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The only thing better than finding something new and awesome to play at the App Store is when a classic game you once cherished gets resurrected for the platform.
Such is the case with The Last Express, an award-winning story-driven adventure from 1997, created by Jordan Mechner of Prince of Persia fame.
The PC adventure game holds up very well 15 years later, now optimized for touch controls on the iPad's 9.7-inch screen but also playable on iPhone and iPod touch.
On the brink of The Great War, The Last Express is staged during a turbulent summer of 1914, on a European train ride from Paris to Constantinople. The entire game takes place on the last journey of the Orient Express over three full days and nights, and places you in an immersive, atmospheric adventure filled with good 'ol fashioned mystery and danger.
You are Robert Cath, a young American summoned by his close friend Tyler Whitney to join him on the train. He arrives late and barely makes the train, only to find Tyler murdered in his car. Cath quickly assumes Tyler's identity to reveal the killer and eventually finds himself woven in a complex web of suspense, betrayal and political intrigue.
There are 30-odd characters, including a memorable Austrian beauty, a German arms dealer, a North African antiques dealer and a Russian anarchist. The characters move about on the train as if they were real passengers, going about their business and talking in their native language.
You'll sneak into compartments, eavesdrop on conversations, pick up items for your inventory, solve puzzles and interact with suspects to solve the game. That might take some time: This adventure is quite long at about 15 to 20 hours. Plus, your actions might affect other characters' behavior, therefore if you take a wrong turn you might opt to "rewind" to a previous point in the story.
The game is played mostly from a first-person perspective. The unique and attractive "rotoscoping" animation was achieved by filming real actors and actresses and then drawing on top of the characters and set pieces, frame by frame.
As with the original game, The Last Express is playable in five languages - English, French, German, Italian and Spanish. New to the iOS game is the ability to earn achievements, a new hint system and unlockable character biographies and cinematics.
Aside from the relatively high price of $5 for an iPad game, the only complaint is a lack of subtitles - there's a lot of dialogue to catch so it would be good to read it and maybe even refer back to it in a journal. Plus, be aware the game is a hefty 1.6 gigabytes in size, which might be too big for those on a 16GB iPad.
Overall, The Last Express is an extraordinary adventure that plays just as well today on an iPad than it did back in the '90s on a Windows 95 machine.
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