It is quite incredible to think that Annapurna Interactive will only celebrate its five years of existence in December, as the American publisher already has a hell of a lot of excellent indie games to its credit: What Remains of Edith Finch, Sayonara Wild Hearts or again Outer Wilds, to name only the most illustrious. As the Annapurna Interactive Showcase has just ended, and as we eagerly await 12 Minutes and Stray, other lesser-known titles continue to appear, such as the bizarre narrative proposal from British studio Variable State: Last Stop.
Following an unfortunate incident on the London subway, John and his neighbor Jack are unpleasantly surprised to see that their bodies have been changed overnight. Working for a company with obscure goals, Meena must choose between her work and her family life, which she tends to leave behind. Having a good time with her friends, Donna sees her life turned upside down after meeting a mysterious stranger.
Passed the introductory sequence taking place in 1982, the player will have to choose between the chapters devoted to John, Meena or Donna. With each character so much developed six chapters, it will nevertheless be necessary to close all those proposed before moving on to the following ones: impossible for example to do chapter 3 of Meena before doing chapters 2 of John and Donna. Each of them lasts between ten twenty minutes, if we except the final chapter, a little longer. The sequences are therefore very short and are performed at a too fast pace., where we sometimes have the impression that they end sooner than expected.
This narrative dynamic lends itself rather well to the chapters devoted to John, which are lighter than the others, and in which the various cuts are the occasion to create comic shifts. Generally, Last stop has a real variety of tones: absurd comedy for John, family drama for Meena and teenage adventure for Donna. Switching regularly from chapter to chapter ultimately allows the player to avoid this feeling of weariness. The first chapters would have nevertheless gained to be a hair more captivating: it takes a good third of the game to begin to address the stakes proposed by each story.
The staging in itself turns out to be quite daring because even if the environments (almost all urban) are only renewed very little over the chapters, each time the game offers very different plans, whether indoors or outdoors. So much so that a can be destabilizing, the player wondering during a change of plan where his character is and in which direction he should go. Note that the walking sequences in the city are very marked: characters can only take one and only one path throughout the game.
In addition to the movements of his character, the player will have to deal with phases in soft QTE and of frankly questionable interest so much do they intervene sporadically. It is true that integrating a QTE just for John to drink his coffee was useful. It feels like the developers were looking to make this narrative title a more interactive experience, but the point is, it just feels like it’s falling like a hair on the soup.
The heart of the game is therefore in the dialogues, rather well written and interpreted., even if some dubbing actors sometimes seem to lack conviction in their acting. Last stop sometimes forces us to make choices but unfortunately these have no impact on the rest of the story, if we except those of the last chapter. Too bad for the replayability of the title. We can also protest against the formulation of certain choices, not very clear and which do not seem in adequacy with the response of the character who follows.
Regarding the visual aspect, let’s say it’s minimalist. The facial expressions are not disgusting but the environments are sorely lacking in detail and the textures give the impression of drooling on Switch. To finish on a note positive, note that the soundtrack is of excellent quality, the tracks well accompanying certain comic scenes in particular.