Back in 2014, The Last Door proved that psychological horror could effectively be conveyed through even the most basic of pixel art presentations. The four-part series followed Jeremiah Devitt as he delved into the occult mysteries of The Veil, a surreal world parallel to ours that looks much the same but is twisted and often triggers trippy hallucinations. Created by indie Spanish developer The Game Kitchen with the help of Kickstarter, the first game was a resounding success that Season Two builds upon and even manages to improve, once again creating a low-res but beautifully detailed Victorian England with a suspenseful Lovecraftian feel.
The new four-episode collection starts right where the first game left off. Jeremiah has disappeared, so this time players step into the role of his therapist, Dr. John Wakefield, who is determined to find his patient. Joined by Dr. Johan Kaufmann, his colleague and professor of the occult, the two men follow the only lead they have on Devitt. Their pursuit leads them into a dark mystery filled with conspiracies, a secret society, and eventually an exploration of The Veil itself. Each installment begins with a skippable recap of what happened previously, which is a nice reminder if you’re not playing them back to back or if you lose track of important plot details. Although the first three episodes are pretty self-contained, the final chapter references events from the original Last Door and nicely ties up all of the loose ends. There are two possible endings, and they both bring a satisfying conclusion to the series.
Players will visit numerous locations around England, many of which are new to the series. Each episode takes place in a different area, from London to the small village of Wickport to the island of Eilis Mor. Within these settings, you’ll explore such places as a shady opium den and the East Hill Lunatic Asylum, which is having funding problems. Travel between them occurs via carriage, train, and boat using a map of the larger area that displays available locales. There is some backtracking involved, but it is not too frustrating since there are only a few screens within any given location and the larger map allows you to move instantly to your desired destination. Further speeding things up, double-clicking the exit of an explorable location will immediately take you to the next screen.
You’ll run into many different people on your journey, and most of these characters are believably relatable. Besides Dr. Kaufmann, there’s Sergeant William Conghill, the only survivor of his military campaign; Captain Morvell, a drunken sea captain who misses the sailing life; and Lord Donnan, whose young son disappeared without a trace. Dr. Wakefield himself is likeable, not wanting to abandon the search for his patient even when it brings danger and tragedy. Dialogue can be advanced by left-clicking, and although the conversations are linear, there are a few times when you can choose how to respond, like when a person asks if Dr. Wakefield is a religious man. Although such options do not impact the larger story, they do subtly alter the immediate conversation.
Just like the first game, The Last Door: Season Two is very effective in building a tense and spooky atmosphere, with the clever use of light (and lack thereof) adding to the disturbing mood. Candles flicker and leave some parts in shadow, and in dark places Dr. Wakefield must use a lantern that only illuminates a small area around him. This bubble of light in an otherwise pitch-black environment makes it feel like unseen things are watching from the dark. One scene has Dr. Wakefield in a basement, his only source of light the few matches in his possession. Each lit match dies after a few seconds and leaves the player in total darkness with only the sound of the protagonist breathing and the next match striking. Creepy.
Adding to his troubles, the doctor’s investigation has not gone unnoticed. Something is determined to stop him – to scare him away at least, but it is not above killing to protect the secret of The Veil. In the spirit of Lovecraft, the game gives players only a glimpse of something frightening and grotesque, but that mere glimpse makes the darkened shadows that much more unknown and scary. This means of hinting at danger without showing everything wisely leaves much to the player’s imagination, which is often more terrifying than reality.
Also like its predecessor, the new season is a standard third-person point-and-click adventure. Left-clicking controls movement as well as interaction with hotspots, with a smart cursor indicating what actions are possible. Some hotspots offer only descriptions, which are really well written and make the surrounding world more vivid. And they should, since the developers let their beta players write item descriptions and picked the best ones for final release. At the time of writing this review, there are still a few descriptions missing with placeholder names instead, though I imagine this will be corrected. When Dr. Wakefield picks up an item, he usually gives some kind of hint how it can be used. Inventory is stored at the bottom of the screen in a black bar with a magnifying lens that provides item descriptions, and in some cases a close-up view that shows more detail, such as a model of a soldier.Continued on the next page...