The Last Show Of Mr Chardish

PC

Here’s a rather pleasant moment that interrupted the relentless flow of Mondays with which the universe bombards us:

As The Last Show Of Mr Chardish loaded, it showed an pretty piece of concept art, all paint flourishes and splodges, and I thought, “I wish someone would make a game that looked like that.” It started, and goodness me it was astonishingly pretty, a beautiful and borderline photo-realistic depiction of a bucolic scene, the Unreal Engine showing off intricate individually-leaved trees, sunlight glittering through the branches, water rippling below, and I forgot all about that wish. This was something else, utterly gorgeous, and it would be utter greed to want for anything else.

Then, a few minutes later, as my character explored the faded, falling down theatre in which she once worked with the titular playwright, she picked up a mask and placed it over her face. At that point I was transferred from the first-person real world to a third-person perspective of… my wish! As is the case throughout the game, you switch between exploring the dilapidated theatre and its surroundings, and fictionalised worlds based on the subjects of each of Chardish’s plays. These are shown as artistic renditions of the broad concepts of the play, literalising the material on some level, rendered as lightly puzzle-infested explorations. (The smeary graphics in the trailer below do not do it justice.)

Wishes do come true!

The Last Show is an extremely interesting project. It begins in 1976, you arriving at the abandoned theatre of the first time in over twenty years, but your absence and connection as yet unexplained. As your character explores, there are all manner of notes and letters to read to fill the “present day” aspects of the story. Then as you find masks and look through them, you’re transported back to a series of plays from the 1950s, each using a completely different method of play to encounter.

One has you equipped with a rapier, as you face attacks from… piñatas. In another you’re a robot attempting to escape from a factory. In another still you’re a bird, flying through some vistas that are actually too pretty. They went too far. They made it more pretty than my brain could take in. And in each, there are different hidden areas featuring items that trigger snippets of memories from people involved in the plays at the time, while throughout you hear conversations between Chardish and his colleagues, sometimes in character, sometimes out.

This does somewhat fall down every time jumping is involved. Thankfully it’s not often, but there are a couple of sequences where your third person dude is required to scale obstacles or traverse narrow platforms, and it’s not at all good. And the outlandishly beautiful flying level is fortunately so ridiculously stunning that it helps distract from just how clumsy its flying is. It’s a shame to say it, but the character movement, and its intrusively clunky it is, stops this from being something great.

The story is also a touch trite in places. There’s one level in which the characters speak in rhyming verse, and it’s abysmal. Yet in other places it’s pleasingly poetic in its standard speech, and the voice acting is, mostly, very strong. This is a Polish game, and the English translation is perfect, with an impressive cast of English actors. It’s fair to say that overall the writing lets down the conceit of attempting a magical realising of the plays, but just that it tries carries things an extremely long way.

I was really, really impressed by so much of this. As a piece of visual art, I haven’t seen anything so pretty in forever. As an idea, it’s fascinating. In its execution, it occasionally lets itself down. But I’m still so glad I spent time with this.

There’s a lengthy demo available, in the form of a “prologue”, that unfortunately doesn’t transfer progress over to the full game, but definitely gives you a good impression of what’s on offer here. Definitely check it out if you’re concerned before handing over your crisp ten pounds.

  • Punk Notion, Hydra Games
  • Steam
  • £10/€11/$13

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