The Last Express
A Hitchcockian thriller set aboard the Orient Express on the eve of World War I, Jordan and Smoking Car Productions’ cult-classic 1997 real-time-rewinding adventure game The Last Express has now arrived on iOS.
Update: The Last Express has just been released for iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch! Check it out in the App store.
I tested the final version yesterday on a long transatlantic flight (Frankfurt-LAX, with headphones), and it’s my new favorite way to play it. Next to playing on an actual train, that is.
Here’s the trailer:
Update: The Last Express will be released for iOS on September 27, 2012.
I’ve been biting my virtual tongue for the past few months in my eagerness to respond to the many fans of The Last Express who’ve suggested how beautifully this 1997 adventure game could work as an iPad/iPhone app.
Ilya, Veronika, Jan, Jáchym, Sebastian, Felipe, Robert, Will, Stefano, Chiara, Felix, Alexander, Arnim, Jennifer, Lydia, Lauren, Ravi: You’re absolutely right.
It’s with enormous pleasure that I can finally share this good news: A young French company, DotEmu (who celebrated their fifth anniversary in Paris last night — making them ten years younger than the game) is developing a full iOS version of Last Express, to be released later this year.
Details to follow — but be assured, this will be the complete, original PC game, a deep and immersive real-time interactive narrative offering 20+ hours of game play, with a few additional enhancements to make it more iOS-friendly.
My thanks to DotEmu, the original Smoking Car team, and all the Last Express fans who’ve encouraged us to refill the coal tender and stoke the furnace so that this train can leave the station once again, fifteen years later.
I can’t wait!
Moving Pixels at PopMatters have posted a great hourlong podcast all about playing (and replaying) The Last Express: “Playing on trains and playing with time.”
You can download it from their blog, or hear it here:
A thoughtful article by Tom Cross on Gamasutra about The Last Express and immersive game worlds:
Browsing through my storage room in an attempt to avoid working on my current project, I stumbled across this printout of an unfinished screenplay I’d started, then abandoned, back in 2002.
Entitled Red Serpent, and set in 1904 Paris, ten years before the events of The Last Express, it would have been an early adventure of Robert Cath (still in medical school) and his best/worst friend Tyler Whitney (upgraded in this version to Cath’s half-brother — a change I don’t think I’d make today).
The plot bears a more-than-slight resemblance to The Da Vinci Code, which would be published the following year. No plagiarism was involved. I’d guess that Dan Brown and I had been reading the same pseudo-historical “research,” including Holy Blood, Holy Grail by Baigent and Leigh (who did, in fact, sue Brown for plagiarism, and lost). Whereas Brown treated their theory seriously, my approach was more tongue-in-cheek.
I’ve posted it here in case it interests anyone — as a glimpse into the early, rough-first-draft stages of the creative process. Mostly, the stories we read are ones that survive all the way to completion. This one, for many reasons, didn’t.
Rereading the screenplay fragment today, I can see why I abandoned it. There are things in it that I like, but it’s not really of a piece with The Last Express. It’s more fluffy and lightweight. It can’t quite decide whether it wants to be a movie in the Indiana Jones/Da Vinci Code spirit, or a spoof of that kind of movie. And, while I enjoyed the two main characters, I can’t quite see them growing up to be Cath and Tyler as Tomi Pierce and I originally conceived them.
Also, in 2002, Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time (the game) was gearing up production at Ubisoft Montreal, and my excitement for that project was growing while my sense of conviction on this one was dwindling. Ultimately, I dropped Red Serpent to give me more time for POP. It was the right decision.
A couple of years ago, for a fun weekend project, I captured a dozen hours of gameplay footage from my 1997 adventure game The Last Express and edited it down into a single, 75-minute linear narrative.
Other than a walk down memory lane, I’m not sure what it’s good for. It doesn’t work as a movie — the demands of game vs. film storytelling are too different — and the low-res, dissolve-between-still-frames animation looks awfully clunky now. But for anyone who’s interested, here it is (in eight 10-minute segments).
Spoiler alert: If you haven’t played the game, Part 8 gives away the ending.
Parts 2-8 are available here.