The Last Express, 1997, by Interplay - Rated Teen, for Macintosh and Windows systems

The Last Express is a computer game which takes place on the Orient Express, in July of 1914 (for the history-impaired among you, that's the eve of World War I). It's a Myst-style adventure game, which takes place from a first-person perspective. The plot, which spans 3 discs, involves Serbian nationalists, national treasures, murder, revolutionaries, gold, and spies, spies, spies. It's quite interesting - the creator, Jordan Mechner of Prince of Persia fame, is not afraid to make the plot highly topical and historical. It'll definately make more sense if you have a sense of the history of that period.

Perhaps the most striking aspect of the game is its graphics. The backgrounds are your normal 3d-rendered stuff - pretty but nothing special. All the characters, however, are fully rotoscoped - actors playing the characters are traced onto paper, and the newly created cels are then blended together. The effect is quite attractive and unique.

The game plays fairly well. It certainly is engrossing - I played about a disc and a half in one sitting, and not because they were short. My one complaint would be that the minimalist interface - the left mouse button is the only control in the game, and though there is a very small inventory, there are no dialogue trees or any other specific commands - sometimes hampers gameplay. Often it feels like you are just wandering around until a conversation starts. In addition, the fact that it is all real-time means that sometimes the player can have missed a crucial detail and not realize it until after they have spent god knows how long wandering around, forcing them to "rewind."

Update, at Ouroboros's behest - A note on the "rewind" feature: as noted before, the game was entirely in real-time. Thus, instead of saving games at a certain plot point, you literally "rewound" the game, minute by minute. This was nifty, but at the same time a bit frustrating at times, since the player could never be sure whether he had rewound far enough to some missed opportunity, or rewound too far, forcing him to replay parts of the game already completed.

Also, it should be noted that given the rather international nature of the Express, there are characters of many nationalities. Instead of following the paradigm of having all characters speak english with various accents, in the Last Express, all the characters speak their own languages (and quite well, near as I can tell), with subtitles in english. This, for me, enhances the sophisticated and cosmopolitan air which both the train and the game had.

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