Last Window: The Secret of Cape West
Last Window offers views onto several forgotten vistas. Immediately it paints a vivid picture of an American city at the dawn of the 1980s. Gleaming skyscrapers stretch at the clouds, each a pointed testament to the unshakeable wisdom of modern capitalism. Keeping their distance, on the outskirts of the city centre, tower blocks stand, heads down, providing temporary accommodation to the workers who turn the cogs of the sun-baked metropolis and the deadbeats who clog them. Rendered in stylish watercolor and black ink, the city scenes that run throughout the game are drawn in an anachronistic style, a manga-ish take on late 1970’s Americana that reinforces historical context through aesthetic.
It’s in one of these tower blocks that your character resides and, at this close distance, CiNG’s meticulous attention to period detail is revealed. Every prop is in keeping, the flares of the preceding year shrunk to skinny fit jeans, just as the telephones have ballooned to the size of shoeboxes thanks to their new fangled answering machine additions. Every aside about solar-powered pocket calculators that cost the earth, or pagers that shrink it, speaks of technology’s acceleration from a stroll to a jog, and the bulky gadgets on offer are as key to the ambiance as the Miami Vice-esque soundtrack and film noir direction.
The story that fills this scenery is a throwback too, another near forgotten sight that Last Window looks out upon. You play as a 34-year-old ex-cop, a stubbly private detective slouching in cars that are three feet wider than they need to be, working jobs several tiers of crime beneath him. Kyle Hyde, familiar to players of CiNG’s Hotel Dusk, in whose universe this game slots, is an amalgam of so many pulp fiction private detectives, from Blade Runner’s Rick Deckard to Policenauts’ Jonathan Ingram.
The narrative structure is simple: divided into ten chapters spread over the course of a week, you start by investigating why your landlord is evicting you and the other tenants of Cape West, and end by disturbing the murky waters surrounding your father’s death. It’s the kind of story rarely presented by videogames in 2010, and in this context the cliché is upturned to something fresh and unexpected.
In its systems too, Last Window presents a style of game long slipped from fashion, a point and click adventure game that limits innovation to its stylish presentation, leaving the mechanics of clue hunting and puzzle solving largely unchanged. For developer CiNG, whose modern adventure-style games have been well-received but sold poorly, the game represents perhaps the last opportunity to find an audience wide enough to sustain their passion. While the slow-paced storytelling and ponderous puzzle solving are an acquired taste, the confident execution ensures that game and its developer deserves just that.
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