Our Game of the Year list represents the thoughts of the VideoGamer.com hive mind, but what about the individual titles which slipped through the cracks? Our Staff Picks might not be GOTY material, usually because they're deeply flawed in certain areas, but they still managed to strike a chord with us in some way. Today, Neon talks about Last Window...
Given the sheer number of big name releases we've had, it's fair to say that 2010 wasn't a particularly good year [time?] to be an underdog. Quite a few smaller releases ended up falling between the cracks, crushed by the gargantuan presence of behemoths like Halo, Red Dead and Black Ops. Under the circumstances, Last Window never stood much chance of making waves. Even if it had done, that wouldn't have benefitted developer Cing; the Japanese studio went bankrupt back in March.
But let's not get too gloomy here. It's a minor miracle that we Europeans even got to play Last Window at all, and our poor friends over the pond are still waiting for an American release. I'm just happy to get the chance to say goodbye to former-turned-private-detective Kyle Hyde - one of my all-time favourite video game heroes.
Last Window is the sequel to Hotel Dusk, an adventure game best known for its delightful, Take On Me-style rotoscoped graphics. This follow-up jumps forward to 1980's Los Angeles, and finds the moody Kyle Hyde at an even lower ebb than usual: he's just been fired, his rent is due, and the apartment block he lives in is due to be demolished. The game follows our man over the course of a week as he attempts to sort his life out while simultaneously solving a complex mystery - one that's deeply woven into the history of Cape West Apartments, and of Hyde himself.
Like its predecessor, Last Window is played with the DS held sideways so that it resembles a book. It's no surprise, then, that the game itself is almost entirely narrative driven. Despite its identity as an adventure game, genuine puzzles are relatively rare - although those that do pop up are smartly designed, and largely superior to those found in Hotel Dusk. For the most part, however, you're simply looking for a way to advance the plot - the right place to visit, or the right person to speak to.
That may not sound massively appealing, or even particularly exciting, but Last Window easily boats one of the best plots we've had all year - a carefully-honed tale that encompasses murder, betrayal, and all manner of deception. It's a remarkably adult story too, exploring mature themes with intelligence and subtlety. Appropriately enough, given that it's the developer's swansong, Last Window is a game about loss, regret and redemption. The fact that it's so easy to engage with these topics is testament to Cing's handling of its characters. The cast includes a cash-sponging musician, a paranoid widow, and a seedy, pony-tailed stranger with a mean attitude. They’re flawed, multi-faceted characters with genuine emotional depth, and the chances are that you'll love them.
But most of all, you'll love Kyle Hyde - the morose-yet noble Kyle Hyde with his sharp wit, warm heart, and effortlessly stylish goatee. You'll get more out of Last Window if you've finished Hotel Dusk, but even if you haven't there's a huge amount to enjoy here. By the time you reach the story's moving conclusion, you'll be wishing there were more narrative-driven games that are half as good as this. Rest in peace, Cing.
For more end of year content, head over to our Game of the Year 2010 hub.