Review: The Last Door: Season 2 – Collector’s Edition
Season 1 of The Last Door proved to be one of the best horror games I’ve played in a long time. It stuck with me long after I finished it, the many surprises and revelations rolling around in my head during dark hours. I was anxious to see if Season 2 lived up to expectations, since it was continuing the story along a different path. I’ve just finished it, and I can barely contain my adoration for what the developers have accomplished with this series.
You take on the role of Dr. John Wakefield, on the trail of his vanished patient Jeremiah Devitt who also happened to be the protagonist of Season 1. Knowing what you know about the events of the first game, the second wastes no time delving into the secrets of the world by sending you on a chase across a nightmare version of Victorian England. Your search will take you to a decaying asylum, a forlorn manor, a distant island, and beyond. In each locale you will uncover clues, puzzle through riddles, and peer into the darkness underpinning the world.
There are no major diversions in the core gameplay from Season 1, really. You navigate interconnected scenes, collect items to use in puzzles, and converse with any useful individuals present. Each episode now has a map you can use to travel between different areas, but all this means is a little more variety in the locales within the episode. It also makes the game feel a little sparser, since you’ll be spending less time in a given place as you zip around in search of secrets.
What is different is the pace of the game. Season 2 is a bit longer than Season 1, around 45 minutes to an hour per episode, and that time is a little more guided than before. Whereas Season 1 left you to mostly wander and puzzle out the details of each location yourself, Season 2 has more cutscenes and incidental events to stumble across. There’s more going on in each area, and that sometimes means the spooks and the puzzles are more spaced out than before. The connections between episodes are also noticeably rougher, with a few of the jumps coming up in the closing cutscene with not much context.
By episode 2 I wasn’t sure if I was liking where it was going or how it was getting there. But by the end of that episode I was hooked, and the game improved to previously unseen heights as it rolled on. For one thing, the puzzles become more intricate and clever further in, especially once you pass the sprawling riddle in episode 2. Season 2 also dispenses with most of the jump scares and stingers of Season 1 in favor of some incredible atmosphere and creeping dread. The stakes of the story are much higher here, and you see that play out in the events that unfold.
I really can’t stress enough how good the atmosphere and storytelling are here. Honestly, The Game Kitchen really gets Lovecraft better than anyone else I’ve seen in the gaming world. Season 2 takes place in a world where ancient, eldritch forces simply are, where they are clearly a foundation of reality and the little people you meet have simply learned to live with them in their own twisted ways. From start to finish you feel that great and terrible weight, moreso than in Season 1, and the story does not shy away from the ultimate confrontation in the end. The final episode is a triumph of eldritch terror, diving head-first into true cosmic horror and giving life to everything hinted at up to the point in a way that does not disappoint.
Fans of cosmic horror need to have this series at the top of their list. The Last Door captures that feeling of hopelessness in the face of the vast unknowable, while at the same time telling a very human story about temptation and hubris. Don’t let the chunky pixel art put you off, for it very effectively leaves just enough to the imagination to make the terrors you face that much more terrible. And the the fantastic sound design more than makes up for any graphical gripes, featuring rich, detailed effects and an orchestral soundtrack that soars when it needs to and unsettles when it can. Rare are the games that can engage your fears and imagination so effectively, and The Last Door should be lauded for standing so tall among them.