The Last Express has the vestigial look of an old game -rotoscoped characters rendered without shading, super high detailed static background images, a simplistic mouse-only control system, and more. And this is because The Last Express is an old game, but despite that, it is still a playing experience that no core gamer should ever pass up on. The gameplay mechanics are innovative and intriguing, with plenty of dynamic elements that will keep you on your toes. Best of all, the game's actual mystery is well delivered, and every second spent trying to solve it will make you feel satisfied and accomplished.
You play the role of Robert Cath, currently on the run, and have boarded the Orient Express to rendezvous with an important friend, Tyler Whitney. However, Tyler has been killed, and it is up to you to survive the long train ride while trying to find the killer. It is a crazy way to start the game, and we love it. When players open the door of Whitney's passenger box only to discover a dead body, they will only have a few scant moments to act quickly or get in trouble. It is an amazing start, one that tells you right from the get go that this game means business. If you do not know how to think on your feet, you can expect to be left behind.
Thinking and deciding fast are important parts of the game, and this is because everything moves in real time -the game world will move and progress regardless of what you do. NPCs will move about the train and behave according to the in-game time, so it is possible for you to be in one location of the train seeking out clues while something important is happening elsewhere. The chance of missing out on events and conversations is pretty big, and that is why the game also employs a special system for those times when a bad decision leads to a game over: the ability to go back in time. The game lets you select a key moment in which you can choose to make a different decision and then bring you back to that point. This replay function is wonderful as it actually encourages the players to make big, and bold decisions -knowing you can have a do-over as a safety net allows is a great incentive for experimentation, and trying new things out is one of the most important parts of solving the mysteries of the game.
One of the biggest let downs that this game has is the absolute and utter lack of subtitles, especially when much of the information you need can only be obtained from NPC dialogues. Now, this is one of the most important things that players should remember: NPCs say a lot of useful information in their dialogue throughout the game, but not all of the dialogue is directed at you.
Remember what we said about NPCs moving about in real time? That same thing applies to their dialogue. They will talk to whoever they want to talk to regardless if you are present or not. It actually pays off to linger around hallways and other locations to eavesdrop on NPCs talking to each other. You can even hang outside of their rooms and try to listen in on what they are talking about in private. The cool (and somewhat strange) part is that none of the NPCs will react negatively to your presence, and we appreciate the fact that the game developers chose not to include a stealth mechanic when you want to eavesdrop.
So this is where subtitles play an important role -or rather, they would, if they were present. It is ironic that the game lacks proper English subs and yet it has subs for other foreign languages. If you want to fully experience The Last Express (and actually solve stuff), you better prepare a good headset or earphones to be able to catch the dialogue clearly.
It is easy to identify The Last Express through its visual style; the rotoscoped characters rendered on detailed backgrounds is a hard element to miss. As a design decision, the combination is certainly both striking and provoking. And this is because of the way that the game's visual contrast is highly reflective of the game's story.
The setting of the game is real, the Orient Express was a real train that existed. In fact, the developers studied an actual car of the train to create accurate backgrounds. And this is quite evident in the way that almost each scene feels like it is set against a solid photograph of the real thing. On the other hand, the rotoscoped characters are without a doubt, artificial looking. This is certainly noticeable when they move: the animation is smooth and lifelike, but it lacks any sense of shading or lighting, and this makes the game's characters truly become the two dimensional caricatures that they are. Even if you do not pay attention, the juxtaposition of these two elements is hard to miss, and in some ways, it feels as if the visuals could have used a bit of work in order to make the characters fit in with the backgrounds a little better.
Overall, The Last Express is a great mystery story for players to solve taking you on a great adventure aboard a train. The death of Tyler, as tragic as it is, is only the tip of a much larger iceberg. And you can only see its true depths by trying to figure out the best times to be in certain parts of the train. There is danger that lurks in every corner, and players must constantly be on their guard to keep up with the game's unstoppable flow. We love the fact that the real time gameplay gives this title a huge amount of replay value; because that just means that the central mystery of the game is incredibly complex.
'Machinarium pushes the boundaries when it comes to what we know about traditional point and click titles. First, it has no dialogue save for a few text tidbits at the start. Its puzzles are confined to a single screen, and it's not afraid to lend a hand when needed. It's different, and it's infinitely more interesting because of it. To sum it up, Machinarium is one of those rare games that brilliantly executes radical ideas.'