In downtown L.A., in a run down set of apartments, after many years in charge, an old lady has just made the decision to sell up. For the residents of the apartments, the decision means many things; a chance at a new life, a chance to start again, or fear, at losing the roof over their heads. But for one man, losing the Cape West apartments could mean much, much more.
For a young 30-something named Kyle Hyde, the Cape West Apartments may hold the answer to a mystery that's been plaguing him for years. An ex-detective, turned door-to-door salesman, Kyle was already having a bad day when he heard the news of the Apartment's closure, having just been fired by his boss.
"Great", he thought. Now he had to find a new roof to put over his head as well.
It may not have been the greatest job in the world, but Kyle was more than just another salesman. On the side, his boss ran a business for his special clients, finding things that don't want to be found, "if you get what he means". So when, moments after being fired, a note turns up on Kyle's desk, asking him to "Find the Scarlet Star", Kyle's more than a bit confused. Who could the note have been from? What is the Scarlet Star? And what secrets does this building hold?
Like any good mystery, Last Window: The Secret of Cape West is a bit of a digital page turner. Playing out like an interactive novel, you'll be holding your DS sideways, like a book, as you wander around the dingy corridors of the hotel, talking to the residents, and solving puzzles in an effort to learn the truth, both about the apartments, and the guests themselves. An eclectic bunch of people from all walks of life, the people from the apartments hold almost as many secrets as the walls themselves, and as unlikely as it may seem, many are somehow intertwined...
You'll have to use common sense, and try to read people well if you want to unravel the mystery here, as people don't take well to being constantly pestered. When you talk to people, you'll occasionally be given the option to push them further on certain points - but you'll need to be careful, as they won't always take kindly to your prodding. Put a foot wrong, and you can damage that person's trust, and that could come back to haunt you later on, or even lead to a game over, if you really stick your foot in your mouth.
You progress through the game by, for all intents and purposes, acting as you would in real life, as the story takes you along in its currents. A digital story that you determine, Kyle will often give you hints about what he needs to do next, so you'll never feel completely lost, but he'll never spell out exactly what it is that you need to do, leaving a lot of room for intelligent thought, and giving you chance to explore at your own pace. If you want to get to the bottom of the mystery, you'll need to use your brain, as saying the right thing, to the right people, at the right time, without putting anyone's back up, takes a lot of forward planning - which, luckily, the games makes a lot easier by allowing you take notes at any time - even mid conversation.
Being an ex-detective, you'll often find yourself exploring rooms for clues, and its here the initially odd book format comes in handy. On the right hand screen (if you're right handed), you'll find a map of the room you're in, and touching anywhere on the map will make Kyle have a stroll there. At the bottom, there's a notebook, which comes incredibly handy for taking notes about the people you meet, and things you need to do. Next to that is your inventory, in what resembles a ladies handbag, and a magnifying glass, which lets you put your sleuthing skills to the test. Press it, and you'll be presented with a 3D representation of whatever object you were looking at, and, by using a slider at the bottom of the screen, you'll be able to look around it, and examine it from all angles, which often reveals clues that were previously unseen.
Of course, every good mystery has its fair share of puzzles, and Last Window is no different. As you explore the apartments, you'll often find bits and bobs you can collect - and far from being completely useless, they often play a vital role in solving puzzles. Being collected into your inventory (the aformentioned handbag), you'll often have to combine two items, or use something you found around the hotel, and previously thought was completely useless, to solve a puzzle, and progress through the game.
The brain teasers aren't quite the same sort as in Professor Layton, as they require more lateral rather than logical thinking, but offer a refreshing change of pace all the same. There's not really all that much you have to work out about them, as instead, you just need to trust your instincts and do as you do in real life.
And, if anything, that's a large part of what makes the Last Window so much fun. With a number of new features making it easier to get into, Last Window begins on a slow burn, but slowly sucks you in with its appealing blend of storytelling and puzzles, supported by a great mix of characters. And as if you needed more persuading, as you play through the story, you'll even unlock a digital novel, that ties in with the story you're playing through in the game, filling in the blanks the game misses out.
A game that simultaneously makes you think, whilst never leaving you lost, although it doesn't reach the lofty standards set by Hotel Dusk (Last Window's predecessor), this is still an enthralling, and entertaining mystery, that'll keep you coming back for more.