Review: The Last Door – Collector’s Edition
A mark of a great story is how it sticks with you long after the tale is told. The best stories I’ve experienced are the ones that keep me up at night, ruminating on every twist and turn and imagining what could have been hiding in the shadows that saw no light. I finished The Last Door years ago, and I still remember the evenings spent mulling over the many threads it wove together. More than that, I still think back on it now whenever cosmic horror or eldritch evils are brought to mind, because more than any other game it captures the essence of those themes.
Young Jeremiah Devitt has been summoned to the home of an old classmate by a mysterious letter. He soon finds the estate in shocking disarray, and his investigation into the cause will take him on a nightmarish journey through a particularly bleak portrayal of Victorian England. The trail runs through sick wards, foggy streets, dank cellars, fresh graves, and places even further beyond the horizon of sanity. Despite the warnings along the way, his path speeds towards a terrible secret with absolute inevitability, overseen by a dark presence from which there is no escape.
Sounds positively Lovecraftian, doesn’t it? The Last Door has cooked up its own cosmology of unknowable horrors to haunt Jeremiah every step of the way, forces that do not jump out of closets or give chase down hallways but frighten by the very implication of their existence. From the very first episode it is clear that something is wrong in this world, and if anything your actions only hasten whatever reckoning there can be with it. This game truly understands cosmic horror in ways most media cannot, and the combination of impending doom and tantalizing secrets perfectly captures the essence of the tragic Lovecraft protagonist.
The gameplay is just as smartly designed as the atmosphere and narrative, thankfully. As a point-and-click adventure it’s clean and straightforward, with the basic systems of movement, examining, collecting, and combining items in place to progress. Puzzles are clever and follow common logic well enough that I never needed a walkthrough (as I often do in point-and-clicks, I must admit). The only part that might throw you off are the incredibly chunky pixel graphics, because while items are plenty conspicuous by their shapes or color choices it is rarely obvious what they actually are until you interact with them. Honestly I can see the retro aesthetic giving plenty of people pause, but I submit that it never causes serious problems finding your way. It also leaves a lot of the horror to the imagination, as your brain fills in the gaps left by the indistinct shapes.
There are plenty of spooks in this game, and ones that don’t rely on jumpscares or cheap shots. For an adventure game The Last Door is extremely effective at keeping the player on edge, using a sharp combination of narrative implications, ominous lighting, and fantastic sound design. Some scenes allow the soundtrack to drop out entirely, leaving you with just the crunching of your shoes on the dirt to anticipate what could happen next. And often nothing does, but the game will surprise you just often enough that you’ll never feel safe. Fortunately the fine puzzles and immersive sounds make it such a pleasure to play through, the constant tension feels absolutely worth it.
The four episodes will take you around 30 to 40 minutes each to complete, and though they vary quite a bit and can veer off in odd directions they form a very compelling whole. Your discoveries only reveal more of the otherworldly threat lurking in the dark corners of England, and Jeremiah will pay for his involvement. My only other warning about the game is that the end is not a clear conclusion to the story and leads into Season 2 where the grand finale is found. But really this is more of a recommendation to pick up both and experience the whole saga, because The Last Door is some of the finest cosmic horror I have ever enjoyed. The developers are masters of their art and have crafted a world of secrets and tragedies and doom, and wrapped it in a package that is impossible to look away from.