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The Last Hour Reviews
Author: Roberto Grassi
Date: 2004
ADRIFT 4.0


Reviewed by Cannibal

Potential 

The Last hour is the second one room game from the recently aborted competition. As I mentioned when reviewing the other game - Paint!!! - you couldn't find two more different styles and content. The subject matter of the Last Hour is not pleasant and quite thought provoking. The material would be suited to a small 15 minute drama...but as a text adventure, how does it work? 

At times, in truth, it doesn't. The writing, somewhat raw and rough around the edges, gives the game a filmed with a camcorder type of feeling. It's stark and basic and in your face. There are mistakes and I don't know if these are oversights or the fact that the author's native language is not English. Certain items could have been fleshed out more. A game set in one location - and one as cramped as a cell after a brutal race murder - needs to have more attention to detail. 

I was impressed with the subject matter because, unlike 95% of games, it deals with adult issues. Most adults write and play adventures yet most adventures are not adult orientated in themes. The Last Hour does not shirk this and presents an uncomfortable scenario that might leave a bitter taste. 

However, the storyline is not perfect. I felt that the game was not a complete journey and it needed much more; the potential to explore different aspects of the character was ignored. I also would have liked not to know exactly what the story was in the opening few lines. It might have been interesting to reveal in flashbacks or conversation or the examination of items or just using events the nature of your character and the heinous crime he has perpertrated. 

Overall, The Last Hour is a decent little game but with much unrealised potential. It has a very dark vein running through it and will certainly not appeal to all - but I would recommend you trying it out. 

Potential. 

6/10. 


Reviewed by David Whyld

I found The Last Hour quite a strange and disturbing little game. I honestly couldn't say I liked it but then the subject matter isn't the sort of thing a lot of people are going to like. Unusually, the character you play isn't a hero out to save the world from darkest evil, or someone on a quest for a lost sword/treasure/whatever, or even a hero in the normal sense of the word. No, he's a member of the Ku Klux Klan and he starts the game in a prison cell where he's accused of murdering a black man during a "hunting trip". 

While setting a game from the viewpoint of an evil character might not be original, if well done it can still carry great emotional impact. Unfortunately, with The Last Hour the evil character you play seems to have no remorse whatsoever for what he's done and often refers to the man he's killed as an "animal", something which I imagine wouldn't go down particularly well with any coloured people who might play the game. Worse still is the fact that, despite all the evidence to the contrary, he insists throughout the game that he was hunting an "animal" and doesn't even seem to realise that killing black people is against the law. Now I don't know any members of the KKK personally but I'd imagine that even the more extreme ones realise that what they're doing is illegal. 

On the plus side, it's atmospheric and there's a genuine sense of claustrophobia at times as the story unfolds while you're trapped in your little cell with no apparent way of getting out. On the down side, the subject matter isn't an easy one to like and there's precious little gameplay to be found throughout. I played from start to finish several times and got the same end result each time. I was unable to escape from the cell or affect the storyline one bit no matter what I did. And my character being executed at the end, while fitting, nevertheless made the game seem pretty pointless. I'd have much preferred an option whereby the main character could either escape from his cell or see the error of his ways and be redeemed. Or maybe even have the option of convincing the guards that it has all been a mistake and he really was innocent. 

Spelling and grammar mistakes left The Last Hour with some rough edges (the author's native language isn't English although his English is undoubtedly better than my Italian) but, all in all, there's quite an interesting game here. If you can get over the often strong language (mostly edited out with asterisks) and questionable subject matter, you might even enjoy it. 

Logic: 10 out of 10 
There was little to find fault with logic-wise. 

Problems: 6 out of 10 (10 = no problems) 
One of the main commands that tells the player what is going on isn't an obvious one that you'd normally expect to find in a text adventure. As such, play through the game without trying it and you might well be left wondering just what it's all about. 

Story: 4 out of 10 
Precious little in the way of storyline here: a man in a cell awaiting execution. A little more depth, and some more back story (perhaps told in flashbacks) would have set the scene better. 

Characters: 4 out of 10 
Several characters show up but they don't have a lot to do and are hard to interact with beyond the basic commands of the game. 

Writing: 5 out of 10 
Occasional grammatical and spelling lapses aside, not bad at all. 

Game: 5 out of 10 
Not bad, not good, this was a difficult game to judge. I finished it for the first time and sat there wondering if I had missed something. An effort to turn it into a more regular game - with definable goals for the player to aim for - would have benefited The Last Hour a lot. In its current state, it's worth the ten minutes or so that it takes to play, but it isn't a game that is likely to draw people back to it time and again. 

Overall: 34 out of 60 


Reviewed by Emily Short (1)

This one's not for everyone. Strong language, weak implementation, minimal interactivity, and a downright bizarre backstory come together in a game that really only makes sense if you read the author's notes. The experiment it tries has been done better elsewhere. 

Rating: ** 


Review by Emily Short (2) at the IF-Review.

Roberto Grassi's "The Last Hour" is a brief, puzzleless Adrift game which opens with the player character being placed in a cell. 

You might think that the player's main motivation at that point would be to figure out how to escape the cell, and indeed I spent a little while playing with the various objects in the room -- with no particular result. No, your task is to hang around while the backstory is gradually presented to you -- typing TALK TO CHARACTER repeatedly at one juncture -- and then to wait for the game to end. It is not a piece that leverages the interactive aspects of IF to very great effect. 

"The Last Hour" has some surface weaknesses as well. Grassi is not a native speaker of English, and he frequently misuses words or phrases things unidiomatically. He makes heavy use of profanity, asterisked out. I'm not exactly sure why he bothered with this semi-censorship, since there's a warning about language at the outset of the game, but this was an aesthetic choice that didn't work for me. 

Another weakness is that the parser doesn't handle a number of commands that I'm used to: >LOOK IN BOWL, for instance, doesn't turn up any information about the contents of the bowl in your cell. Spacing is another problem: some portions are given double carriage-returns, some aren't, and the effect looks a bit sloppy. Little things, but they add up. I could have forgiven them if I'd been sufficiently compelled by the gameplay. 

Finally, the implementation of the game is thin enough that I didn't feel encouraged to spend a lot of time trying to break out of my cell. I think that that is what I was supposed to have been doing, rather than sitting around typing WAIT until the story ended, but there didn't seem to be a lot I could do for myself. 

It's hard to say much more about it than that without entering the territory of spoilers. Consider yourself forewarned. 

 

 

Spoilers below 

The basic gimmick of the game is that your character is in fact a KKK member, entirely guilty of the crime of which he was accused. Grassi's authorial notes explain that his intention was to trick the player into feeling sympathy for the player character, only to be repelled at the end by the discovery of his character's deep evil. 

While this might be an interesting scenario, it doesn't work well in this case -- at least, it didn't for me. I disliked my character from the very beginning because of his violent swearing, his attitude, and his apparent stupidity. He is rude and unpleasant to his assigned lawyer, which didn't bode well. I would have been much more sympathetic to my PC if he'd tried to be polite to the lawyer, if he'd expressed concern about reaching his family or loved ones to talk to them, if he'd shown some other signs of being a decent guy. That would have made me less suspicious, and more committed to his well-being. The end would have been that much spookier. 

There were also, I thought, hints throughout that my PC had, at the very least, committed manslaughter. It didn't come as any surprise at all to discover who and what he was, and by the time the game ended I was finding the whole experience sufficiently unpleasant that I just wanted to be freed from the obnoxious company of this vile PC. But, alas, there wasn't much I could do to speed him along to justice, either. There was some implication that the soup was poisoned, and I tried eating it to see if that would kill him off, but it didn't. 

It's also extremely odd, given a story with such a strong regional setting, to have nominally Southern characters who talk in Grassi's slightly incorrect, Italian-styled English. I've argued before that, if you're going to write a game in a language that is not your native language, you should have native speakers go over the text for you; you might even want to collaborate with a translator for best effect. If you need proof of what a huge difference this makes, compare Nick Montfort's version of "Olvido Mortal", "Dead Reckoning", with the original translation "Shattered Memory". 

I was also a bit bewildered by the game's epilogue and dedication to the victims of racial crimes. Now, I appreciate the desire to make a strong stand against hate and racial prejudice, but "The Last Hour" does not tell us anything we don't already know. The characters are very basic stereotypes: a story about a partially likeable character who was nevertheless a bigot would be much more challenging and interesting. A story which starts out by presenting an alienating, hateful crime done by an alien, hateful person is more or less preaching to the choir. The fact that this alien hateful person turned out to be the PC was not especially enlightening, given how little we know about him, and how little cause we're given to like him. 

So in my opinion this game is a bit of a wash. I've encountered few pieces of IF that succeeded at the gimmick where your PC is not what he/she/it seems; I can think of one or two really work, and one that almost works and is sufficiently interesting that I didn't much resent the remaining flaws. But for the most part the revelation is hinted quite heavy-handedly, and in some cases there's not much to the story other than the "Ha ha, you're not what you think!" moment. I'm reminded of I-don't-know-how-many bad science fiction stories and Twilight Zone episodes where the protagonist turns out at the end to be already dead, or an alien, or the last man alive on earth. Not to mention more than a few mystery/horror stories that turn out to be narrated by the culprit. This is hard, hard, hard to pull off well. You have to make me care; you have to make me invested in my PC being what I think he is; you probably have to give me something to do in the game other than sit around waiting for the moment of revelation. You have to provide hints, but they can't be too exaggerated and give the game away. In IF, you have the additional problem that you can't control when the player realizes the truth. Many implementations of this idea force the player to go on playing dumb until the moment appointed by the game for the Big Revelation Sequence, even if he's already grasped the central point; it works better if you have some way to let the player change his course of action at the moment he realizes what is up. 

And ultimately, it helps most if the story is about more than just the gimmick.


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