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Last Word – Review
Developer: Twelve Tiles
Release date: 8 May 2015
When one attends a prestigious get-together at a fabulous mansion, one must carry themselves with a certain degree of decorum. You see, as a skilled conversationalist of the highest order, you must never let your inferiors have the last word in a conversation, it simply isn’t acceptable. I’m sure you would agree? Of course you do! Welcome to the world of Last Word, a conversational JRPG.
The game follows a photographer named Whitty Gawship, who arrives by invitation at the mansion of Professor Chet Chatters. As the guests are introduced, these conversational masters continuously try to out-match each other by making sure they always have the Last Word in a discussion, resulting in much repetition and a large amount of wine consumption.
As the guests continue to converse with each other, it is eventually revealed that Professor Chatters has created a bizarre wall-mounted, intercom-styled invention, which allows him to get the last word in every conversation. From here, the plot begins to unravel. The writing is excellent at times, especially the subtle use of humor, which is ever present. The story has a tendency to fall flat in places, and is captivating in others.
Last Word utilizes a top-down 2D style. Arrow keys control movement, and the enter button is the action key, which allows you to talk to other guests and make observations about various objects in the room. Each location in the house can be seen clearly from the in-game camera angle and other guests are clearly marked and easily distinguishable thanks to the well designed color scheme. One slight gripe of mine relates to the Save-Game/Options screen, which I struggled to locate for over thirty minutes, before revealing itself in the form of a bow-tie icon, located in one of the smaller rooms of the house. Confusingly, the icon also moves as the game progresses. A quick note explaining its location at the start of the game would be a nice touch.
The core elements of gameplay center around conversations. Firstly, you can select a topic to discuss (which are unlocked as the story unravels), and once this topic has been chosen, you can choose to Gossip, Chatter or Discourse with other guests. The Gossip and Chatter options progress the story as other guests expose information to you, opening up other avenues for the narrative to advance.
The player is required to cycle through the various topics of discussion in order to Gossip and Chatter about certain information. Despite a little confusion to begin with, this system is easy to manage, and works well. It can become a little tedious to cycle through each conversational topic with every guest in the house, especially when you find yourself getting stuck. In these situations, you find yourself hammering the enter button, ignoring the dialogue, and just trying to advance the game to its next stages.
By selecting Discourse, the game opens up even further. This is where Last Word showcases its excellent combat system, as you square off with your opponent in a turn-based battle of words, reminiscent of something similar to Final Fantasy or Pokemon. A meter appears at the bottom of the screen, indicating how close you are to winning or losing the battle, and the game presents you with three options – Disruptive, Submissive or Aggressive. Each of these options are different styles of attack, and choosing one of these options then adds a sub-menu, offering three more attacking options, each one with various benefits and downsides.
Essentially, the game becomes a battle to out-wit your opponent. Picking Disruptive, for example, will offer the player some Power points. Power points can then be converted into Tact points with the Submissive option, and these Tact points will push your meter much closer to the Win marker than normal attacks. Alternatively, you could opt to move up the meter slowly, but at the cost of Power and Tact points. Other elements factor into the battle, such as as the current ability of each competitor, as the game uses an leveling up system. This allows the player to improve as they participate in more head-to-head exchanges. Each guest offers a different challenge, as some are higher levels than others.
This combat system is where the game really shines. It has enough depth to make each battle feel unique and interesting. Still, it isn’t without its problems. The AI make questionable decisions, and I felt as though I had cheated a win at times, when my opponent could have easily beaten me by utilizing the best tactics. This was the case for high level opponents in addition to easier foes. As the game progresses, upgrades are offered in the form of collectible bow-ties (what else?), which offer bonuses such as starting each battle with 10 power points, for example. This is a welcome addition to a system which, despite a few issues, feels much more accomplished than I originally expected.
The art style also draws similarities to something out of a classic Pokemon title. Despite the graphical limitations of most Indie games, I felt immersed within the world, thanks to the intricate detail that has been incorporated into the mansion setting. Battle and Chat animations are good and the characters are nicely detailed. I did experience one or two bugs during my play-through, such as placeholder images appearing during certain scenes, but this can be easily rectified in a future update, and it never affected my enjoyment.
I like the music selection, it provides a laid back feel to the game, and accurately portrays the atmosphere of a posh get-together. As each character speaks, they give off a grunt-like sound, useful for differentiating between characters, but it can get on the nerves after a while. I was impressed to see that the options screen gives you the ability to turn this off, for those who may find it irritating. The sound options are more of a novelty in Last Word – you don’t need them, but they are a nice touch.
The game provided me with a longer campaign than I expected. I encountered lots of spoken word battles, conversations and discoveries (and wine) throughout the game, and I was impressed with just how much effort had been put in to the final product.
I would like to think that at a price point of $9.99, you would feel that you got your money’s worth here. Last Word is a fun JRPG-style experience, featuring an impressive combat system and an engaging story. It stumbles occasionally, and it will struggle to hold the attention of some action-addicted gamers, but when its at its best, Last Word is very difficult to put down.