Content of the article: "The Last Door couldn’t turn me around on point-and-click adventure games, and now I’m convinced no game can."
In this pseudo-Lovecraftian horror story, minimalist pixel art and lifelike sound design combine surprisingly well to kindle the imagination and then let it do most of the rest of the work as your lonely footsteps echo through creaky houses, cobbled streets, trickling sewers and more. Unsettling sights come just frequently enough, dialogue is evocative, and the mood never wavers for the sake of easing tension – just the way I like my horror.
But BOY, do I still not want to slowly meander back and forth across the same half-dozen screens blindly rubbing together crucifixes and cyanide and bits of string and chunks of stone and shards of glass in hope that meaningful text will appear. Nor do I want to go to any uninteresting lengths for retrieving a sixpence to buy a newspaper with JUST so the boy selling it will talk to me beyond fishing it out of my damn pocket like a normal person. And I especially do not want to do any of this when few objects are made up of more than 6 or so pixels.
Point-and-click adventure games, in my experience, seem designed around the concept of completing menial tasks in the least practical way possible. Of turning objectives of the smallest scale and consequence that should take no time or thought at all into entire puzzles that are mixed together five at a time and strewn about a building for you to scrounge around.
The smallest nitpick is that every item you pick up is only picked up the *second* time you click on it. The first time your character just comments on it, and if you're like me, you think to yourself, "nice flavor text, this sounds like nothing I would ever conceivably need to have on hand" and move on and immediately forget about it. No. Pick that shit up. You're gonna need it for something most any blunt instrument laying around this house could do.
Another part of my issue is that the puzzles are just not in confined enough spaces for me. It's one thing to have to intuit an unconventional puzzle with one possible solution when the pieces are all at least right in front of me, but it's hard to hold in my head every statue and leaky pipe and broken window and crack in the wall my avatar finds noteworthy, particularly when the interactions they're supposed to have with other objects feel so random and contrived for the sake of forcibly padding out the playtime ("oh, of course I had to paint the lightbulb red with the blood of the dead deer out front that wasn't even fucking there on my way here!"). Sometimes I just figure I'm too stupid for this genre, but other times I feel like a kid guessing in which hand my asshole uncle is holding a quarter, only to find out it's in neither.
Harder still to navigate these spread-out puzzles when moving around the environments and interacting with them is just too unwieldy. This is on the fault of the port job to the Switch. You move your cursor around the screen with a joystick and it highlights whatever you can touch or examine or pick up. Instead of defaulting to the center when going to a new screen, it stays where you left it. Did you just walk to a right exit and are now on the right side of a different room you need to go to the left exit of? Probably, because for whatever reason that's how we've designed much of this game, so drag the cursor all the way across the screen. You can tap on the screen when undocked to click on things, but then you don't have a cursor to highlight objects in this crudely-pixelated room without now having your big damn hand obscuring the lonely spooky hallway. Holding two fingers down on the screen at once is the only way to just highlight all the points of interest on the screen you might have (read: probably) missed, so you're frequently swapping between the two control schemes if you enjoy things like actually seeing the game you're playing.
But the big problem I have is, I'm just never being asked to do anything *interesting.* It's all just for the sake of it. There are no stakes or chances of real failure, no open-ended or emergent solutions to these hard-coded puzzles ostensibly painted as mundane obstacles that in any real world would have at least a dozen satisfactory approaches, and all it takes to figure any of it out is time, so why am I spending said time doing *the least* compelling things a story could possibly contain?
All in all, if you like those unnerving indie horror vibes, this is a great watch on YouTube.
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