Last Window is something of a bittersweet release for me. On the one hand, it's the long-awaited sequel to Cing's classic Hotel Dusk - which means the return of goateed detective Kyle Hyde, of the gorgeous hand-sketched art style, and of odd puzzles that find you messing about with doorstops, plastic rulers, and other curiously useful household objects. Unfortunately, it's also the last game that Cing made before it went tits-up at the start of the year - meaning that it's also the end of the road for the franchise.
Still, it's strangely appropriate that there's an air of tragedy about Last Window, because the game itself deals fairly heavily in melancholia. Don't let that put you off, though. The story that gradually unfolds here isn't a depressing one; it just happens to focus on a group of characters who've all suffered more than their fair share of Bad Stuff. If you played through Hotel Dusk you'll know that Cing has (or rather, had) a knack for handling this kind of mature material, but if not you might be surprised at the subtlety and emotional depth on display. This is a rare beast - an "adult" game that for once is actually worthy of the label.
Like its predecessor, Last Window plants us in well-worn shoes of Kyle Hyde - a former NYPD detective who left the force after putting a bullet in his corrupt partner, Bradley. Hyde now works for Red Crown, a door-to-door sales company that acts as a front for far more a secretive business - one which recovers lost or missing items on a client-by-client basis. Hotel Dusk was set in 1979 and followed Hyde over a 24 hour period as he visited the eponymous motel, ultimately solving a sinister mystery that tied in to his own past. For Last Window the setting skips forward a year to December 1980, while the narrative span extends to encompass an entire week.
Within seconds of the game starting, Hyde finds himself in hot water: he's newly unemployed, thanks to an argument with the boss of Red Crown, and it turns out that the owner of his apartment block is turfing out all the tenants. Then, just as he's dealing with this double whammy, an anonymous client sends him a vague but enticing order. As before, the ensuing story finds Hyde delving into the past, digging up the history of both Cape West Apartments and the people who live there. It soon becomes apparent that everyone has something to hide, and that certain parties may stop at nothing to keep the truth buried.
To a certain degree, Last Window is a variant of the point-n-click adventure game - a genre that's enjoyed a certain comeback over the past few years. Unlike the majority of its peers, Cing's game isn't really that concerned with weighing the player down with hundreds of puzzles. For much of the time your only concern is working out where to go next, and who you should be talking to; find the right person, and the next chunk of narrative will unfold. At times you'll feel like you're making your way through an interactive novel rather than playing a game - a feeling that is supplemented by fact that you play with the DS held sideways-on, so that it resembles a book.
When you do encounter a puzzle, it'll usually involve the manipulation of everyday items. One early poseur requires you to shut down a noisy fire alarm; another finds you struggling to get coins out of a piggy bank without breaking it. Sometimes the answer simply requires you to use an item you've picked up, but often the solution forces you to use the stylus to manipulate something on the touchscreen, or to use one of the DS' other inputs in an odd (but usually rather original) way. It would be great to give a concrete example of these moments, but considering how comparatively rare they are, it would deeply unfair of me to deprive you of the game's little surprises.