The Last Door Chapter 4: Ancient Shadows [Review]

Joel Couture
MASH Veteran
 
March 3rd, 2014

The Last Door Chapter 4: Ancient Shadows is the first time I felt like I should replay the first couple of chapters. The plot of the last three chapters has gotten pretty complex by this point, and without a little synopsis to bring me up to speed, I found that I was starting to get lost. I didn’t want to be confused when I settled into the game, though, as the game’s excellent plot has been keeping me interested just as much as its great scares, creepy environments, and superb sound. Given the short length of this chapter it is a good time to settle in and play the others, as you don’t want to be spending much time being confused when this chapter wraps up the spooky events of the first season.

This really is where I found things started to get confusing, but not through any fault of the devs. The plot of these games is quite deep and twisting, so playing it episodically has become like playing through Silent Hill 2 in four play sessions that are each several months apart. It might be good at this point to offer some sort of synopsis to read for players who don’t quite remember the old ones and don’t have the time to replay them, especially since we’ll be waiting for the next season of this game before we get a new chapter. Still, the games have always been quite short, so you could easily play them all and get caught up. This is a plot that would take multiple playthroughs to fully grasp anyway, so you’re probably doing yourself a favor by replaying them.

The quality sound and atmosphere is out in full effect, and I would expect no less from this series at this point. The creaking sound of your footsteps through the dark halls hasn’t gotten old, and was still more than enough to keep me nervous. The voices in the halls have come back as well; the devs at The Game Kitchen still known exactly when to have a dull voice echo through the building. Hearing that muffled sound made me freeze in my steps just as it did in the last chapter, although it’s nowhere near as scary as hearing someone singing in the sewers. Still, this chapter’s sudden noises and weird effects kept me on edge, and haven’t lost their touch in the slightest.

The Last Door Chapter 4: Ancient Shadows [Review]

The visuals are as charming and eerie as always, but some of the locales are starting to look a little similar. We spent the first chapter playing through a creepy house, and the main location in this chapter feels a little too much like that one. We once again find ourselves in a weird house, but it’s much smaller and filled with rooms that look a lot like ones from the first chapter. Story-wise, this felt like it was wrapping the events of the first chapter in with those of the last in a nice way, but visually, it feels like a bit of a let-down. They can’t always be offering us new locations to play in and I knew this going in, but I was really enjoying the varied locales of the first few games and was a bit sad to see so many similar locations in this one.

That’s not to say that there aren’t any neat places in Ancient Shadows. There are some nice little spots like the greenhouse to send shivers up your spine. Taking a walk down that forest path was an unnerving experience, as was my time in the dark room. There is a little bit of variety in here that fights against the repetitive feeling, and those locations are really nice and detailed, but they don’t quite get rid of that disappointment. It doesn’t really take away from the game since the devs can’t realistically come up with new locations for every room every time unless they force the story in odd directions, but they’re so skilled with pixel art that I always want to see new things coming from them. I’m just spoiled, I guess.

This may be the most straightforward of the chapters as well. These games only occasionally delve into point-and-click logic, thankfully, and this one manages to avoid it completely. Then again, there were only a few puzzles in this chapter, far less than any other, so there wasn’t much room for them to have needlessly complicated, weird puzzles. Those that were in the chapter are pretty straightforward so long as you’ve been exploring the environment and paying attention, and only served as a nice diversion to build upon the atmosphere and the story. Then again, the main character does refuse to dig a hole until you find a shovel (something that takes a good chunk of the game’s entire length), stating that he won’t dig with his hands, so the game doesn’t completely escape the kind of weird logic that keeps most point-and-click games going.

The Last Door Chapter 4: Ancient Shadows [Review]

I was also sad that the game was short, but it’s not short in a way that leaves you feeling wanting. It was more of a “Not now! You can’t just stop there! I need to know what happens next!” kind of short. The story in this chapter is brief, but runs its course to a natural closing point to leave players on yet another major cliffhanger. There aren’t many characters or pieces of exposition in this chapter compared to others, but it does bring many of the major events of the first season to an end point and leave the story open to jumping off to a very strange place in the main character’s journey (or to hop off onto another character for the next season). It’s an interesting point that I really wasn’t expecting, one that makes you question all of your actions leading up to that point.

This is a series about following the actions of a club of madmen, one which my character was once a member of, and in the course of that journey I’ve taken a lot of odd statements and events for granted. The game plays around with the supernatural at many points, hinting at some really bizarre activities that I just accepted at face value. It was just a weird story being told through the eyes of my sane main character. Then again, if you’re playing a video game where weird things happen, most players tend to just accept these occurrences as fact for the current game world they’re playing in. My own playthroughs of the Silent Hill games had me just accepting that the characters in those games had passed into some other strange world where these things were real. For some reason, it took multiple playthroughs before it occurred to me that these events might just be in my characters’ heads. Was Silent Hill even a place, or was it just a mental breakdown taking visual form for me to play it out?

Ancient Shadows may have been taking a similar shape the entire time. With all of the strange events going on in it, why hasn’t it occurred to me to question the motives of my character? Should I just trust everything the guy says and sees as fact when it’s so downright strange? Is this an alternate reality of our world where these events are possible, or is my character a whole lot crazier than I’ve previously considered? This chapter elegantly brings up such a point, once again making me feel like I should replay the other chapters in order to revisit events and look at them with this newfound information. That a final chapter can enhance and add value to all of the previous ones in an episodic series makes the fact that it’s short seem kind of pointless. So what if Ancient Shadows isn’t long? All of a sudden, I have three more chapters to replay in a light that will make them fresh and new.

You really come to The Last Door series for the story. Yes, the sound, atmosphere, and visuals are all great, but it’s the threads of story and mystery that make it impossible for me to stop playing it. Every time I finish a chapter, I literally need to have the next one in my hands as soon as possible. This drip feed every couple of months is pretty hard to handle, but it is so worth the wait every time we get a new piece of the story. The Last Door Chapter 4: Ancient Shadows is a short chapter that doesn’t have much for new puzzles or locations, but it still nails everything that makes this series great and made me see the previous chapters in a new light. It may be the shortest chapter, but the results of its revelations make the rest of the series new and terrifying all over again.

You can play the game or make a donation to the next chapter at the developer’s site.

META

A horror-obsessed gamer, Joel is still spending his days looking for something to scare himself as much as Fatal Frame. Even so, he has ridiculous action games and obscure gems to keep him happy in the meantime. A self-proclaimed aficionado of terrible retro games, he's always looking for a rotten game he hasn't played yet, and may be willing to exchange information for candy.

Specialty: Horror