Prince of Persia creator Jordan Mechner – indisputably one of the loveliest game-makers around – found critical success and commercial failure in his 1997 adventure game, The Last Express.
A point and click game set aboard The Orient Express days before the start of World War I, it had all the makings of a classic – an expressive, hand-drawn art nouveau style, an inventive real-time mechanic at its core and a cast of fascinating characters – but due to a series of unfortunate setbacks for publisher Brøderbund the game never quite found the broad audience it deserved.
For Mechner’s newly-formed studio Smoking Car, the game had a devastating effect. “For me, making this game was a life-changing experience,” wrote Mechner on his blog. “It was my first time starting and running a company. In four years, Smoking Car Productions grew to 60 people; babies were born, friendships were forged. We spent our last nickel on the game, and closed our doors shortly after it shipped, so it probably wasn’t the smartest career move for most of us; but it was an adventure that I wouldn’t trade for anything.”
So today’s re-release of the PC game for iOS offers the chance to experience what many consider a lost classic. The game has a wonderful Hitchcock-esque ambiance – aided by film composer Elia Cmiral’s soundtrack – and its puzzles favour logic over abstraction – a welcome change for those driven to game guides by LucasArts’ more leftfield conundrums.
Download The Last Express for iOS here.