Last Express

Jordan Mechner is primarily known for his work in creating Prince of Persia today, but there's also another groundbreaking title that he had a role in making — one that didn't receive the same commercial success at release but that has since grown a not-insignificant cult following in the years gone by.

We're talking, of course, about the 1997 point-and-click adventure game The Last Express from Mechner's studio Smoking Car Productions — an ambitious title that saw players exploring a recreation of the Orient Express days before the outbreak of World War 1 as they become embroiled in a plot involving murder, romance, and political intrigue. The game was notable at the time for its non-linear story, which saw the action unfold in real-time, and featured a distinctive "art nouveau" style, created using live-action actors that had been rotoscoped over.

Why are we talking about all this now apart from being fans of the game? Well, Mechner has been sharing some incredible insights into the making of the title over on his blog, publishing his archived journal entries every week (on Wednesday) in chronological order. So far, this has covered the foundation of Smoking Car Productions, the initial writing process between Mechner and his collaborator Tomi Pierce, various research field trips to the Orient Express and elsewhere, and is just now getting into the casting process.

Alongside these journal entries, he's also been sharing some early rotoscoping tests, personal photos, pre-production animation tests, and casting sessions that we're pretty sure haven't been seen before.

It's a bonafide treasure trove of information and materials, and sort of makes us wish that Digital Eclipse would release an "interactive documentary" of the game on modern platforms, featuring these additional insights, much as they previously did for The Making Of Karateka. Currently, the game is available on GOG and Steam, but these versions are pretty barebones all things considered and we'd love to see it come to places like PlayStation, Xbox, and Switch to give more people a chance to try it out.

When we asked Mechner about potentially working with Digital Eclipse on a project of this nature back in March, he told us the following, "I think if Digital Eclipse or a group of game historians are motivated and willing to put in the huge amount of work that it takes to tell The Last Express story, I’ll be happy to share my part. But, of course, unlike Karateka and Prince of Persia, The Last Express was the work of a large team over 4 years. So I think what would make that project interesting is for as many members of the team as possible to bring their voices and tell their part of the story."

In case you're interested, you can visit Mechner's blog here. Inevitably, there's a lot more exciting stuff to come, as the game was in development between 1993 and 1997 and we're only halfway through 1994 so far.

[source, via]