On his blog, Jordan Mechner recently released a remix of The Last Express, cutting the game’s animated gameplay into a 75-minute cinematic tale. It’s almost been transformed into a series of webisodes, though the game was too fluid for neat episode breaks.
The Last Express was an oddity even when it was released back in 1997—the adventure genre was going through wonderful innovations at the same time that it was dying out. (This was the year before Grim Fandango streeted.) Mechner’s game was a pre-war espionage tale presented with a minimalist interface and pared-down and steamlined art nouveau animation style, all set on a luxurious 3D model of the Orient Express. It was either a peculiar hybrid or a novel pastiche, but for sure it was clever and niche. I don’t know if the thing was a success or not, but it was daring in its way then and is a peculiar artifact of late-1990s game tech and ludo-narrative* experimentation now.
When the game came out, I was already in an art nouveau phase and rushing rapidly toward an RPG idea that could be described as Castle Falkenstein‘s Great War. (It eventually turned into a d20 System setting that got the axe when the bottom fell out of that market.) Anyway, I was predisposed to like The Last Express and so I did. But looking back… I’m not sure that I ever finished it. So I’m treating Mechner’s remix as a miniseries and watching a couple a week until I’m done.
This is a rare look at a game that was already strongly and frankly narrative, transformed into something that is 100% narrative. It’s a look at a narrative game with the game removed.
*(What? Let me play.)