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The Last Express


Broderbund is back! The Californian label, which recently mainly makes headlines by publications in the multimedia and edutainment sector, plans still in this year a large attack on the game market. The rebirth was celebrated on a Iauschigen spring evening in Paris with an international circle of approximately 120 journalists, distributors and wholesale dealers. During a round trip with the legendary orient express the game was presented, which Broderbund primarily looks at as Hoeffnungstraeger on the game sector:The Last Express. Today, only few weeks after this first presentation, the game lies already on the shelves of the dealers and we will tell you, why this really special game is worthwhile buying in any case.

Your friend Tyler Whitney, bloodily assassinated by an unknown killer

Good, old time?

The Last Express plays in July 1914, on the eve of the First World War, on board of the legendary Orient express. Robert Cath, a young American, is pushed by its friend Tyler Whitney to meet him in his compartment. Cath gets the luxury train in the proverbial last minute and reaches the compartment of his friend only while already driving. When he realizes that Whitney was brutally murdered it is already too late for leaving the train. In order to clear up the murder, Cath takes over the identity of his friend and gets ever deeper into a wallow of adventures, amours and political plots. Three days and three nights the travel takes from Paris to Konstantinopel. Can Robert Cath clear up the death of his friend in this short time? And more important: Will he himself accomplish to survive?

Paris, Gare L'Est,
here the adventurous journey begins

You can follow your journey on this map

It's clear, that you, the gamer, must slip into the role of the unsuspecting American. And you are unsuspecting at the beginning of the game in any case, even more unsuspecting than the main character of the game. Because you also don't know, what was the connection between you and your dead friend and what they experienced for example on Cuba. You must find each small mosaic stone, whereby first the other travelers (unaware and involuntary) are helpful to you. It seems, that something possibly was in Tyler Whitney's possession, for which some co-travellers are ready to pay more than generously. But what do they want to do next to actually accroach the secret? There are too many details, constellations and enmeshments to consider, than one could show in a review like this. Each character in the train has not only his/her own history, but also has his/her own history to tell. Enter the train and listen well to all of them. it depends much on you!

The Making Of...

In order to show the historical atmosphere of a so special time period as accurate as possible, not only a deep study of the historical and political connections was extremely importantly, also the entire ambiance had to be investigated exactly. And here the problems already began. How should one reconstruct the orient express, if nearly all parts of the train had been destroyed in one of the two world wars? Today still two trains under the name orient express drive as tourist attraction through the area, however one of it is a complete and the second in large parts a replication.

Look for me!
Numerous references can be found in documents, which are spread everywhere in the train, and have to be read attentively - if you found them once.

Letters of your dead friend

Important newspapers

Amateurish drawings

The passenger list

"It was pure coincidence that a friend heard of our project and told us that on a siding in Athens still another original waggon was rotting", tells chief designer Jordan Mechner, "of course we drove immediately there and photographed each detail. Of course we regarded also all authentic details from the restored tourist trains, just like everything that we could find in the literature." "But that was not enough", hurries directress NicoleTostevin to say, "Whether furniture, or clothes, the contemporary music or the prevailing art style, we tried to consider each little thing." Indeed they succeeded to arouse the atmosphere of this unique epoch to new life. Already after a few minutes of gameplay one feels directly carried back to the time of the art noveau. Apart from this tremendous love for the detail, it is because of two further game elements that the player feels directly taken in by a comprehensive realism: The story runs in real time and the natural movements and behavior patterns of the characters.

Not many NPCs fit so bad into the game's graphics as this lady

All rooms are furnished exactly up to date

The latter is because of a technology developed particularly for this game. All characters of The Last Express are actors, who were dressed in historical costumes and shot before the Blue Screen on video. Subsequently, the videos were digitized and transformed by a brand new software into animations, still corresponding to the typical art nouveau style. Here you will recognize, why this art trend is called forerunner of the comics. In addition so two birds could be killed with one stone: On the one hand characters and environment simply fit the atmosphere better, on the other hand it was possible, to accommodate an enormous play depth on only three CDs.

Despite this game depth the feeling of getting stuck really never arises. However the numerous co-travellers from all countries guarantee largest diversion. With the speech of the English version the German, French, Russian or Eastern accents of some guests are already the pure delight for the ear.

Of Course it also occurs again and again that other characters converse in their national language. But as soon as the contents of their conversation is important for the further game process, sub-titles are faded in automatically. One can only hope that this large strength of the original version also remains in the German localization. Again the game was intensified by numerous action elements. Of course you also must solve tricky puzzles in The Last Express as in each fastidious adventure, collect hidden information or open mysterious doors and locks. Additionally you can expect dramatic animations and explosions, also genuine action sequences beside passive action. The knifing in the narrow cabin or the deadly fight on the roof of the raging train is everything else but easy, and could probably hardly be mastered at first attempt of a player. But the gamedesigners took precautions also here. The Last Express runs nonIinear and, as said, in real time.

It does not depend thus on in which sequence you proceed, but only whether you can settle all tasks in the given time - the clock is always ticking. If you miss an important hint during the game, have to stop in the middleof the game or just get killed, the clock stops accurately here. It is thus not necessary to save the game. When starting again you can continue either smoothly or reset the clock steplessly, in order to try the last duel or even the whole last hour again. In the second case you can of course fast-forward, as soon as you found the missing hint. A more comfortable conversion of the story into liquid gameplay is actually hardly conceivable.


Love for the detail!
Apart from an enormous investigation also a lot of manual work stands behind The Last Express. The production of the game nevertheless began already 1992.
express1a.jpg (4053 Byte)
In front of a blue screen the actors were scanned and transferred into animations by special software
express1b.jpg (5505 Byte)
The original dining car was found on a siding in Athens...
express1c.jpg (5534 Byte)
.. and also used like this replika

It is done

Do you remember that I called The Last Epress at the beginning of this review a "completely special game"? And if you have read it up to this point, you also know, what is so special with this game. All in all it's a classical adventure, which can convince by great technical innovations and by many very good ideas in the gameplay. In order to be honest: It surprised me very much that such a big software house as Broderbund does not bet on the safe card, when it tries to get some kind of a grip in the international play. You can confidently assume that the production of this game devoured a budget, which was enormous enough to finance a very sophisticated, very conservative and very profitable game with popular topic. Until now the independent, small labels were responsible for innovations, who (still) don't have to consider the "shareholder value".

The Last Express is completely reliably a game, where you have to "work yourself into" the atmosphere and historical environment. Perhaps also some genre newbies could have their problems with one or the other puzzle. And it even seems to be a kind of prestige object that could never sell enormous numbers of copies. But exactly that would be a great pity! Because this game has earned a spreading like hardly a second. As in the last year Broken Sword was the measure of all things, now each coming adventure must compete with The Last Express. If you only manage to keep at it the first quarter of an hour, you won't let off this game any longer. Not until you played it to the end completely. And in addition you will surely get along some nights without sleep. Enjoy!


Broken Sword
Virgin 110 Mark

Versailles 1685
Cryo 100 Mark

Sierra 119,95 Mark

Developer: Broderbund

Price: 90 Mark

Pentium 60, 8 MB RAM, SVGA, DOS or Windows 95

Great atmosphere
Enormous game depth
varied, fluid gameplay

Graphics of some NPC


  • Funfactor: 46 of 50
  • Handling: 9 of 10
  • Graphics: 17 of 20
  • Sound: 18 of 20
  • Total: 90

PC Power June 1997


Adventure-Archiv 04-07-01


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