy is taking women into his apartment, but the kids never see the women come back out. On a whim they follow the stranger into an abandoned building and end up kidnapping him! But then they realize that there’s something very … unhuman about this guy.
This game is relatively easy to make your way through. There are no quick-fingered gaming skills required. The stories unfold through a series of dialogue choices that slightly shape the character decisions and reactions on hand. There are also some light minigames to play along the way, such as a music/rhythm game as John plays the piano in a pub, or a stealthy sneaking game as Donna tries to spy on the stranger. But none of them are difficult or overly challenging.
The tale, as a three-pronged whole, is really quite inventive and interesting. And the colorful artwork is very pleasant to play your way through as well. As the stories unfold, characters can make choices that are ultimately self-sacrificial.
And there are several subtle lessons woven into the tales that speak clearly of the value of loving personal and family relationships. Some, positive story conclusions point to the fact that a loving family can add a special richness to life. An older man, for instance, speaks of the special “privilege” of his 40-year marriage and sharing his wife’s love.
All of the above positives noted, however, there’s also quite a bit of content that gamers must make their way through. Meena’s affair is approached as a manageable part of many adult lives. It complicates this woman’s life to the point where she breaks it off, but the implication is that it’s a purely physical fling that she would have otherwise let run on. We see Meena in brief love-making scenes, dressed in underwear. (None of the skimpily clad animated characters are well defined.)
There’s also a same-sex relationship in the mix between Donna’s sister and her girlfriend. (We never see them in any intimate moments.) We see the stranger dressed only in briefs as he steps into a pool and later chases after Donna. Donna and her male friend Viv kiss. And the teen friends talk about other teens drinking and hooking up, which is presented as a seemingly normal occurrence. “I could use a roll-around,” Donna’s friend Becky says.
There’s also some foul language in the dialogue mix. Misuses of Jesus’ name pop up in stressful moments, as well as s-words, “h—,” “a–hole,” “b–tard” and a few British crudities.
In addition, there is some drug misuse and character drinking (wine, beer and hard alcohol) in the storylines. Meena’s elderly father met and started buying illegal meds from a local dealer, for instance, and he tells Meena of the “wonderful” way they make his brain feel. Several people are killed in lightly bloody ways (one by a gun, another by a sword and a few through a mysterious power). And two people are rushed to the hospital with life-threatening illnesses.
We see theft and youthful disobedience, too.
When watching many PG-13 movies in the theaters and on streaming services these days, you often encounter a mixed bag of content along with a movie’s creative storytelling. And that’s very much what gamers will find here.
Last Stop is an interactive movie of a game, without much “gaming” to worry over. Some of those T-rated and interactive content issues, however, could very well worry a discerning mom or dad.
After spending more than two decades touring, directing, writing and producing for Christian theater and radio (most recently for Adventures in Odyssey, which he still contributes to), Bob joined the Plugged In staff to help us focus more heavily on video games. He is also one of our primary movie reviewers.