This Highly Cinematic Game has just been listed on the top 100 adventure games of all time,
Where do the accolades start for Smoking Car Productions’ The Last Express? Is it the rotoscoped graphics that give the game a uniquely classy sense of style? Is it the painstaking historical recreation of the final voyage of the Orient Express before World War I? Is it the stunningly immersive real-time progression of gameplay? Or is it the thrilling and extraordinarily literate writing? Why choose? There really isn't anything quite like Jordan Mechner’s 1997 adventure. While the story of American doctor Robert Cath and the international intrigue he encounters on a train journey from Paris to Constantinople does head to some pretty fantastical places, it is equally balanced by a genuine sense of realism and authenticity. Mechner's team went to great lengths to portray everything from foreign languages to daily weather patterns with historical accuracy. The characters portray the broad and tumultuous sociopolitical climate of the era, as Cath encounters everyone from German businessmen to Serbian militants. And in a still-unparalleled design decision, live actors were filmed and then hand-traced in a style reminiscent of early 20th century illustration.
Making things feel even more authentic is the game’s real-time progression: The Last Express doesn't wait for you. The train barrels relentlessly toward Constantinople, stopping at several famous locales along the way. Similarly, the other passengers have their own agendas to attend to; they move around the train, have conversations, go to sleep, eat dinner, conduct secret meetings, and so on. As Cath, players have more or less total freedom to explore the train and observe, interact with fellow passengers, or sneak around trying to find information. This gives the game an astounding level of replayability for an adventure game, since you'll never be able to see everything in a given playthrough; while you're off exploring one car, something else (something probably very interesting) is going on in another. And if you don’t like the direction your recent choices have taken, rather than simply restore an old save file, simply rewind time and begin that segment of the journey all over again. It all adds up to a tense, immersive, and innovative adventure that few other games have equaled.
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