The Game Kitchen
Your imagination is your most terrifying adversary in The Last Door
The Last Door was developed by Spanish indie studio The Game Kitchen after a successful Kickstarter run at the end of last year, and the first chapter became available to play Tuesday of this week. Backers of the Kickstarter campaign can access Chapter 1 for free, while non-backers are asked for a pay-what-you-want donation, though you'll need to create an account via The Last Door's website first.
The Last Door takes place at the end of the 19th century, in England. The main character has received a distressing letter from his friend Anthony, which asks him to visit his home in Sussex. Our protagonist travels there, but finds several doors locked, paths blocked, and puzzles to be solved. The game is a simple point-and-click adventure; when you mouse over interactive objects, either a hand or magnifying glass will appear, indicating there's something to either do or see.
As you move through Anthony's mansion, you'll collect various objects, such as a book of matches, or a record to be played on a gramophone. Each of these items is used to solve a puzzle somewhere in the house, each puzzle leading you closer and closer to Anthony. Despite the game's simple appearances, the puzzles can be both complex and intensely rewarding, all while staying true to the game world and simple logic.
The Game Kitchen wrote on their Kickstarter page they were inspired by the works of H.P. Lovecraft and Edgar Allen Poe, and nowhere is that more apparent than when solving the game's riddles. The clues you use to solve each puzzle are dark and foreboding, and often speak of inhuman, impossible things, and the suffocating sense of insanity permeates every room.
Think of the TV puzzle in the first episode of Telltale's Walking Dead game, where Lee had to collect a TV remote, brick, and fire axe before he could lure walkers away from his path, add a supernatural twist, and you'll have an idea of what you'll be solving.
Love letter to Lovecraft
The Last Door operates heavily on the premise of “show, don't tell.” Two puzzles require you to leave the room before an event is triggered, and when you re-enter, the room has changed, often in unsettling ways. You don't know how it happened or even sometimes what happened, and that's what makes the game so effective.This sense of mystery gives you a sense of dread each time you open a door; you can never trust that what you saw last time will be the same thing this time, and the minimalist graphics leave almost everything to the imagination. Instead of showing a 3D model of a crow being torn apart in graphic detail, it gives you the vague outline of the animal via pixel art, and trusts that your mind will turn your stomach more than any rendering technology could.
Sound design is likewise superb. The various animals you come across don't sound like realistic copies of their real-life counterparts - they've been filtered and sound more like an old-school digital approximation, and it's better that way. Background music is subtle and moody, and even got my heart racing out of anxiety when I plopped an off-tone, skipping record onto the gramophone.
The Last Door is a solid hour or two of entertainment, and a refreshing change of pace from the “pop out go boo” style scares so prevalent in modern horror games. I only jumped once, but my spine was tingling throughout. I actually, literally shivered several times.
The team is currently developing the second chapter with the money raised by the first. If the rest of The Last Door is as good as the first chapter, the only thing worth being afraid of is the developers not meeting their goal.