There's an undeniable wonky charm to Last Stop's trio of weird stories. While it's more of an interactive animation or film most of the time, rather than a playable game, it's hard not to like the characters you meet, or get drawn into their stories and want to know more. There's body-swapping, mysterious portals, a strange man maybe murdering his one-night stands, and school kids huffing gas to pass the time; there's a lot to process.
There are three stories in total, interwoven gently as familiar faces wander past in the background, or stories share incidental characters in passing. The tales themselves cover a body-swapping story as two men try to deal with literally being in each other's shoes. There's a group of school children taking an interest in a man who keeps bringing people home who are never seen again. And, finally, a woman dealing with the savage corporate ladder at a shady intelligence organization while balancing family life and the affair she's having on the side.
While none of these things might seem initially related, the game kicks off with the discovery of a glowing portal behind a door hidden in the London Underground in the 1980s. This brief prologue sees an impatient man telling the children that discover it that he hasn't got time to waste, before a girl takes the plunge, walks through, and is never seen again. Cut to the present day and the three main stories begin, linked by this event, and a menu screen where the three main characters unknowingly share a London underground carriage.
Part of what makes Last Stop an enjoyable story is that it doesn't waste your time. It's episodic, with each plot line broken into breezy little chunks. Every time one ends you end up back on the train carriage, ready to carry on with the story you're on, or jump to another. It uses this time well to develop the various characters and the strange situations they find themselves in. Most of the time you're walking around listening to dialogue and picking between answers. It should get boring but it doesn't as all three strands weave just enough character, charm, and intrigue to the proceedings. Whether that's to see what happens next, or because you're enjoying your time with the people you meet, that fast episodic turnaround makes it easy to keep nibbling through it all.
The quick changes between stories work well because they all have a different pace and feel to them. John and Jack, a middle-aged father and young programmer respectively, are dealing with having swapped bodies. Theirs is perhaps the most human tale as they deal with co-parenting and trying to keep their lives together. The two men, and John's daughter, form an endearing trio trying to manage an extremely unusual situation with an extremely English weary acceptance. It's the warmest adventure of the three, with a light comedy-drama feel to it all as they bumble through becoming friends and trying to work everything out.
Donna Adeleke's story on the other hand flits between home troubles and following a stranger who keeps bringing people back to his flat who never leave. Her story has more of 'what's going to happen next' momentum as things get weirder and more surprising. It would be spoilers to explain more but there's a very Buffy / Scooby Gang feel to how things unfold.
And, finally, there's Meena, who has the most mysterious thread. She works in a shady intelligence agency whose purpose is never clear. She's competing with a younger woman for an unspecified role but also having an affair while dealing blackmail, and her father's enthusiastic discovery, late in life, of psychedelic drugs. Of the three stories, hers is the most grounded, with most of the intrigue coming from trying to work out where she fits into everything else that's going on.
Walk and talk
But, as I mentioned this is a game that's light on gameplay. It feels like the story came first and then moments where you actually 'play' pop up here and there almost like the developers went through a finished script once looking for places to slot it in. Probably 70% of the game is just walking through scenes as characters talk, or choosing dialogue options, with occasional moments where you push and pull the sticks to eat food, or tap buttons to run, play piano, and so on.
At one point you're dropped into a brief first-person section where you investigate a flat looking for clues. Its various mechanics are somehow sparse and all over the place at the same time. It actually works really well everything fits and rarely feels forced, no matter how random or out of the blue it can occasionally be. The music's strong too and a little piano playing moment was one of my favorite beats in the whole game, thanks to it creating an innocent little moment where Jack and John just forget their troubles for a brief second.
It's eclectic to say the least but the pace and evolving story keeps it together. I kept coming back because I liked the characters (John and Jack), or I wanted to know what was going to happen next (Donna), or I just wanted to see what was really going on (Meena). All the people are interesting in different ways and watching how they progress with their various situations keeps you returning for the next episode.
The ending is a bit of a leap, but Last Stop does a good job of easing itself up that hill after everything that's happened. And it says a lot about the character-building that when it came to making some ending defining decisions I was 100% in on my choices with no doubt because I wanted the best for people, or felt like I knew them well enough to pick what they would do. It's only when you look back that some elements of the story don't entirely work. It's one of those narratives where the journey is great as long as you don't look too hard at the road - there are many plot points that don't stand up to scrutiny in retrospect, but everything overall is an enjoyable enough page-turner that you won't really care.
Last Stop is out now on PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch and PC.