It’s very, very clear to me where Four Last Things, a point and click adventure title, pulled a lot of their inspirations from. There’s no denying that Joe Richardson, the one man team that brought this game to life via Kickstarter, had some clear inspiration from the classics of the genre as well as some serious dry, British style humor. I can appreciate and admire the idea, if not necessarily the execution, as we shall see in a moment.
Four Last Things is the story of a nameless peasant who, upon having a bad dream about Adam and Eve’s fall from Paradise, immediately runs several districts away to the nearest church to confess his sins and get absolution. The bishops, however, can’t allow him to confess his sins, because they happened outside of their jurisdiction, so our hero(?) needs to go commit the seven deadly sins again, this time within church territory. You’re penniless, you’re not particularly bright, and you don’t have any skills, so this should be a snap. I think it goes without saying that, if you have strong beliefs with Christianity and have a tendency to be offended by things deemed blasphemous, don’t play this game in any capacity.
The strongest points of Four Last Things are the audio and visual elements (I’ve had a few of those recently, haven’t I?). The entire game is done up in a vague Renaissance style, though it’s a bit more similar to the bumpers you’d see in Monty Python, and that’s entirely intentional. From start to finish, there’s a strong element of artistic craftsmanship infused with some purposely injected breaks to throw you off. There’s a dancing, naked baby, for example, that is specifically meant to parody the one of mid 90s fame (the protagonist even says as such). However, instead of making it all CGI and destroying the immersion, the baby is several, frantic frames that quickly toggle succession, while being drawn in an anatomically correct but not medical sort of way. When the characters move, it’s very stilted and choppy, but it’s endearing and adds another level to the humor of it all. If you really want to take a moment and drink the design in, head to the art gallery that’s in the back of the town: there’s about twenty different paintings or more, all done and beautiful, with a lot of inspiration and some important hints for completing your quest.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that the title of the game does come from a famous painting (Seven Deadly Things and Four Last Things), and it’s importance to the game. When you actually unlock one of the sins, a giant wheel descends and spins, landing on the sin you’ve committed, and the wheel is literally this painting. It’s wonderful so see, but raises questions of fair use legality, ones the protagonist himself asks a crooked lawyer later in the game (with no real answers provided). One could argue that, since the authenticity of who painted the work is still up in the air, using it won’t really harm or take away from anyone, and thus it’s fair use. I just figured that, since it’s a work from the 1500s and most people couldn’t tell you in which museum it currently hangs, it’s all right, and let’s not pursue the subject further.
The music is also quite beautiful, but that’s to be expected. Four Last Things took care to pick and choose a soundtrack comprised of mostly Renaissance era compositions (though there is one or two from the Baroque period, though what does that matter if it sounds good?). The music changes dynamically from room to room, and NPCS are injected to justify the music changing, giving a more realistic feeling to the shift in tone. The NPCS also serve as part of the background motley crew that make up the necessary filler of the game, and let’s quickly get to that now, shall we?
I usually give myself at least a few hours for each game that comes across my plate. I can’t possibly play every single game to maximum completion in time for a review, otherwise I’d need to cancel sleep and my regular job in order to allocate for every RPG and adventure that came across my plate (also probably need some kind of energy drink IV). I saw that Four Last Things was short, and I wasn’t quite sure what that could entail. As it turns out, a little over an hour. And there was a good deal of time set aside to figuring out the riddle that was needed to get a document. There is nothing wrong with a short main story in point and click adventure games, especially as you’re meant to enjoy the dialogue and the atmosphere of everything else. Monkey Island, a game that is heavily referenced in Four Last Things (the main city square is very evocative of the city square in Monkey Island), is surprisingly short once you weed out some of the witty banter and hilarious jokes, but people don’t keep replaying it just for the story. Four Last Things, however, seemed to forget that even worthless characters should at least have a bit to say outside of nothing. There is literally a pub where every person you talk to generates nothing but nonsense (either animal noises or baby talk) except for one guy who gives you one of your Sins. This felt like a massive cop out: you didn’t need every person to have a detailed back story, but literally having just a bit of a conversation would be worthwhile.
The filler also comes in the form of the completion of some ideas. There are timed windows when certain events can only happen in the few seconds when you trigger them, but you might not be entirely clear as to what you need to do in these instances. When I went to follow a gentleman who’d just had too much beer, he vanished off the side of the screen almost instantly and I had to guess which way he’d gone. I guessed wrong, and returned in time to see him saunter back to his table and dog. I had to run everything all over again to trigger the event, and, keep in mind, even with an inconvenience like this, I finished the game in just over an hour. I imagine that, even with checking and reading every interaction, you can still do the game in under 2 hours.
The humor was certainly there, with some memorable interactions happening between the Pie King and the blacksmith, but some of it felt a little too meta and forced. Some of the first characters you encounter are the Kickstarter backers who paid extra to have their likeness put into the game, but none of them have meaningful things to say other than a short discourse about being Kickstarter backers and trying to explain that in a pre-electronic time. It was a little too self-serving, but I quickly forgot about it when I then spoke to landowners who’s chief position was, well, owning land, and the humor picked up from there. It’s hit or miss, with strong points spiking in between long stretches of blasé filler and nothing.
What is the price of a good joke? I guess that’s the question you need before ultimately investing in Four Last Things. I don’t personally see the appeal of replay, but the game is trending quite positive, and it was made with love and a grand vision that I felt was mostly executed. There’s a lot of simplicity in the game – it’s seriously just pointing and clicking with minimal inventory interaction – but there’s no reason to muck up a game with heavy controls when that’s not the point. I’ve played shorter games, but I’ve also played funnier. If your style of humor is heavily self-referential and you love talking about dead parrots and silly walks, you’ll find a kindred spirit in Four Last Things (though, thankfully, it’s never too quirky). If you want your point and click games to have difficult choices and make a lasting impression, sod off and walk elsewhere.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary PC code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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