What's Last Stop about? After playing the first few chapters, I'm still not entirely sure - but that's probably the point. An adventure game in which the plot slowly unfolds through three interconnected stories, it's initially a slow burner, yet the characters and cliffhangers introduced with each chapter have me completely intrigued - and I'm itching to know how each of them gets resolved.
Made by Variable State and published by Annapurna Interactive, Last Stop is a single-player adventure game releasing on PC, Xbox, PlayStation and Switch this July. It takes place in current-day London, and follows the lives of several average citizens as they go about their everyday lives. Or at least they start that way: things very quickly get spooky as the characters experience supernatural encounters.
Oh, and I should mention this whole game is spectacularly British. If you're looking for London bottled in a video game, this is it.
The narrative is split between three main characters, each with their own dedicated chapters. Once you've completed all three chapters in a particular round, you can then move on to the next set. I was concerned that flitting between characters might result in some hasty set-ups, but Last Stop surprised me by just how quickly it established believable characters and their worlds.
For one chapter I stepped into the shoes of John, a middle-aged single dad, and navigated him through a gruelling day of work with all the mundane tasks that entails. Clues about character backgrounds are dropped in through these tasks: sorting through John's post told me he had health problems, and was potentially in trouble with social services. I soon discovered that John certainly doesn't give his child the attention she needs - leaving her unattended for hours, and failing to give her proper meals or check her homework. But experiencing John's day helped me understand why this was happening. Forced to stay late by his boss, caught out by delayed trains, and unable to afford a babysitter, John's predicament has largely been caused by the systems around him rather than pure negligence. I could also completely relate to John's printer troubles and the experience of ringing up a tech helpline to get it fixed - a true nightmare scenario.
It's a great exercise in building empathy for flawed characters, told through a combination of everyday tasks and charming dialogue. Last Stop discusses the mundane, sure, but it always keeps you engaged - whether it's by requiring you to steer your character, engage in minigames, or quickly fire off humorous dialogue responses. There's plenty of British humour, with a plethora of inventive ways to rib other characters.
Beyond the snarkiness and banter, the dialogue options always feel appropriate for each character, and play a crucial part in presenting their worldview. Meena, a cut-throat and self-centred professional, is introduced to the player via a "scanning" minigame in which Meena analyses a young colleague to determine her worthiness. Her dialogue options are then limited to impatient at best, downright rude at the very worst. It's an effective and fun way to establish a character's outlook, and I instantly felt rather frosty towards Meena. I guess the clue about her personality was in her name, really.
And if you've been longing for the feeling of exploring London, Last Stop is pretty great at imparting the general mood of the city. The chapters open up by making your character walk through the streets of London to intro music: through winding neighbourhoods and high streets, under train lines, past hipster bars and through tube stations. And you see a real range of lifestyles - from those living in tiny tower block flats, to yuppie bachelor pads and pricey townhouses. It also shows the young and multicultural nature of the city, particularly through Donna's storyline as she interacts with her schoolfriends and family.
My only niggle is that walking can sometimes feel a little janky - the characters seem to walk somewhat diagonally, and this can be distracting in some scenes. On other occasions there were some issues with the character animations looking a little jagged, with some crowd members missing faces. The game is still a work in progress, so hopefully these issues will be ironed out before release.
So while I still have no idea what's going on with the supernatural elements, even in the first few chapters Last Stop manages to establish some fascinating story threads that I want to follow - and I'm desperate to know how they all interweave. And frankly, any game with that much British slang is good in my book.