One of my favorite games from 2016 is Variable State’s small town mystery Virginia. Without speaking a single word, Virginia oozed character and intrigue while leaving plenty up to the player to decipher. It’s so, so good. Needless to say, I was pretty pumped to play the British developer’s newest adventure Last Stop, especially since it’s currently in the Xbox Game Pass library. Unlike Virginia, though, Last Stop is a much longer experience that loses its footing pretty early and never really recovers.
The game features three playable characters, each with their own sub-plot that slowly weaves its way into an overarching narrative.
John is an aging single father struggling to keep his life together, split between caring for his young daughter and working for a boss he’d rather see tossed under a moving train. What begins as a totally normal day eventually sees John waking up in the body of his young, successful neighbor (and vice versa). The two must figure out how to cure their newfound condition while living out each other’s lives in secrecy. I initially enjoyed the premise here and looked forward to where it could possibly go, but it really dragged on until the final chapter where it just totally went off the rails.
Meena is a special agent at an intelligence firm, but what she actually does isn’t revealed until much later in her story. This scenario mostly focuses on her affair with her son’s doctor, her rocky relationship with her father, and a newfound rivalry with a promising young agent she’s competing with for a new position. Her portion of the game is the most grounded in reality and, as a result, is the least interesting. She’s not a likeable person and I had zero sympathy for someone cheating on their spouse. I guess that was the point, though. Not everyone is a hero.
The final playable character is Donna, a high school student living with her seriously ill mother, her sister, and her sister’s girlfriend. The siblings are always butting heads, with the older one upset at the lack of time Donna spends at home helping out. Donna would rather have fun with her friends, as most teenagers would, but during one of their outings they spot a sketchy man who keeps bringing people into his home that never seem to leave.
Believing him to be a murderer or something, the trio follow him to an abandoned hotel when he reveals himself to be… otherworldly. This gives away the kids’ hiding spot and they quickly find themselves being chased out. Donna, however, trips like a careless victim in a horror film, but before being grabbed by The Mystery Man her friends club him over the head and tie him up back inside. They can’t just let him go — nobody would believe them. Thus, Donna’s chapters focus on her family struggles by day and watching over this new prisoner. This was my overall favorite of the bunch, as it always kept me guessing, but, like the others, it gets a little too out there and ends in a wholly unsatisfying manner.
Similar to other games in the genre, Last Stop mostly consists of walking around from place to place and making various dialogue choices that have some lasting consequences. However, I didn’t really feel the impact of any of my choices throughout the entire game. I’d have to play it again to see how different things can be, but the end result seems to be set in stone. At least, that’s how it felt to me. There’s probably a few narrative differences, but nothing important enough to really change things. It’s ultimately unsatisfying to actually play.
Visually, it’s kind of an eyesore. I’m not a graphics snob in any way, but being published by a company like Annapurna, who has a proven track record of top-notch games, I guess I expected a little more. Character models are all pretty awful to look at, their animations are super janky, and everything has way too much motion blur that just doesn’t do the visuals any favors. I know they were going for a more stylistic approach over hyperrealism, but it just looks… off. Coming off of Virginia, which, again, is 5 years old by now, Last Stop looks, plays, and feels considerably worse.
I know this probably reads like I’m not too fond of the game, and that’s mostly true, but these types of adventures live and die by their storytelling. Last Stop does introduce three very unique, very interesting scenarios. I just don’t think they’re consistently intriguing and once they all came together I was just like… “oh.” Maybe you’ll enjoy more than I did, though?
If Last Stop doesn’t sound like your cup of tea, at least check out Virginia. It’s fantastic.